In light of the latest NAFTA Chapter 11 decision to go against Canada, I was asked to put together some background notes for our Unifor leadership on this bizarre quasi-judicial kangaroo court system. Here they are, in case they are useful for anyone else getting up to speed on the whole investor-state dispute system.
Some very good and more detailed resources on the subject include:
Canada's economy has been thrown into turmoil by the dramatic decline in oil prices over the last six months. World crude prices have plunged by half: from around $100 (US) per barrel in summer 2014, to around $50 today (see Figure 1). Worse yet, Canada's oil output receives an even lower price: our unprocessed heavy oil exports sell for only about $35 per barrel in the U.S. market (because of its lower quality and a regional supply glut).
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Acres of newsprint have been devoted in recent weeks to the possibility that lower oil prices might push the federal budget back into a deficit position. As I argue in my column, this drama is mostly political theatre -- and progressives should be cautious about accidentally accepting the Conservative frame for this debate.
Every year has its ups and downs, of course. But there's something about New Year's that makes one naturally want to emphasize the positive. So here is my personal list of five positive economic developments from the year past -- both globally and right here at home -- that warmed this particular economist's left-wing heart in 2014.
1. Canadian dollar falls back toward purchasing power parity
Free-market economists believe the profit motive is the most reliable and efficient force in economic decision-making. In theory, the selfish, profit-driven actions of private businesses are supposed to benefit everyone. But in the real world, the pursuit of private profit often promotes inefficiency and the misallocation of resources. One glaring (and costly) example is the private drug industry.
Last week my Unifor colleague Jordan Brennan and I published a study through the CCPA Ontario office examining the historical empirical evidence regarding the link between changes in minimum wages and employment outcomes. We find there is no robust evidence in Canadian historical data that increases in real minimum wages cause either lower employment or higher unemployment, even when we focus on key segments of the labour market that are most reliant on low-wage labour (including youth and the retail and hospitality sectors).