Jim Stanford

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Jim Stanford is an Economist with Unifor, the new union formed in 2013 from the merger of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) and the Communication Energy and Paperworkers' (CEP). Unifor represents over 300,000 members in over 20 economic sectors. Jim received his PhD in Economics in 1995 from the New School for Social Research in New York, and also holds economics degrees from Cambridge University and the University of Calgary. He is the author of Economics for Everyone (published in 2008 by Pluto Press and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives), which has been translated into six languages. He writes an economics column for the Globe and Mail, and is a member of CBC TV's regular National News economics panel, "The Bottom Line." He lives in Toronto with his partner and two daughters. Jim's column appears in rabble courtesy of the Globe and Mail.

Improving social well-being would reduce health-care costs

Governments are still reeling from recession-induced deficits, but now their attention is turning to another fiscal elephant marching into the room: the coming renegotiation of federal-provincial transfer payments. The Canada Health Transfer (CHT) expires in 2014, and must be extended soon. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty plans to clamp down on transfers to reduce his own deficit. But that just passes the buck to the provinces, whose fiscal position is even worse.

As this debate heats up, there's a new piece of knowledge that should be considered carefully as finance ministers arm-wrestle. Since the CHT was implemented in 2004, researchers around the world have established a whole new field of scientific knowledge regarding the social determinants of health.


The pros and cons of foreign investment

The Investment Canada Act, implemented in 1985 by the government of Brian Mulroney, replaced the Foreign Investment Review Agency, which had become a potent symbol of Pierre Trudeau's interventionism. While the new act was explicitly intended to welcome foreign investment (including takeovers) with open arms, it included a "net benefit" test to supposedly protect Canadian interests.


Canada and the new protectionism

When the world plunged into recession in 2008, G20 leaders ostentatiously pledged not to repeat the errors of the 1930s. To hasten economic recovery, they would avoid protectionism and keep trade flowing. Canada's government has been among the loudest voices in this free trade chorus.

This is a gross misreading of actual history. World trade collapsed in the 1930s because of collapsing consumer demand, not protectionism; competitive tariffs were a response to that implosion, not its cause. For the same reason, world trade plunged 12 per cent last year, despite the G20 promises.


Private sector is not helping economic recovery

Tepid GDP numbers released Tuesday by Statistics Canada confirm that Canada's economic recovery, such as it was, is sliding completely into the ditch. We're clearly heading for stagnation at best, and quite possibly another "double dip" downturn.

The headline number was disappointing, to say the least. Real GDP grew only 2 per cent (annualized) in the spring quarter. That's just a hair faster than the U.S. economy (which everyone knows is still deeply in the soup). Two per cent doesn't keep up with population and productivity -- implying higher unemployment ahead, not lower. Typically, at this stage of recovery, the economy should be growing three times faster.


Canada-EU Free Trade Agreement: Jumping from one sinking ship to another?

Canada's trade negotiators used to complain they were missing all the fun. Canada didn't sign any free-trade agreements for seven years (stretching back to a blockbuster deal with Costa Rica in 2002). Then, last year, a spate of little deals (including Colombia, where trade unionists are still being murdered) broke the drought and gave them something to do. But it's the "big one" that now has negotiators drooling: a proposed mega-deal with the European Union. The fourth round of talks kicks off today in Brussels.


Toronto should take note of Auckland's transit woes

Toronto's main business lobby, the Board of Trade, recently called for the outsourcing of public transit services to private companies, part of their free advice to the next mayor on reducing the city's deficit.

On one level, it's an unremarkable proposal: just the latest in a chorus of business demands that governments fix their deficits by selling, contracting out or eliminating public services. But it caught my eye because I am residing temporarily in Auckland, New Zealand's biggest city, where the transit system is the most fragmented, expensive and maddening I've ever used. And it's 100-per-cent private. The gory details provide a caution for those who believe the private market always does things better.


Five hopeful economic events in 2014

Photo: Margot Trudell/flickr

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


Ebola vaccine shows problems with the private drug industry

Photo: NIAID/flickr

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.


Study finds no link between minimum wage levels and employment outcomes

Photo: Russ Allison Loar/flickr

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).

Image: Flickr/pmwebphotos
| October 17, 2014
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