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Time to kick over the prevailing orthodoxy in economic thought

Something is seriously wrong with the economy, here and abroad. By now, the Canadian mainstream media should have recognized it. Instead, we get reassurances from business sources about "recovery" being just around the corner.

In Canada, the U.K., and the U.S., experts offer the same failed analysis (government failed), and governments propose the same discredited solutions (reduce deficits).

Fuelling the tax revolt: What is wrong with the NDP's anti-HST campaign

The Canadian New Democratic Party (NDP) has devoted much of its energy in recent months to opposing the implementation of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) in Ontario and British Columbia. The new taxes came into effect on July 1, 2010. The HST merges the Goods and Services Tax (GST) with the Provincial Sales Tax (PST) in both provinces. Items covered by the GST that were previously exempt from the PST are included under the new HST.

Much of the Canadian left has been supportive of the anti-HST campaign on the grounds that consumption taxes are regressive (i.e. people pay the same rate of tax regardless of income).



Doing energy policy right in Nova Scotia

We should ban these outside energy experts. Every time one shows up at a Utility and Review Board hearing to remind us how muddled our energy practices are, it makes us look bad. This time it's about the planned $200-million-plus wood-burning power plant at Port Hawkesbury.

As if it wasn't enough that the project will devastate the forest even more than it already is, that burning wood is apparently as bad as burning coal and won't reduce greenhouse gas, and that a similar plant in New England was apparently built for half the projected cost, along comes U.S. renewable energy consultant Barry Sheingold to tell us that Nova Scotia Power Inc. hasn't done its homework on the project.


Crunch time for Halifax convention centre

The proposal for a new convention centre complex in downtown Halifax has been delivered, and government is chewing over the implications. Infrastructure Minister Bill Estabrooks has said that by the fall a decision will be made whether something will be built -- if so, what, and if not, what the next step will be.

In deciding, the government will also take into account the interests of "all Nova Scotians," Estabrooks said, considering that a public investment possibly north of $140 million will be required.


The Kalecki hypothesis

Writing in 1943 , the outstanding Polish economist Michael Kalecki affirmed that "even in a capitalist system, full employment may be secured by a government spending...." He wrote that "a solid majority of economists" shared this view.

His hypothesis was qualified by only two conditions. First, governments needed to have plans for full employment of "labour power." Second, governments had to be able to pay for needed imports of raw materials through exports. By this, he meant governments needed to have access to foreign currency. Securing domestic currency was no problem. Governments simply paid for employment programs by issuing government bonds.


The next society

Thinking about the future is something the left has always done. A basic precept is that the next society is already emerging out of the old society. This is what I see could happen in Canada.

The next society wants to reduce inequalities, not increase the powers of the over-privileged. The next society is about targeting and eliminating waste, not enhancing consumption. The next society is about extending economic and social rights, not accumulating capital. The next society wants to improve co-operation, not force competition. The next society is about community, not selfishness. In the next society people work together to meet each other's needs, not to enrich a few.


There is no Planet B for the G20

The G8 meeting in Muskoka and the G20 gathering in Toronto helped to clarify what is going on in Canada and the world. The Harper government spent $1.2 billion on security measures. We now know security does not mean protecting Canadian citizens, say from terrorist acts; it means attacking fundamental civic freedoms (such as the right to walk home), arresting people in order to register them for future surveillance, and imposing a climate of fear so as to stifle dissent.

The confidence men and the shadow recovery

The Fake Lake at the G20 in Toronto. Photo: John Maclennan.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper raised the "cataclysmic" spectre of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Financial Stability Board cancelled not one but two scheduled press conferences and the Dick Fuld/Vampire Squid/Go-for-the-jugular schools of hypocritical finance and unrepentant greed hid behind their taxpayer-funded life support systems last weekend. The legitimate concerns of civil society groups were also, once again, sidelined by a cynical, adversarial, provocative and non-inclusive process.


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