Posts Tagged ‘Canada’

Nick Rowe, exemplary professor of economics

Tuesday, December 25th, 2018

Carleton University professor Nick Rowe received a well-deserved tribute, on his retirement from teaching, in The Economist magazine. I was fortunate to have known him as a colleague, but regret that I never had the opportunity to enroll in one of his macroeconomics courses. Sadly for me, he completed his PhD in 1985, long after I did. Current and future generations of economists will also miss the opportunity of learning from him. But all of us can continue to benefit from reading his many posts online at Worthwhile Canadian Initiative (WCI).

Professors may find themselves ill-prepared for the macro classroom. To become academics they had to answer erudite questions posed by more senior members of the discipline. To become good teachers of introductory macro, they have to give clear answers to muddled students. That requires an intuitive feel for the subject. It is not enough to crank through the equations.

Indeed, Mr Rowe attributes part of his success as a teacher to his shortcomings as a mathematician. He quotes Joan Robinson, another clear expositor of macroeconomics:

Priests, Mounties and poverty in indigenous Canada

Wednesday, October 31st, 2018

Maria Campbell’s memoir, Halfbreed, is short (157 pages) and free-flowing. It is a shocking, true account of what it is like to grow up poor and mixed-race in Canada. The book today is read almost universally by school children in Canada. (more…)

life, death and consciousness

Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

I finished reading this fascinating book, and would like to share a few segments with you. The entire book is useful for anyone considering the right to life of a fetus or the right to life (or death) of an unconscious, older person in a vegetative state. It has made me re-think my ‘living will’, my request that no special efforts be made to prolong my life should I become unconscious and unresponsive.

What is consciousness? This is a surprisingly complex question. The author of this book, British neuroscientist Adrian Owen, explains that “part of the problem is that questions about consciousness have as much to do with personal taste as science”. (more…)

means tests are taxes: Canadian edition

Sunday, July 23rd, 2017

Canada provides persons from age 65 with a Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS, currently C$871.86 a month for a single person), but claws it back at the steep rate of 50% from other income. There is no exempt amount, and some provinces add to this. The provincial claw back in Alberta, for example, is 18%, bringing the total rate of claw back to 68%.

Canada also provides residents from age 65 with an Old Age Pension (currently a maximum of $585 a month for a single person) that is reduced (clawed back) at the rate of 15% from taxable income in excess of $74,788 a year, so is equivalent to an increase in income tax of 15 percentage points for high income older persons until the full Old Age Pension is recovered. Receipt of the Old Age Pension does not count as income for a GIS.

Why do government policymakers in Canada implicitly tax the income of older persons at a higher rate than of younger persons with the same incomes? Perhaps they do not realize that means tests (clawbacks) are taxes. Simultaneously, though, the government has programmes in place to encourage workers to save for old age, to build up a retirement fund that is subjected to a high rate of taxation in old age. This puzzles me.

Canada also mandates contributions to a state pension, known as Canada Pension Plan. Canadian actuary Robert Brown, in a useful article, explains why increasing the contributions to (and benefits from) this plan harms contributors with low incomes, because it causes them to lose benefits that they would otherwise receive from the Guaranteed Income Supplement. He doesn’t mention this, but taxpayers with high incomes also lose benefits from expansion of the noncontributory Old Age Pension. No doubt he assumes (most likely correctly) that those with high incomes can look after themselves! Also, $585 a month is small change for someone with an income in excess of $6,200 a month. (more…)

America’s decline

Tuesday, July 18th, 2017

President Trump, in his inaugural address, used the phrase

Trump’s coming restriction of visas for skilled workers

Saturday, November 12th, 2016

This week, the US tech companies were disturbed to learn that Donald Trump had won the presidential election. The fear is that Trump will carry out a promise to restrict H1-B visas, making it difficult for them to recruit skilled guest workers.

Hannah Kuchler, FT San Francisco correspondent, provides the full story. One paragraph, which is very optimistic (at least for actuaries and for Canada!), caught my attention.

If Mr Trump does restrict immigration in the industry, tech companies will find other ways to benefit from foreign expertise. Mr [Rob] Atkinson [president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a think-tank] said some might expand in countries that make it easier to hire immigrants such as Canada, where Justin Trudeau

cartoon of the day

Saturday, October 29th, 2016

Here is the cartoon published on the editorial page of today’s weekend edition of The Globe and Mail. It is not yet available online. I am able to show it to you thanks to the miracle of modern technology: a built-in camera on my mobile phone, and transfer of the photo to my computer over the internet. Click on the image for a better view of the cartoon.

The cartoon reflects the shock of Canadians who learned this week that a young offender has been held in solitary confinement continuously for nearly four years. This is torture. No-one in a civilised country should be subjected to torture, with or without trial, regardless of the crime that he or she may have committed.


Below is some information on the case, copied and pasted from a front-page article in yesterday’s Globe and Mail. For details, click on the link below. How many Adam Capays are in solitary confinement in Canada’s jails and prisons, out of sight and out of mind? No-one knows, but with this publicity, hopefully the conditions of their confinement will become less harsh.

The upper echelons of the Ontario government knew about the plight of a young inmate long held in solitary confinement at Thunder Bay Jail for at least nine months before taking action this week. ….

Mr. [Adam] Capay is the young aboriginal prisoner who has languished for upward of four years in solitary confinement awaiting trial for a crime he allegedly committed when he was 19. The circumstances of his incarceration

Syrian refugees in Victoria, BC

Monday, October 10th, 2016

Canada last year made a commitment to bring 25,000 of Syria’s 4.5 million refugees to the country as immigrants. The 25,000 target was met in early 2016, and 30,862 Syrian refugees are now in Canada. This is a small number compared to the total number of refugees, but large compared to the 10,000 number of the USA, which attained this low target only in August of 2016. The US population is ten times larger than that of Canada, yet Canada has brought in three times as many refugees.

The small city of Victoria, BC (metropolitan population 345,000) has warmly welcomed 154 Syrian refugees (40 families). Some of the refugees are supported by Canada’s federal government, others by private sponsors such as churches, temples and mosques. There is no discrimination by religion. Jewish temples, for example, proudly sponsor Muslim refugees.

There has been little press coverage in Canada of this influx of Syrian refugees, a reflection of the fact that resettlement is taking place peacefully, without incidents. The initial flood of refugee support has unfortunately slowed, however, precisely because refugees rarely feature in the news. For this reason, I was pleased to see publication in a Victoria newspaper of a plea for more sponsors of refugees.

[Jean McRae, CEO of the Intercultural Association of Greater Victoria] explained language is a significant issue for the newcomers.

medicare in Canada

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

Medical care in Canada is widely praised, and is indeed excellent, especially compared to the costly medical care system of its southern neighbour. Slowly and illegally, though, in some provinces the system is becoming less universal. If this trend continues, access to basic health care in Canada will depend more and more on price (ability to pay) rather than need.

Dr Ryan Meili, a Saskatchewan physician, appeals for the federal government to restore the universality of medicare by enforcing existing legislation (the Canada Health Act).

Extra-billing in Ontario, private MRIs in Saskatchewan and user fees in Quebec: violations of the Canada Health Act are on the rise across the country. Canadian doctors are concerned about the impact of this trend not only on their patients, but on our public health care system as well.

…. Provinces that are not in compliance [with the conditions for payment under the Canada Health Act] are to be penalized with a reduced Canada Health Transfer (CHT) payment.

This year’s report showed that in 2014-15, the only province that received such a penalty was British Columbia. Their CHT payment was docked $241,637 ….

In Ontario alone, the frequency of such charges has grown at an alarming rate …. [I]ndependent health facilities (e.g. eye surgery, colonoscopy, diagnostic and executive health clinics) charged extra fees for medical consultations, examinations, diagnostic testing and other manners of “upgraded services.” These fees are for services that are covered by the health system. This is otherwise known as extra-billing, a practice that is against federal and provincial law.

Despite these contraventions, … Ontario has never been penalized. ….

User fees, access charges, extra billing all come down to the same thing — inequitable access to Canadian health care.

Charging patients at the point of care for medically necessary services strikes at the heart of the principle that access to health care should be based on need rather than ability to pay. It undermines equity, increases system costs and reduces public commitment to universal coverage. ….

It is time … to ensure medicare will be there for all Canadians in their time of need.

Ryan Meili, “It’s Time For The Federal Government To Enforce The Canada Health Act“, The Blog, Huffington Post, 4 April 2016.

Dr Meili (born 1975) is a family physician. He teaches at the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Medicine, where he heads its Division of Social Accountability.

HT Chris Willmore.

Syrian refugees in Canada

Friday, July 1st, 2016

There is a nice article (with photos) in today’s New York Times that reports the warm welcome that Canadians are providing refugees from Syria. Everything has gone very smoothly so far.