Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Train wrecks and surpluses

Oh look! Now we're going to have a $3.7B surplus by next election.
The federal government is not only on track to balance the budget by 2014-15, it will also end seven years of deficits to emerge with a surplus by the time Canadians head to the polls in 2015, said Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who was in Edmonton delivering the fall economic and fiscal update.

The government is projecting a deficit of $5.5 billion for 2014-15, with a projected surplus of $3.7 billion in 2015-16.

By comparison, Flaherty predicted in his March budget that there would be a deficit of $6.6 billion for 2014-15 and a budgetary surplus of $800 million in 2015-16.
Both are fairly lofty projections, I'm not exactly sure what event the government believes is going to happen in 2015 which boosts the budget by $8 billion but I'm sure it's going to be spectacular. Of course none of these projections mean much while central bank stimulus reigns and which we were reminded of today in that it "can't go on forever". Until the end comes there is no way to truly know economic health. Real growth remains pitiful and it's hard to tell how much of that is a direct result of central bank printing itself. It seems the projections are under the best of ideal circumstances.

If things are going so well then why are central banks not retracting their stimulus again? All talk, no action, they know what will happen. Interest rates will sky rocket and affordability will be out the window. The cheap credit keeping everyone asleep in the standard of living they think they have will dry up in a flash, the overpriced housing market will collapse, consumer spending will collapse, oil prices and gas prices will collapse, and back into [dep]recession we go.

Meanwhile, back in reality - where the paycheque and the cost of living for your average peasant, and not the stimulus market, define success - the policies making these amazingly lofty projections possible are hitting home.
But, when it is time for Mark Strahl, the local Conservative MP, to lay a wreath, Mr. Latulippe and other veterans will face away.

It is a gesture that Mr. Latulippe, 65, says he believes will be repeated in communities across Canada. Veterans, he said, want to turn their backs on the Conservative government “just like the Conservatives are turning their backs on veterans.”

The tension between Canada’s veterans and the government has been building for years over policies that veterans say ignore their sacrifices and leave them with less than what was provided to previous generations of soldiers, sailors and airmen.

Protest is not something that comes naturally to former members of the armed forces, said Mr. Latulippe. “Military don’t march against authority,” he said. “Military fall in line and do what they’re told.”

But demonstrations of previous years have been successful in moving the government to resolve some critical problems and could prompt action on others, he said.

The list of current grievances is long.

It starts with the New Veterans Charter, which became law in 2006. The charter replaced a system that provided disabled veterans with a pension for life with one that offers a lump-sum payment of up to $276,000.

Veterans Ombudsman Guy Parent has said the charter will leave hundreds of the most severely disabled veterans living in poverty in their old age.

In fighting a case brought against the charter by a group of severely disabled veterans, the government is arguing that the Crown has no sacred duty to care for veterans – a position that has outraged former military personnel.

Veterans are also upset that some disabled members of the military are being dismissed before they have put in the 10 years of service required to qualify for a pension.

They are angry that the Veterans Affairs offices in nine Canadian communities are being shut down.

And they are frustrated with a burial fund that is available only to veterans with incomes of less than $12,010 a year.

“If you want to be cynical, it appears that the government wants to balance its books on the backs of our heroes,” said Peter Stoffer, the Veterans Affairs critic for the NDP.
Federal government pulls pathway to immigration out from under foreign workers: labour

This is the continuing train wreck of another one of the government's "plans" to create the illusion that we are doing economically better than we actually are by externalizing cost and underpaying temporary foreign workers.
“The (Canadian Experience Class) is the fastest-growing economic immigration program. The volume of applications has already increased significantly,” he said in an email.

“In order to manage intake, maintain reasonable processing times and prevent a backlog from developing in the . . . program, we are introducing an annual cap on the number of new applications.”

He did not explain why six occupations would no longer qualify for the program, but Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) president Gil McGowan has his suspicions.

He believes it’s a byproduct of the accelerated labour market opinion process that allowed Tim Hortons outlets in booming Alberta to hire doughnut pushers under the guise that they were managers.

Before an employer can hire a temporary foreign worker, they must obtain a positive labour market opinion — essentially confirmation that no Canadians are willing and able to do the job. The accelerated process was introduced last year to speed up the issuing of work permits to better meet labour market demand in high-skilled fields, but a review by the AFL last spring found more than 2,400 permits — more than half of them in Alberta — were granted to workers at fast-food restaurants, convenience stores and gas stations.

The government scrapped the fast-track scheme shortly after, but Employment Minister Jason Kenney said recently that it could soon be resurrected.

“When I look at this list, these changes amount to an admission by the Harper government that the accelerated labour market opinion process was a complete train wreck. The occupation categories now being excluded were exactly the ones employers were using to game the system,” McGowan said.
The entire "skills shortage" justification for this boondoggle though has been called into question. I stick by my original analysis that we don't have any "skilled labour" shortage at all but rather a "skilled businessman" shortage or perhaps more simply there is a livable paycheque shortage.

Balanced budget.. please. Nothing "financial" today is balanced. We are in a world of diminishing energy ratios which translates directly to diminishing capital. The illusion of growth is being maintained for the markets, and for the rich not with an increase in production or growth, but by taking your wealth, and my wealth. By taking the collective wealth. They're lowballing inflation with fictitious formulas and stagnating wages are not even keeping up with that. We are a society that's eating itself.

Your confidence is being built up, just as it was built up by Flaherty's tights which while still in effect just don't seem to be working anymore. Almost as if housing topping out had nothing to do with them in the first place. The housing market and cheap credit are still out of control, nothing has stabilized, "emergency measures" (yes, remember these stimulus and record low interest rates are EMERGENCY MEASURES) are just barely preventing everything from destabilizing further.

As a species worrying about budgets now is stupid and ultimately at this point a balanced budget simply represents less resources for you and your family, your children, to utilize. We need to be planning and investing in the future of our race, not squabbling over the remains of our past. Scrounging, and cutting, and starving for growth isn't growth at all, it's contraction or deflation, when did we as a species lose sight of that?

Give this piece a read, please? (Learning How to Die in the Anthropocene)

Andrew Coyne: The Alarming State of Canada's Democracy

Just a note: At the end of this very excellent speech a lady asks Coyne a question regarding fascism. Coyne dismisses this question as "never gunna happen". While I don't believe it can happen again in the traditional sense, I do believe what we are under now is modern fascism (or corporatism - the merging of corporate and state).


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Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for eQube gaming systems.

Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.

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