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A. G. Vronces

Biased Journalism and Minimum Wages

Many journalists do not have highly specialized knowledge as a professor would, and yet people expect these scribblers and editors to keep them up-to-date about even the most complicated of matters. In these instances, it would appear as though the uninformed have been tasked with educating the uninformed. As a scribbler myself, I once dealt with an editor who walked around a mountain of social science to get his point across. This editor, who also happens to be a reporter for one of Canada's top news outlets, told me that the Ontario government's recent move to index its minimum wage to inflation will "obviously" put more money into the pockets of "many" workers. In fact, he believed it so strongly that he told me to state it in an article I had been writing without attributing it to a source. This is wrong for a few reasons. The statement that hiking the minimum wage will obviously put more money into the pockets of many workers is a testable claim, and, according to the available evidence, is not obviously true. Even the Ontario government's minimum wage advisory panel understood that much. Journalism ought to be about producing factual work, pursuing the truth regardless of the sentiments it may evoke. Telling a good story is important to producing great journalism, to be sure, but letting a good story get in the way of the truth defeats its purpose. I do not mean to suggest that journalists intend to violate the rules of their trade, of course -- they obviously do whatever they can to be true to the ideal. It is curious, however, that the editor I once dealt with is not the only one who ignored the literature on the minimum wage as it pertained to the Ontario government's announcement. In… Read More

ANALYSIS: Canada’s economic immigration economically irrational

If Canadians replaced each and every one of their lawmakers with expert and apolitical economists, they would soon fail to recognize their country’s immigration system. As it happens now, after consulting with their partners and trying to assess the needs of Canada’s economy, the bigwigs who man the offices at Citizenship and Immigration Canada determine the mix of economic immigrants they think will best suit the demands of the Canadian labour market. For roughly the past 50 years officials have tasked a point system, whose criteria range from educational attainment to language proficiency, with picking the winners from the losers among a pool of would-be immigrants. But, if the economics are all that matter, then policymakers have it all wrong. As a few rather prominent economists have told it, point systems and immigration restrictions hurt more than they help and the economic literature on immigration doesn’t imply that they’re necessary at all. “It is extremely difficult for anybody sitting in capital city to determine what’s going to be on the point system to assess in real-time what all of the different fine-grained industries of the country are demanding,” said Centre for Global Development economist Michael Clemens, who penned an article about the costs of putting restrictions on migration for the Journal of Economic Perspectives in 2011. For the same reason that economists wouldn’t advise the government to micromanage the flows of capital in and out of the country, many economists fail to see the merit in micromanaging the flows of labour in and out of the country. Economists prefer to leave that sort of activity to the market precisely because of what they cannot know: who exactly is seeking to hire whom? “Even me, as an economist, I’m not going to be good at telling you how many nurses the… Read More

An interview with immigration minister Chris Alexander

The Prince Arthur Herald’s Editor-at-Large Alex Vronces spoke with Canada’s immigration minister, Chris Alexander, about his new portfolio. Chris took over from Jason Kenney, who became Minister of Employment and Social Development in the last cabinet shuffle, and faces mounting challenges over what role immigrants will play in Canada's future. Here’s the conversation.   Why are you the best pick for Canada’s Minister of Immigration? The prime minister makes these calls, and he has a lot of depth to draw from in our caucus. Jason Kenney was a formidable minister in this portfolio. What does it take to try to fit his shoes? I think we’re all passionate about immigration. It helps to have the immigrant-experience all around you. I grew up in Toronto; I represent Ajax-Pickering. These are hotbeds of Canadian immigration, and of all the challenges of settlement, integration, and trying to make that pass to the workplace as short as possible for immigrants. So that must be one of the reasons.   What is — or what should be — the foremost economic goal of immigration? I think it’s very simple. We need an immigration policy that serves our national economic interest. That means we need immigrants with the right skills, the right education, the right work experience for our economy. That also means we need people who are adaptable to the very fast-pace of change in our Canadian economy and in the global economy. We’re looking for the best and the brightest, but for people who are driven to contribute to innovation, to starting up new businesses and enterprises, and to working at that cutting-edge efficiency and productivity.   Experts sometimes refer to the wage and employment gap between supposedly equally-skilled immigrants and Canadians. Is the point-system failing in this regard? That is a challenge. It… Read More

Canada’s Banks Used to be Strong and Free

Canada’s banks stayed afloat during the Great Recession without a real need for the taxpayer’s life jacket, whereas American banks either sank or needed the taxpayer’s life boat. Most accordingly, bodies such as the World Economic Forum and International Monetary Fund lauded Canada’s financial system as one of the safest and strongest around the globe. But what is less known about our financial system is that its merits go beyond its resolve over the last decade.Pundits and politicos appear to think Canada’s tighter regulatory regime helped it weather the recent economic storm, and that America’s supposed lack thereof caused it. But history puts forth a different narrative, for throughout the 1800s and early 1900s Canada had the freer financial system and yet produced fewer banking calamities than did its more stringent, American counterpart. Indeed, as the lead of a Wall Street Journal article told it not so long ago, “Since 1790, the United States has suffered from 16 banking crises,” while “Canada has experienced zero.”Historically, Canadian banks freely and competitively issued private currencies and carried out their dealings as they saw fit, with very little help from the government and not a smidgeon of help from the Bank of Canada, which politicians didn’t incorporate into the picture until 1934.The first private bank to open and issue currency was the Bank of Montreal on June 23, 1817, which at the time was arguably the most important monetary institution in North America. As more banks emerged in Lower Canada, they not only accepted each other’s money, but also redeemed it by cashing it as a claim against the issuing bank’s gold or silver. Shortly after seeing the benefits of such banking in Lower Canada, the businesses of Upper Canada wished for a comparable financial system to accommodate their monetary demands and keep… Read More

The Great Conservative Contradiction in Syria

The White House stated on Thursday that Syria crossed a “red line” with its use of chemical weapons, compelling the U.S. government to intensify the “scale and scope” of its support for the so-called Syrian opposition. Not unexpectedly, the eerily hawkish John McCain publicly advised president Obama to exploit every tool at his disposal short of sending battalions of troops overseas. But even though such conservatives are for once unwilling to — as they so tritely say — put American boots on the ground, they’re foolhardily urging a course of action to ironically force freedom onto the tumultuous streets of Syria.Contrary to what the hawks appear to think, the ills plaguing Syria are kinds for which there isn’t a known antidote, regardless of whether its formula is militaristic, humanitarian, or cloak-and-dagger. Indeed, the ills plaguing many of the areas in which conservatives wish to install a liberal democracy aren’t at all curable by American hands. Nonetheless, that doesn’t change the minds of the conservative hawks who believe we ought to be dying to deal with despotic madmen abroad.Politicos and pundits on the right tend to support a fairly aggressive sort of foreign policy, generally wanting the federal government to involve itself around the globe with the intention of achieving particular goals. Incidentally, the noise exhorting action on Syria nicely exemplifies the conventionally conservative position. As a statement issued several weeks ago by Republican speaker John Boehner read, “The United States has vital national interests in Syria becoming a peaceful country with a stable, representative government…After two years of brutal conflict, it’s past time for the President to have a robust conversation with the Congress and the American people about how best to bring Assad’s tyranny to an end.”While conservatives can’t seriously accuse their political opponents of longing for the survival… Read More
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