The world according to business

Posted on February 10, 2016 in Debates – Opinion/Columnists – Eastern Passages: One thing that’s happened since the Justin Trudeau Liberals came to power?
February 6, 2016.   Russell Wangersky

There’s been an explosion of business-based research. It now seems a week can’t go by without a news release by one business-based think-tank or another, all of them citing new directions in public policy.

This week, the Fraser Institute pointed out that the Canada Pension Plan, despite the size of its asset base, was not cheaper to administer (in a ratio between assets and costs) than other public sector pension funds.

The finding, essentially? That CPP should not be expanded and an Ontario Pension Plan should not be launched (thereby saving business owners money).

What the study didn’t point out, is that an ever-growing number of Canadians will have none of those better-performing pension funds to fall back on. CPP may be their only option — but don’t expand it, for God’s sake.

The conclusion?

“The implications of this analysis of the costs of pension plans are sobering for proponents of more and larger public pension plans,” which completely disregards the idea that getting more pension, despite the administrative cost, is better for the average worker than getting less. (The study also points out that it’s impossible at this point to know if the CPP funds might actually out-perform the small funds, making the spending of extra administrative funds a good investment.)

Meanwhile, at the C.D. Howe Institute, this week’s publication was, Job One is Jobs: Shaping the Labour Markets of Tomorrow. Standardize EI rules so Atlantic Canadians have to work more weeks, like their Alberta counterparts. Don’t pay so many of the disabled — get the laggards back into the workforce. The government should ensure training and skills are better suited for the jobs that business needs filled. It should tax high-income earners less, because taxing them at high rates “is inconsistent with wanting to build a more entrepreneurial culture and encouraging more risk taking. It could also have a very detrimental impact on certain sectors that rely heavily on stock options for labour compensation, particularly the information and technology industry — one of the most innovate (sic) segments of the economy.”

So, should business be paying to train and find the workers it needs? No, silly.

“A case can be made for strong federal leadership, in co-operation with co-ordinated and committed actions by the provinces.”

The takeaway? More government involvement, at taxpayers’ expense.

So, with that recent experience in mind, I’ve taken the liberty of suggesting a few upcoming think-tank reports of my own.

Moving the Goalposts — how lowering the official poverty line would dramatically reduce the ranks of the poor caught in the poverty trap.

Good Gravy — why governments giving money to business is an investment, but governments giving money to the poor is a handout.

It’s in a Sock Under my Bed — why keeping the money from business tax cuts is a better strategy than reinvesting in your business infrastructure, because money!

The Trickle-down Effect — helping to explain the 99-per-cent world through the one-per-cent lens.

Why Unions are Very, Very Bad — the corporate pitfalls of paying a living wage.

Increasing the Minimum Wage — how the underclass will only waste any increase on beer, rent and food, instead of high-margin luxury goods.

Some Teachers Do Good Work Despite Lower Pay — so let’s pay all other teachers less.

Oh, wait — that last one’s real. It’s already been done.

Russell Wangersky is TC Media’s Atlantic regional columnist. He can be reached at and on Twitter: @Wangersky.

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