Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday May 2, 2020
Tiff Macklem to lead the Bank of Canada
Finance Minister Bill Morneau has appointed Tiff Macklem, the former senior deputy governor of the Bank of Canada, to take over the top job at the central bank as it navigates the uncertainty of a pandemic-driven recession.
February 11, 2009
Macklem is currently the dean of the Rotman School of Management in Toronto, but had spent decades with the Bank of Canada before starting that appointment.
Macklem began his career at the bank in 1984. He was widely expected to win the contest for bank governor in 2013, but was beaten out by Stephen Poloz, who was then CEO of Export Development Canada.
Poloz’s term ends June 2.
The transition to new leadership comes as millions of Canadians have signed up for government aid and companies big and small are relying on federally backed wage subsidies to weather the COVID-19 pandemic.
During Friday’s announcement, Morneau said he’s confident Macklem’s expertise in financial markets will help the central bank navigate an economic crisis never before seen in Canada.
“The bank has to be humble about what it doesn’t know. There’s a lot we don’t know about this disease. There’s a lot that medical experts don’t know about this disease,” Macklem said during his unveiling in Ottawa.
“But the Bank of Canada has tremendous analytic economic financial capacity to analyze what’s going on in the economy, and the important role for the Bank of Canada is to provide Canadians with as much information as it can honestly provide as to what is happening and what the recovery could look like, recognizing that we’re probably going to have to look at more than one scenario.”
In the past months, Poloz and Morneau have appeared at several joint news conferences to show a co-ordinated approach on monetary and fiscal policy to deal with the economic fallout of the pandemic and global oil shocks.
Morneau has announced more than $250 billion in direct financial aid, credit support and tax deferrals to help offset the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. (CBC)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday April 30, 2020
Coronavirus Proves Capitalism Has Always Been a Lie
April 2, 2020
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to cause mass death and upheaval around the world, there has been an unexpected side effect: it has unmasked capitalism. In the U.S., this unmasking can be seen in both the Federal Reserve’s actions as well as Congress’ coronavirus aid legislation, the CARES Act, both of which reveal critical truths about an economic system that has been sold to working people as one thing and as quite another to banks and corporations. To shed some much needed light on the intricacies of our financial situation during the latest crisis, “Scheer Intelligence” host Robert Scheer spoke with acclaimed economist and attorney Ellen Brown.
There are plenty of parallels to be drawn between the last financial crisis and the coronavirus pandemic, with the clear exception being that now we’re not just dealing with a broken economy but with a deadly virus. Brown, who has written over a dozen books on economics and is the founder of the Public Banking Institute, explains how, unfortunately, the Covid-19 bailouts will once again betray Americans just as the 2008 stimulus did.
November 14, 2008
“In 2008 the bailout was basically of the banks, or we had quantitative easing that went to the banks,” the author tells Scheer. “And then the idea was that the banks were supposed to lend that into the real economy, but of course, they didn’t do it. … But now we have even more credit facilities [and] the problem is, they’re all going to help the big corporations, and the hedge funds, and virtually every sort of shady business. Things the Federal Reserve couldn’t lend to before, [but] now they have new ways of doing it.”
The nefarious uses of the CARES Act have been blasted all over the press, and now news has emerged that the Federal Reserve is planning on handing big corporations a whopping half a trillion dollars with “no strings attached” and zero interest. As Scheer points out, however, this seemingly miraculous economic response at times of crisis, when money is suddenly conjured out of thin air, is nothing new.
“The fact is, this is like what happens in wartime. You know, you had the Great Depression, [and when ] we went to war, suddenly [Franklin Delano] Roosevelt was able to really spend money,” says the “Scheer Intelligence” host, “And as a result, we got out of the Great Depression. In wartime, the government just prints money, finds it somewhere, and no questions asked.
Living in a Pandemic
“And that’s what happened now,” Scheer goes on. “Because of this pandemic, Congress just said, OK, we’re going to find–what, you said $4 trillion; I’m sure it’ll grow to $8 trillion. They don’t do that ever about, say, dealing with poverty or education, or any of these things; they always are very tight with the dollar. But now, because we have this warlike situation, they can suddenly find this money, and they can spend it in a totally unaccountable way.”
March 7, 2020
But just as the deadly pandemic is becoming yet another opportunity for Wall Street and corporations to swindle the public with the help of the government, it’s also finally made one thing very clear: Universal Basic Income is absolutely possible.
“As you say, if they could find the money for all that,” Brown tells Scheer in response to his summary regarding how money has always been funneled to the top, “they could clearly find the money for the people. My preferred option [is what] they call ‘helicopter money.’ Money that’s just created by the Federal Reserve and flown–theoretically, the original term came from flying helicopters over the people and just dropping the money equally on everybody. And we could still do that, and that’s called a Universal Basic Income.”
Brown goes on to explain in detail why it’s not only affordable, but won’t cause the massive inflation that critics so often write about whenever the measure is suggested.
“It’s not going to be inflationary,” she explains, “and that’s because of the way money comes into existence. We don’t really have a money system; we have a credit system. All of our money is credit; it’s created as credit on the books of banks, and it’s extinguished when the loans are paid off.”
Perhaps her most shocking calculation is that were the current stimulus money to be divvied up and sent directly to families, it would end up being $13,000 per person, not the measly $1,200 the government is sending out as a one-off. Where, you may ask, did all the rest of that money go? As Brown and Scheer continually remind us, it’s been sent to the companies that pull all the strings in our rigged system. (KCRW)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Unpublished Wednesday April 29, 2020
US a Washed-up Empire
April 23, 2020
There was a time when the slick American propaganda held the world in thrall as if it were true. Many nations once gullibly looked to the US for leadership. Not any more.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed presumed US global power as a hollowed-out caricature. America’s response to the disease is abysmal. It is the world’s leader in the numbers of deaths and infections, unable to cope because of the woeful lack of an organized, functioning public health system. How damning is that?
April 18 2020
Another factor in why the US has been hit so badly by the pandemic is due to the parlous conditions for tens of millions of its workers who live on the brink of poverty with little social safety net. That speaks to the real undemocratic nature of American society as opposed to all the arrogant delusions of “exceptionalism”.
This appalling disaster is against a backdrop of Washington spending trillions of dollars on nuclear weapons and maintaining hundreds of thousands of troops in military bases all around the world backed up by legions of warships and warplanes.
April 7, 2020
US presidential historian Douglas Brinkley is quoted by Politico as saying: “The United States was once known for its can-do culture. We built the Panama Canal and we put a man on the moon. And now we can’t get a swab or a face mask or a gown and we have no real chain of command.”
March 26, 2020
Brinkley added: “We are not leading in the pandemic response, we are trailing other countries by a long shot. This is a crippling blow to America’s prestige around the world.”
China, South Korea, Germany, Russia and other nations, even US-sanctioned Iran and Cuba, have been much more effective in managing the COVID-19 crisis than the US. Why? Well, simply because they are not broke like the US is from its monstrous militarism and imperial overstretch. (Merely printing money is no solution.)
The calamity of the disease unfolding in the US is proof that its presumed global empire is all washed-up. Fitting the end of era mood, the country is being “led” by a president who thinks that injecting household bleach into the human body could be a cure for the virus. Trump increasingly sounds like mad Roman emperors Nero or Caligula.
American economist Joseph Stiglitz says the real state of US society is akin to a “third world country”. (Continued: Sputniknews.com)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday April 30, 2020
School boards grapple with how to make Quebec’s ‘improvised’ back-to-school plan work
School board administrators across Quebec have two to three weeks to figure out how to organize bus transportation, classroom layouts and recess protocols, after the provincial government decided it would be the first in the country to reopen public schools.
Premier François Legault announced Monday that elementary schools in most regions of Quebec will reopen May 11, while those in the greater Montreal region, where there are far more cases of COVID-19, would have an extra week to get ready for a May 19 start date.
The chair of the Eastern Townships School Board, Michael Murray, said there are still many unknowns, including how he’ll manage to get his students to school in the first place, with 80 per cent of the student body relying on bus transportation.
Physical-distancing rules mean only one student per bench, so buses can carry just a fraction of the students they usually do.
“Typically our buses run pretty full, so we would need four times the number of buses in order to transport students,” said Murray.
Education Minister Jean-François Roberge said Tuesday while bus transportation will be “a challenge”, he said there will be more room because high-school students will be staying home.
“I think we will be able to manage it,” Roberge said. Among the measures the government is suggesting is putting up plexiglass between drivers and the students as added protection, especially for drivers over the age of 60.
The chair of the Central Quebec School Board, Stephen Burke, doesn’t think it will be that easy to solve the transportation issues.
He said his school board covers a third of the province’s territory — from Quebec City to Shawinigan to La Tuque — and 90 per cent of students take the bus.
“Those are issues that I don’t believe the minister or the government has really understood — nor what it means to reopen a school board such as ours,” Burke said. (CBC)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday April 29, 2020
The future of our watershed is far from assured
Look, it’s another non-COVID-19 editorial! That’s right, we wanted to give you a break from nonstop pandemic news and commentary. We know that can get heavy.
November 26, 2019
So instead, let’s talk about the state of Cootes Paradise, Chedoke Creek and Hamilton’s watershed in general. That’s bound to lighten your mood. Not.
A new report from the City of Hamilton says no special cleanup or monitoring of the Cootes Paradise marsh is called for as a result of the now infamous 24-billion-litre sewage leak known as Sewergate.
Before you utter a collective sigh of relief, let’s be clear: That doesn’t mean the protected marsh area is fine. It’s not. And common sense suggests the extra billions of litres of sewage leaked over more than four years into Chedoke Creek, which drains into the marsh, did not help matters.
December 7, 2019
According to a report from The Spectator’s Matthew Van Dongen, the report by SLR Consulting concludes there was no lasting damage to the marsh from the sewage spill, but it also observes that it’s hard to know where any specific piece of pollution is coming from, because there are so many sources. Well, that’s a relief.
Hamilton Coun. Maureen Wilson rightfully referred to the situation as a “damning indictment” of how the city has treated Cootes through history, allowing it to become dirty nearly beyond redemption prior to efforts in the last two decades to reclaim the marsh.
Progress has certainly been made, but the reality is that Cootes remains painfully polluted, not only by sewage but also by leachate from old landfill sites and toxic-run-off from highways, parking lots and other sources.
November 27, 2019
Back to the report for a bit. The consultant’s view is not necessarily and final word. The Royal Botanical Gardens, which owns the marsh, is studying the report, and while there is no final determination, there are hints the RBG may not agree with the report’s findings. The RBG’s Nick Kondrat told Van Dongen: “ … our initial assessment is that we strongly believe that additional analysis is required to evaluate the severity of the damage” from the spill.
The provincial Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks has also yet to pass judgment, and it may differ from the consultant when it comes. It will also determine whether any aspect of the spill broke the law. If it did, charges against the city could follow.
The Hamilton Spectator
But suppose the provincial ministry report doesn’t amount to much. And suppose the RBG’s findings and recommendations aren’t conclusive. Where does that leave us?
As much as we like to use the Sewergate label — The Spec did coin the phrase and break the story, after all — the spill and its fallout are not the most important issue at hand. What matters more is where we go from here.
Are we satisfied with the status quo, with ongoing cleanup efforts that have delivered laudable but not conclusive results?
Cootes is still receiving pollution from so many sources pollutants can’t be traced to any one source. Chedoke Creek’s bed is layered with contaminated sludge. Major weather events, of which we are having more and more, still result in sewage holding tank overflow that leaks into the marsh, harbour and lake. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial)