Monday 31 March 2008

Minimum Wage: Friend or Foe?

Tomorrow, April 1, the minimum wage in Manitoba jumps 50 cents ("fiddy cent", to those of you with your ball caps on sideways) to $8.50, good for a tie for second place behind Ontario, which increased its minimum wage from $8.00 to $8.75 today. The nurses must be jealous. They're only third highest in the country. Anyhoo ...

Is this minimum wage increase a good thing? Lefties say it will help hardworking single moms get by on their earnings from pumping gas. Righties and restaurant owners say it will hurt small businesses and increase unemployment. I say: let's see what the studies have to say. Hold on to your pocket protectors, boys and girls, here we go ...

The theory

The theory, when dumbed down to my level, is very simple. Without wage controls, the labour market will adjust such that the wage employers will pay will match the wage that people are willing to accept for a given job. This will result in your equilibrium wage (Pe) and equilibrium number of jobs (Qe). If there is a minimum wage (Pm) set higher than the equilibrium wage then the quantity of labour demanded will decrease correspondlingly (Qm) and there will be a gap between the number of people who want to work and the number who are lucky enough to get jobs. Either unemployement will increase or people will drop out of the work force. Either way, there are fewer people working.

The reality

Fortunately for me, Morely Gunderson did all of my homework for me with this study: Minimum Wages in canada : theory, evidence and policy in which he analyzes basically every peer-reviewed paper that has been written on the subject.

Some of Morely's conclusions from Canadian studies:

  • recent studies "find larger adverse employment effects at the higher end and beyond the consensus range, especially in the longer run." They imply "that at 10 percent increase in the minimum wage would lead to a 3 to 6 percent reduction in the employment of teens. The fact that they use different data sets and methodologies suggest that these results are robust."
  • "Minimum wage increases also tend to reduce the labour force participation rate inducing some to leave the labour force"
  • "As an anti-poverty device... they are an exceedingly blunt instrument and not well targeted towards the poor"


Do you suppose Gary Doer, Greg Selinger and Nancy Allen read any of this? They wouldn't make a policy decision based purely on ideology, would they?

Friday 28 March 2008

Cute fuzzy Friday night thoughts

I don't have the energy nor the proper amount of stewing rage built up to discuss the nonsense that's going on with Upper Fort Garry. Maybe I'll tackle that later. Maybe not. The guys on my blog roll have it covered anyhow. Instead, I saw over on the Hack's web site that the seal hunt is on, so I think I'll talk about clubbing baby seals.

Clubbing baby seals is bad. So bad that I think I'll go join the protest .... or the hunt ... whatever this girl is doing:

A tip of the hat to OMMAG for finding that one.

Like I was saying, the seal hunt is brutal and inhumane, and it must be stopped because baby seals are cute and fuzzy. It is absolutely outrageous that cute fuzzy animals are being killed! Just look at those big black eyes. If you really really need to kill something, make sure that it is ugly and nasty-looking. That's okay. I know that it's okay because I have never seen Paul McCartney protesting the killing of ugly, nasty animals. Go cut some fins off a shark and throw it back in the water to die. That should be alright. After all, a shark with no fins can't eat the cute fuzzy baby seals that you are saving from the hunt, right?

Tuesday 25 March 2008

Tibet, Flaherty, and Minimum Wage

Hey, look at me. I'm on TV!

I know what you are trying to do, but was that really worth 50 years in prison?

The games people play

Jim, if you really want to offer budget advice to the Ontario government, probably best not to wait until 24 hours before the release of the document.

Up goes the minimum wage

Well heck, if our nurses deserve to be among the highest paid in the country, why don't our burger flippers?


Gord please shut up

You're just making a fool of yourself at this point.

Thursday 20 March 2008

Another week, another $100 million bucks

It seems as though the day after I left the U of M, they started to fix everything. Nothing happened while I was actually enrolled, but then I leave and suddenly Smart Park springs up out of an empty field, the engineering building is torn down and rebuilt, a brand spanking new residence is built, a parkade goes up .... and they're just getting going. Recently they've requested proposals for a hotel on the site of the Smart Park, and this week Project Domino was revealed:

Retiring University of Manitoba president Emoke Szathmary unveiled a $100-million-plus legacy project Wednesday that will change the face of the Fort Garry campus.

All told, 13 faculties and departments will be affected by the massive undertaking.

The big question of course: where is the money going to come from?
"Of course, there's an expectation government would participate," said (Education Minister) McGifford. "I don't think I want to talk about that today." [*]
Maybe the government is finally getting a little tired of all of these people grabbing for tax dollars?

It seems that every time you watch the news or open the paper there is another request for government money. The standard operating procedure is to announce the plan first then request the money second -- create some fancy conceptual drawings and a flashy web site, then wage a PR campaign to suck money out of the government. You are all familiar with some of the recent examples:
In a way, I think Gail Asper's success in securing government support for the Museum has set a precedent for the PR-driven MO that seems to be used to get funding these days. I'll call it the "Apser Effect", if you will.

I'm not saying that I oppose the U of M Domino plan ... in fact I think our Universities are tremendously important and we should invest in them. I just question the methodology of releasing your plan to the pubic first and then pressuring the government for money through the media. Is this how they do things in other cities, or is this Asper Effect our own little quirky way of doing business around here?

Monday 17 March 2008

Nothing but the best will do

It seems CBC execs have been living the high life courtesy of you:

Executives at Canada's public broadcaster have run up huge bills staying at luxury palace-like hotels in Europe where rooms go for a staggering $800-plus a night.

including a $4,377 trip to Istanbul for a conference by former president and CEO of the taxpayer-funded CBC, Robert Rabinovitch at the "posh" Ciragan Palace Kempinski Hotel:
The hotel's website entices potential visitors with the promise of "a personal butler for each guest, award winning cuisine" and "luxurious facilities." <canoe>
I did a little checking on Expedia, and found several hotels for less than $100 per night, including a Best Western, and the Berr Hotel (3.5 stars) that will run you a very reasonable $47 per night -- and that's without my corporate discount.

Mr. Rabinovitch and his colleagues should be thankful that the tax payers allow them to have a job. Assuming the trip was justified to begin with, which is a bit of a leap, the least he could do is not screw us by staying at the most palatial palace in town. I mean, what's wrong with the Best Western? Well, ok .. besides the lack of a personal butler.

meh ... I guess this will do:

Sunday 16 March 2008

A couple quick things

I have been know to criticize the Free Press on occasion, but this weekend there were a couple of pieces that helped to improve my opinion of the paper as being something more than a forum for left-wing slaves pulling Bob Silver's plow through the tobacco fields of the Manitoba media. Okay, that analogy was pretty bloody bad, but I'm at a low point on my mental bio-rhythm right now and I don't think I can do any better.

First, there was this piece by Dan Lett, who I am becoming convinced is actually Policy Frog (he's at least a fan). Key paragraph:

We have the cheapest electricity in North America, but that is doing nothing to create wealth or opportunity in the province. What is has created is the highest per capita consumption of electricity in North America, a trend that will make it difficult for Hydro to charge the market rates it needs to be profitable.


Then there was this piece by Bartley Kives, including:

Allow me to repeat this: There is nobody in Winnipeg advocating anything other than the creation of a heritage park at 100 Main St. What the Friends and their supporters are quibbling over is the second parcel of land, at the corner of Fort Street and Assiniboine Avenue.

... The friends would rather sit back and watch Winnipeggers get spun into believing Upper Fort Garry is in danger, when in fact their all-or-nothing game is the only thing that truly imperils the park.

Which brings two questions to mind:

1) Now that Bartley has imparted some common sense to the Saturday paper on this issue, is that going to dampen Gord Sinclair's "ridiculous rhetoric" a little bit?

2) Is Bartley going to get a lashing from his boss and Friend of Fort Garry Bob Silver?

Tuesday 11 March 2008

Interior Decorating at Upper Fort Garry

I made the mistake of reading Gordon Sinclair's column today:

The resurrected samples of life at the 19th-century Hudson's Bay fort include paper, wood, textile fragments, bottles, china, paper and even a child's toilet seat.


The artifacts might give you a better idea how the Friends of Upper Fort Garry could decorate an interpretive centre that's the cornerstone of their plan to reclaim the grounds that were the very foundation of historic Winnipeg and Manitoba.

That's great: the interpretive centre could be decorated with scraps of cloth, broken bottles and a toilet set. If we're lucky they might find some sheep skin condoms buried in the dirt that they can hang from the lights. Geeze .. I thought Gordon Sinclair supported this proposal.

Wait ... let me read the column again ... hmmm, actually Gordon seems to think this is a good thing. So good, in fact, that he is urging Gary Doer to chip in another $3m of tax dollars.

Thanks, Gordon. I didn't realize it was our birthright to forgo economic development in downtown Winnipeg in favour of an interpretive centre decorated in 150 year old trash, supported by valuable tax dollars.


I don't know how much more I can comment on this without before I feel like I'm flogging a dead horse. There are many other good posts out there on this issue, including Rise & Sprawl who points out that the Friend's proposal calls for a new surface-level parking lot (yes, that's what it is ... the green dots can't hide it).

Why don't the friends work with Crystal Development? Why does the interpretive centre have to go where the apartment building will be? Why can't it go into one of those replica buildings that the Friends want to build? What are all those buildings going to be used for anyhow? ('Cause I'm sure the hookers and druggies could find a use for them). While you're at it, turn another one of those buildings into a farmer's market. I like that Crystal plan idea .. it would be great for the residents of the building and in-keeping with the heritage of the site to some extent. Just don't decorate it with old toilet seats and rusty cans.

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Saturday 8 March 2008

La Niña is a ho

I woke up this morning to a 3 inch layer of the white shit on my driveway. Actually, it was the nice fluffy stuff, and this is definitely an improvement over the face-numbing deep freeze that we've had to endure lately. Every time another body part turns black and falls off I have to remind myself that this La Niña induced bull shit is actually a good thing because it's helping to
replenish the shrinking ice caps up north. But really, enough is enough. It's almost mid-march now -- we should be putting the long underwear away and polishing up the golf clubs.

Thankfully, things are looking up (for me -- not the ice caps) :

Thursday 6 March 2008

Don't get sick: strike looming

There was an odd little article in the Freep today:

The province issued a warning to doctors and hospitals this week to do what they can to reduce the number of patients in beds or requiring surgery in the event contact talks with Manitoba nurses break down ... as a precaution to ensure patient safety.

You can do your part too: if you were planning a heart attack or brain aneurism for next week, you might want to post pone it ... to ensure your safety.

So what's with this work action? Is this just a natural part of the nurses union's four-year menstral cycle? Actually ... it's all about the money:

Maureen Hancharyk, president of the Manitoba Nurses Union, said the province is not offering nurses a competitive wage and new graduates are being swayed by higher pay and better benefits from other provinces like Saskatchewan.


Terry Goertzen, assistant deputy minister for Manitoba Health workforce, said the province has offered nurses a 9.6 per cent pay increase over two years and that Manitoba nurses have the fourth highest wages in the country. Hancharyk said that's not competitive enough and that Manitoba nurses are actually sixth in the country in terms of pay [link]
What? A raise of only twice the rate of inflation? That's not right ... And gosh darnit, our nurses deserve to be the highest paid in the country, even if our cost of living is higher than only 3 other provinces.

I don't know if you picked up on the sarcasm or not, but what I'm trying to say is our health care expenses are spiraling out of control (at what, 40+% of the provincial budget now? I'm too lazy to look it up) and over-paying our nurses isn't helping. What might help is not spending money on crap like this:


But what about the staff shortage, and our poor over-worked nurses? I'll leave it to the Black Rod to explain that one.

h/t: PITT

Monday 3 March 2008

How far can we push it?

Ok. Now we know...

Stephane Dion & Co. are finding out the hard way how much crap Harper is willing to put up with. My guess is, the over-zealous Liberals will be much more careful about what they say outside of the libel-protected walls of the House of Commons.

Interestingly, the Liberal mastermind himself Warren Kinsella thinks that Harper is standing on solid ground ...

in fact - I'd hazard a guess that this isn't the action of someone who fears a full airing of the facts.
I forgot to add ... Warren has this interesting tid-bit on his blog as well:
Rick Dearden at Gowlings is acting for the Prime Minister. I articled under Rick when the firm was doing a lot of work for virtually every major media organization in the country. In the past twenty years or so, I can't recall a single libel case he has lost. FYI.
That would be pretty embarrassing -- for the lead of the opposition to be forced to compensate the PM. Ouch.

Jim wants to get in on the action too, apparently ...

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