Coyne: On reconciliation, development and carbon pricing: Enough with the all-or-nothing rhetoric

Unfortunately, applies to many areas of public policy and debate, where the challenge for any serious government is to seek a balance between different or competing objectives:

Justin Trudeau came to power promising reconciliation, resource development and carbon pricing. On present form, he may leave having achieved none of the three.

The past few days alone have seen deepening national divisions over the paralysis of the country’s rail system by protesters acting, so they claim, in the name of Indigenous rights; the cancellation of Teck Resources’ Frontier oil-sands mine proposal, the latest in a string of major energy projects to be killed, withdrawn or indefinitely delayed; and the rejection of the federal carbon tax by the Alberta Court of Appeal, signalling that the tax’s constitutional status, when it is finally determined by the Supreme Court of Canada, is anything but certain.

There is room to debate the Prime Minister’s particular responsibility for this state of affairs. Was he too quick to raise expectations among Indigenous people about the possibilities of reconciliation, too slow to deliver? Has his approach to environmental regulations been too heavy-handed in principle, too dilatory in practice? Was the whole strategy behind the carbon tax’s implementation, namely to dragoon the provinces into levying it on the feds’ behalf, too clever by half?

But for now it’s worth reviewing just where we have landed and how we got here. Whatever mistakes there were in execution, the basic idea – that reconciliation, development and carbon pricing, far from being mutually exclusive, could be achieved together – was sound enough.

Indigenous people, rather than being the helpless victims of development, could be partners in it, with appropriate mitigation of costs and sharing of benefits. Carbon pricing, instead of impeding resource extraction, could make it more possible, if not by purchasing social licence directly, then by encouraging the reductions in emissions intensity that would do so in the long run. In the decades to come, as the world moved away from fossil fuels, Canadian oil could continue to be extracted and sold as the last best barrel on Earth.

There was, in short, a balance to be struck between these objectives that could simultaneously meet the needs of Indigenous people, the energy sector and the planet. And there was a coalition to be assembled out of the more co-operative elements of each constituency – pro-development Indigenous leaders, socially responsible corporations, market-oriented environmentalists – on the basis that, though none would get all of what it wanted, all would get some of it.

Instead, the debate has been dominated by the most extreme, uncompromising, all-or-nothing voices. While an overwhelming majority of band councils have endorsed project after project, from the Trans Mountain expansion to the Coastal GasLink pipeline to the Frontier mine, a fanatical cult has grown up around the handful of Indigenous leaders in opposition to each.

While an array of business executives, not least within the oil patch, have endorsed carbon pricing as the cheapest and least-intrusive means of driving reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions, conservative politicians have mounted their own barricades against it, while proposing vastly more expensive alternatives in its place.

While those with actual responsibility for governing have focused on encouraging more responsible development, including extensive consultation with affected Indigenous communities and the smallest possible carbon footprint, left-wing activists have demanded, with increasing absolutism, that no oil be drilled or pipelines be built anywhere.

So instead of everyone getting something, the growing probability is that no one will get anything. We seem not to care whether we get what we want, so long as we can prevent others from getting what they want.

As, of course, we can. There shouldn’t be any doubt that each side of this conflict can, should it feel thwarted in its ambitions, make it virtually impossible for the others to succeed in theirs. The problem is, so can they; everyone’s got a veto of one kind or another. Yet all seem to think that, while their position is impregnable, their opponents can be made to surrender. And it is this belief that, more than anything, has brought us to this pass.

People who think we can just send in the cops to dismantle all the barricades have not begun to think through how this could be enforced over thousands of miles of rail line.

People who think Canada’s territorial sovereignty can just be waved away, when the very courts on which they depend for enforcement of their rights have consistently ruled to the contrary, are blind to both legal and political reality. People who think we can just shut down the oil sands today have not remotely contended with the consequences, not only for the economy, but the federal union. People who think we can just do nothing about climate change make themselves permanent exiles from power.

But that, alas, is what too many people do think. Only when all sides dispense with the fantasy of total victory will there be a way out of this stalemate.

Source: On reconciliation, development and carbon pricing: Enough with the all-or-nothing rhetoric

OECD report says Canada does well recruiting immigrant workers, except in the trades

Useful review and suggested recommendations:

Canada should streamline its immigration system for skilled workers, let provinces create their own Temporary Foreign Worker programs and make it easier for people with international credentials to obtain Canadian equivalents, according to a new report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Recruiting Immigrant Workers, the report published by the OECD Tuesday, gave Canada’s immigration system an overall positive review, praising its robust system for choosing which workers to admit, its prearrival supports and its ability to integrate and retain newcomers. It called Canada’s system a “benchmark” for other countries and noted Canada had the highest share of highly educated foreign-born people in the OECD.

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen told reporters in Toronto Tuesday he was “honoured” by the positive feedback, and that he’d study the recommendations for improvement.

The report suggested merging the immigration categories in Canada’s Express Entry system. Created in 2015 by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, it was designed to better manage immigration applications from people with relevant job skills.

Candidates who meet the minimum criteria form a pool where they are assigned points in categories such as education, age and language proficiency. Every couple of weeks, the government invites the highest-scoring people to apply for permanent residency.

Express Entry immigrants can be in one of three streams: Federal Skilled Workers, Federal Skilled Trades or Canadian Experience Class (people who have already worked in Canada for at least one year). These classes were created before Express Entry was brought in.

The OECD recommended merging the Federal Skilled Workers class with the Canadian Experience Class, and differentiating candidates by awarding more points for Canadian work experience.

The agency also recommended abolishing the Federal Skilled Trades class because the program didn’t reach the “desired group” of potential immigrants. In 2018, fewer than 400 applicants were admitted under this class, and many of them were cooks – an occupation that’s not in high demand nationwide, the report noted.

Instead, it proposed creating a single set of criteria for entry into the pool and one consistent entry pathway.

But that idea worries Roxanne McInnis Jessome, an immigration consultant and founder of Vancouver-based Join Canada Immigration Specialists. She says the current points system already puts skilled tradespeople at a disadvantage, because expertise gained on the job isn’t given the same weight as a postsecondary credential.

The result is that even though there’s a shortage of skilled workers in construction in B.C., skilled tradespeople often don’t get invited to apply for permanent residency.

“Don’t abolish the trades [stream], manage it differently,” she said.

Getting rid of the trades stream would mean “a very deep policy revision on how the Express Entry would work,” added Dory Jade, chief executive officer of the Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants.

Canada should also let provinces and territories create their own Temporary Foreign Worker programs to target specific regional shortages, the OECD recommended.

It also took aim at the cumbersome process for immigrants to get their foreign credentials recognized in Canada. That’s often a provincial issue, Mr. Jade said, because licensing bodies often differ regionally.

The report recommended following the German model to set up a specific short-term visa for people to get the ball rolling on getting Canadian equivalents for their qualifications, since right now it’s not possible to start licensing for many occupations from outside of Canada.

Canadian employers also have to complete a document called a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) sometimes to show there’s a need for a foreign worker to fill a job. The OECD recommended abolishing LMIAs for permanent migration in favour of integrity checks to verify the working conditions and wages.

Mr. Hussen said he recognized “that we have to do better there,” and is working to set up a trusted employer program, so that those looking to hire foreign workers don’t need to submit paperwork over and over again.

Source: Canada largely successful in managing economic immigration, OECD study finds

Germany Chases a Fix for Its $35 Billion Immigration Problem

The other side of Germany’s immigration issues:

Germany has an immigration problem, but it might not be what right-wing extremists think it is. Rather than too many foreigners in the country, economists fret there won’t be enough.

With baby boomers retiring and not enough young people joining the labor market, the country needs at least 400,000 people coming to work in Germany every year to maintain its competitiveness, according to the IAB Institute for Employment Research. A shortage of skilled workers means businesses won’t be able to produce as much as they could, holding back the economy by about 30 billion euros ($35 billion) a year, research by the Cologne Institute for Economic Research shows.

Labor Squeeze

Germany’s job market is expected to get tighter as older workers retire

Source: German Federal Labor Agency

It’s a delicate issue for Chancellor Angela Merkel. Her open-door policy to refugees — more than 1 million asylum seekers came to the country since 2015 — helped foment social tensions and facilitated the emergence of the right-wing Alternative for Germany party. That puts pressure on her to respond to these concerns, while also helping businesses clamoring for more talent.

“It can take up to six months before employees from non-EU countries get their visa,” said Michael Bueltmann, who runs the German operations of digital mapping company HERE Technologies. “This has a negative impact” on recruitment and complicates planning. The company employs 1,200 people in Germany, including programmers from Bangladesh and the Middle East, who lack certainty about their residency prospects.

To address these concerns, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, who recently referred to migration as “the mother of all problems,” is finalizing a law aimed at helping skilled workers come to Germany, while also controlling the influx of low-skilled people who might take advantage of the country’s generous welfare system.

The refugee situation and immigration may be linked in the legislation, with the SPD — Merkel’s junior coalition partner — calling for refugees to be able to switch out of asylum status if they find a job. The so-called “lane change” proposal has been rejected by Merkel, setting up a potential showdown.

The final immigration bill is to be presented this fall, and critics are already concerned it won’t go far enough.

“The planned legislation is a first step, but not what Germany really needs,” said Wido Geis, a senior economist at the Cologne Institute. “A truly modernized German immigration law would need a restructured administration” that centralizes approval processes rather than relies on local authorities.

Source: Germany Chases a Fix for Its $35 Billion Immigration Problem

Americans are convinced by economic report claiming minorities are taking jobs away from whites

Good example of how baselines and charting can mislead, as well as feeding popular prejudices:

To start, the report asserts that of the more than 5 million jobs added since November 2007, the pre-recession employment peak, more than half went to Hispanics — a stunning proportion that accounts for four times their share of the labor force that year.

Economic Cycle Research Institute

Disproportionately large gains also occurred among black and Asian workers, according to the report. African Americans accounted for 25 per cent of the job gains, more than double their share of the labour force. Asians accounted for nearly 30 per cent of the gains, about six times their share of the labour force.

But white workers fell behind, the report said. Whites had fewer jobs than they did nine years ago — even though they made up more than 80 per cent of the labour force in 2007.

These stunning statistics were enough to drive many, including the report’s author, to conclude that white economic despair led to Donald Trump’s election victory.

“The shock of the election spoke to a kind of disconnect,” said Lakshman Achuthan, co-founder of the Economic Cycle Research Institute, in an interview with the Post. “There is a huge cohort — you can call it whites, people in rural areas — who weren’t feeling the 5 percent unemployment rate. They weren’t feeling the stock market at new highs. They weren’t feeling a recovery that’s seven, eight years old.”

But other economists pounced on the report after the New York Times columnist, Eduardo Porter, highlighted it in his column. The statistics Porter cited paint too simplistic of a picture, they argued.

Economic Cycle Research Institute

“The implication is there are hundreds of thousands of white people who lost their jobs to blacks, Asians and Hispanics. Yet if you look at the unemployment rate differentials by race, you don’t see a huge increase in the white unemployment rate,” said Jonathan Rothwell, a Gallup economist.

The recession and its aftermath were not dramatically worse for white workers, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate for whites — 4.6 per cent in 2015 — is lower than all racial and ethnic groups except Asians. In comparison, 9.6 per cent of African Americans, 6.6 per cent of Hispanics, and 3.8 per cent of Asians are unemployed.

And a far higher proportion of whites are employed than blacks; 59.9 per cent of the white labour force are employed compared to 55.7 per cent of the black labour force. The proportions of Hispanics and Asians who have jobs are just slightly higher than for whites — not nearly the alarming portrait painted by the Economic Cycle Research Institute.

All demographic groups experienced declining rates of employment between 2007 and 2015, but white workers’ plight is not as dramatic as ECRI implies.

“I don’t see any evidence that whites were disproportionately harmed over the last nine years,” Rothwell said. “The main concern I have with the [ECRI] chart is it’s potentially grossly misleading in terms of how it could be interpreted.”

Economic Cycle Research Institute

Rothwell and other economists pointed out that as the country becomes more diverse due to immigration and higher birth rates among minority groups, it only follows that those same groups would make gains in employment along with population.

“One would expect to see jobs shifting. Just as we see more kids going to public schools who are non-white, we would expect to see more adults in the labour force who are non-white, and it’s not any cause for concern,” Rothwell said.

Whites are also aging, and as Baby Boomers retire, the size of the white labor force remains relatively stagnant. The ECRI analysis compares a demographic group’s share of the labor force at a single point in time with the group’s share of job gains since 2007. In doing so, it overlooks the changes in the sizes of the underlying populations over time, said Alan Berube, deputy director at the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program.

Source: Americans are convinced by economic report claiming minorities are taking jobs away from whites | National Post