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2021: Alberta eyes post-COVID economic rebound but faces big budget questions – Kamloops This Week

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EDMONTON — Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews says the goal in 2021 is to get vaccines out and put the COVID-19 pandemic in the rear-view mirror, then work to fix a battered and beleaguered economy.

But with a $21-billion deficit and Alberta’s wellspring oil and gas economy still in flux, there’s a red-inked elephant in the room: Where’s the money going to come from?

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“We will not cut our way out of a $21-billion deficit,” Toews said in a year-end interview with The Canadian Press.

“We have to get the economy growing again. And economic recovery will very quickly become job No. 1 as we start to get past the pandemic.”

Roll the tape back to the start of 2020. Premier Jason Kenney’s United Conservative government was busy trying to resuscitate an already wheezing economy only to see COVID-19 blow everything apart and take with it Kenney’s signature election promise to balance the deficit in his first term.

That goal is a distant memory with a projected budget deficit this year tripling an original forecast of $6.8 billion. COVID-19 has slashed demand for energy, shuttered businesses and demanded relief aid and job supports to keep people going.

Toews said the plan is to get Alberta out of the financial ditch in February with the budget.

In November, he laid out “fiscal anchors” for the journey: keeping the net-debt to GDP ratio under 30 per cent, reducing public sector spending to match comparable jurisdictions and setting a timeline to get the budget back to balance.

University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe said Alberta is in the enviable position of having options. It’s the lowest-taxed province, and oil and gas will continue to deliver billions of dollars to the treasury for the foreseeable future, though not in the same eye-popping amounts as boom times.

“But even if (the energy revenue) is significant, it won’t be nearly enough, so we need to shift gears on how we fund public services.”

By his number crunching, Tombe said if Toews is to meet his targets, Alberta will need to find an extra $7 billion a year if it wants to get the budget out of the red and start paying off a debt now projected to reach $97 billion in 2021.

Such talk raises again the spectre of a sales tax.

Alberta’s Social Credit government brought in a two per cent levy in 1936 and quietly dropped it a year later. After the Second World War, Alberta’s oil and gas economy exploded, allowing it to eschew the stability of a tax.

Sales tax is the third rail of Alberta politics and by law can’t be brought in without a referendum. Toews said it’s not in the cards, but he’ll strike a panel to revisit Alberta’s revenue generation.

Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley did not bring in a sales tax when she was premier before Kenney was elected in 2019. She agrees with the UCP that it would be a debilitating blow to a fragile economy.

Notley says the solution begins with further diversifying the economy and building on Alberta’s strengths of a young educated workforce, a burgeoning tech sector and entrepreneurial business owners.

Oil and gas are key, she adds, but warns that Kenney’s blinkered focus on them to the exclusion of other opportunities will be the province’s undoing.

“If (Kenney) continues to insist on operating through an ideological lens, which is squarely focused backward by about 25 years … then we are in big trouble.”

The economy is also a political question. The United Conservatives reach the midpoint of their mandate in 2021 and early initiatives, including a deep slash to the corporate tax rate, have yet to bear fruit.

Political scientist Duane Bratt said COVID-19 and the economy are destined to again slam into each other in 2021. The government has said that after the pandemic is over it will follow through on saving money in health care including reducing or outsourcing 11,000 jobs.

“How do you say, ‘Thank you for all the hard work (during the pandemic). Here are your layoff papers?'” said Bratt with Mount Royal University in Calgary.

Broadly speaking, Bratt said, the NDP is more trusted by the electorate on the health file, while the United Conservatives own the economy. That raises future ballot box questions two years from now, if the UCP has angered Albertans with its health decisions while failing to get the economy going.

Said Bratt: “If the economy trumped everything in 2019, does health trump everything in 2023?”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 27, 2020.

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RELEASE: 10 Recommendations That Will Improve Maine's Economy and Democracy – Center For American Progress

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RELEASE: 10 Recommendations That Will Improve Maine’s Economy and Democracy – Center for American Progress


Washington, D.C. — In Maine, more than 12 percent of residents live below the poverty line, and more than 1 in 3 families do not earn enough to pay for basic expenses. A new report from the Center for American Progress explains how strengthening worker power is key to reducing poverty and economic inequality in the state and how it would help to raise wages, close racial and gender pay gaps, and make the state’s democracy more responsive to the public.

While there are many steps the state could take to address these issues—including improving workplace health and safety standards, enforcing anti-discrimination rules, and reducing the influence of money in politics—ensuring that workers have a collective voice is crucial. Union membership in Maine has plummeted over the past 50 years. Today, only 5.5 percent of private sector workers belong to a union, despite the fact that research shows that unions help Mainers earn higher wages and benefits. Declining union membership has been accompanied by rising income equality in the state.

The report provides a blueprint for Maine policymakers to build worker power in their state, including these 10 policy recommendations:

  1. Provide workers a voice in setting and enforcing public health standards.
  2. Ensure that government spending creates good jobs.
  3. Improve workforce training by more fully involving worker organizations.
  4. Create workers’ boards to provide workers a voice in determining minimum industrywide pay and benefits.
  5. Partner with worker organizations and provide workers with a private right to action to ensure that workplace standards are enforced.
  6. Involve worker organizations in unemployment insurance modernization.
  7. Strengthen public sector unions.
  8. Use business permitting and licensing standards to support high-road businesses.
  9. Close loopholes that allow employers to skirt legal responsibilities and undermine worker power.
  10. Implement broad anti-retaliation protections.

“The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated inequalities and shone a light on unsafe conditions in many Maine workplaces,” said David Madland, senior fellow at CAP and co-author of the report. “Weak worker protections and low rates of union membership have made it harder for workers to speak out and ensure that they are compensated fairly for their work. State policymakers can ensure a safer and more equitable economy for all Mainers by enacting reforms that strengthen workers’ voices on the job and in the economy.”

Read the report: “Strategies To Build Worker Power in Maine: 10 Recommendations That Will Improve Maine’s Economy and Democracy” by David Madland and Malkie Wall

For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Julia Cusick at .


The Center for American Progress is an independent nonpartisan
policy institute that is dedicated to improving the lives of all
Americans, through bold, progressive ideas, as well as strong
leadership and concerted action. Our aim is not just to change
the conversation, but to change the country.

© 2021 – Center for American Progress

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Biden's rescue plan will give U.S. economy significant boost: Reuters poll – The Telegram

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By Indradip Ghosh and Richa Rebello

BENGALURU (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden’s proposed fiscal package will boost the coronavirus-hit economy significantly, according to a majority of economists in a Reuters poll, and they expect it to return to its pre-COVID-19 size within a year.

Biden has outlined a $1.9 trillion stimulus package proposal to jump-start the world’s largest economy, which has been at the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic having lost over 400,000 lives, fueling optimism and sending Wall Street stocks to record highs on Thursday.

Hopes for an upswing in U.S. economic growth, helped by the huge stimulus plan, was reflected in the Jan. 19-22 Reuters poll of more 100 economists.

In response to an additional question, over 90%, or 42 of 46 economists, said the planned fiscal stimulus would boost the economy significantly.

“There are crosswinds to begin 2021 as fiscal stimulus helps to offset the virus and targeted lockdowns. The vaccine rollout will neutralize the latter over the course of the year,” said Michelle Meyer, U.S. economist at Bank of America Securities.

“And upside risks to our…growth forecast are building if the Democrat-controlled government can pass additional stimulus. The high level of virus cases is extremely disheartening but the more that the virus weighs on growth, the more likely that stimulus will be passed.”

For a Reuters poll graphic on the U.S. economic outlook:

https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/polling/oakveynqovr/Reuters%20Poll%20-%20U.S.%20economy%20outlook.png

The U.S. economy, which recovered at an annualized pace of 33.4% in the third quarter last year from a record slump of 31.4% in the second, grew 4.4% in the final three months of the year, the poll suggested.

Growth was expected to slow to 2.3% in the current quarter – marking the weakest prediction for the period since a poll in February 2020 – amid renewed restrictions.

But it was then expected to accelerate to 4.3%, 5.1%, 4.0% in the subsequent three quarters, a solid upgrade from 3.8%, 3.9% and 3.4% predicted for those periods last month.

On an annual basis, the economy – after likely contracting 3.5% last year – was expected to grow 4.0% this year and 3.3% in 2022, an upgrade from last month.

For a graphic on Reuters Poll – U.S. economy and Fed monetary policy – January 2021:

https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/polling/azgpoljbkvd/U.S.%20economy.PNG

Nearly 90%, or 49 of 56 economists, who expressed a view said that the U.S. economy would reach its pre-COVID-19 levels within a year, including 16 who expected it to do so within six months.

“Even without the stimulus package, we had already thought the economy would get back to pre-COVID levels by the middle of this year,” said Jacob Oubina, senior U.S. economist at RBC Capital Markets.

“With the new stimulus package there will be more direct money in people’s pockets, easily boosting the economy, provided a vaccine rollout progresses in a constructive manner.”

But unemployment was not predicted to fall below its pre-pandemic levels of around 3.5% until 2024 at least.

When asked what was more likely for inflation this year, only one said it would ease. The other 40 economists were almost evenly split between “a significant pickup” and price pressures remaining “about the same as last year.”

Still, the core Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) price index – the Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge – was forecast to average below the target of 2% on an annual basis until 2024 at least, prompting the central bank to keep interest rates unchanged near zero over the forecast horizon.

“I don’t think it will be an increase in underlying (inflation) trend, it is sort of a rebound in prices that have been depressed during the pandemic,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James.

(For other stories from the Reuters global long-term economic outlook polls package:)

(Reporting by Indradip Ghosh and Richa Rebello; Additional reporting by Manjul Paul; Polling by Mumal Rathore; Editing by Rahul Karunakar and Hugh Lawson)

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How Biden's Pandemic Plan Could Affect The Economy – NPR

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President Biden has outlined an aggressive plan to gain control over the coronavirus pandemic, which continues to weigh heavily on the U.S. economy.

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