‘Alberta is not Greece yet’ … Why do we have to pay for Jack Mintz’s mythmaking?

Posted on June 19, 2015, 11:34 am
11 mins

PHOTOS: Calgary in the near future, as fancifully described by the usual suspects at the University of Calgary, if the NDP doesn’t start delivering Conservative polices with alacrity. Below: U of Calgary Professor Jack Mintz, grabbed from Imperial Oil’s annual report; former Bank of Canada Governor David Dodge.

VICTORIA, B.C.

“Alberta is not yet Greece, but it’s heading along that path,” wrote Jack Mintz in the National Post yesterday. The italics are his.

Dr. Mintz’s argument that such NDP policies as implementing a modest increase in the taxes of the most profitable corporations, a higher minimum wage and a review of what are thought to be the lowest resource royalties on the planet will usher in economic Armageddon is, pretty obviously, hyperbolic and misleading.

MintzWe’ll come to a couple of the many reasons why in just a moment. First, though, we need to think about what Dr. Mintz’s motivations may have been for writing something that, to use language from the bad old days of the First Cold War, it would be fair to call “agit-prop.”

For those of you who haven’t heard the term for a while, agit-prop was an amalgamation of agitation and propaganda, which is a pretty fair description of both Dr. Mintz’s latest effort and the mission of the National Post, wherein it appeared.

It was associated with political regimes that relied more on ideology than common sense. You know, like the neoliberals who now dominate the federal Conservatives and both of Alberta’s conservative parties, as well as the Reds some of them falsely accuse social democrats like the NDP of being.

Accordingly, while the Post was careful to note that Dr. Mintz is employed by the University of Calgary’s “School of Public Policy,” it omitted mentioning he was, and may still be, an acknowledged advisor to the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta. So, already, it is fair to say the professor has a dog in this fight.

Dr. Mintz also seems to have been an advisor to the Wildrose Party. Brian Jean, the leader of that party, who is now the leader of the Opposition, acknowledged Dr. Mintz’s role as one of the party’s economic advisors. He didn’t name the others.

640px-David_A._DodgeOne thing we can say with confidence is that Dr. Mintz was not an advisor to the New Democratic Party led by Rachel Notley. (Unlike, say, David Dodge, economic heavyweight and the former governor of the Bank of Canada, whom the Twittersphere was reporting unofficially last night had been recruited as economic advisor by the Notley government.)

Regardless, alert readers will have noted that the NDP won the Alberta election based in significant part on certain policy promises, and that Ms. Notley is now the premier of Alberta. So it is quite plain regarding many of the policies now being adopted by Ms. Notley and her government that Dr. Mintz is a partisan player, a supporter of the party that just lost the election and whose leadership, by the sound of it, has not yet come to terms with that reality.

In addition, as the NDP pointed out in response to other inflammatory and alarming statements made by Dr. Mintz during the election campaign, the professor also sits on the board of Imperial Oil, for which he received total compensation of $263,971 last year, in addition to his publicly financed gig at the U of C. He holds 27,985 total common shares, deferred shares and restricted stock units in Imperial Oil $1.4 million.

For these reasons, anyone who reads Dr. Mintz’s commentary should take his apocalyptic conclusions with a grain of salt.

Now, it’s fairly easy to scoff at Dr. Mintz’s preposterous comparison of Alberta and Greece – which, in fairness, he backed away from a little in the bowels of his article, deep down where only the most determined readers venture. Most, of course, will have absorbed only his scaremongering and sensationalism.

As Michal Rozworski noted in his Political Eh-conomy blog, “it is completely disingenuous to compare Greece to Alberta.”

“Greece has seen its economy lose a quarter of its GDP since 2008 – a level of economic crisis unseen since the Great Depression,” Mr. Rozworski wrote. “Unemployment has spiked to over 25 per cent, youth unemployment is over 50 per cent and poverty is widespread. … Greece has been forced into a vicious spiral of austerity driven by an unsustainable debt.”

Alberta, meanwhile, still expects to see its economy grow – albeit at a slower rate than when oil prices were higher. Unemployment is low. There is very little debt. None of this is going to change much, Dr. Mintz’s claims notwithstanding.

Greece, meanwhile, is being hammered by the leaders of the Euro-Zone to protect German bank profits and the German economy. Alberta, of course, is a powerhouse province in a country with its own currency – in a way not unlike Germany within Europe – giving Canadians a degree of flexibility in similar circumstances that would not be available if we were part of a continental currency union.

In other words, Alberta ain’t Greece now and it’s never going to be Greece, Grexit or no Grexit, and it’s hard to believe Dr. Mintz doesn’t understand this perfectly well.

Similarly, Dr. Mintz doesn’t explain how he came to the alarming conclusion that “Alberta’s capital stock will decline by $9.2 billion in several years as a result of the corporate tax increase alone.” But as economist Toby Sanger observed to me in an email, “I suspect he uses the same production functions and formulas that he used to estimate that Ontario would gain $47 billion in new investments, 600,000 new jobs and 8.8-per-cent higher incomes as a result of the province introducing an HST.  Ontarians are still waiting for that investment, jobs and extra income from the Liberal government introducing regressive sales taxes.”

Data used buy the federal government and others, as opposed to Dr. Mintz’s not-fully-explained formulas, show that public spending does more to strengthen the economy and create jobs than do lower corporate or income taxes.

And don’t forget, back in 2001, when Ralph Klein sat on the throne as Neoliberal King of Alberta, corporate taxes sat at 15.5 per cent – 3.5 per cent above where the NDP propose to set them – and resource companies were fat and happy.

There are many other examples of this kind of thing in Dr. Mintz’s story, but it’s going to take someone with a more technical expertise than me to dismantle it one brick at a time.

The important point is this: Dr. Mintz is doing what neoliberal apologists always do whenever a progressive government is elected in the still-democratic West: They demand that the governments in question immediately reverse course and implement their favoured policies, and they trot out threatening predictions of disaster if they don’t do as instructed and renege on the very policies they were elected to implement. As in this case, these grim forecasts seldom have much to do with reality.

In this regard alone, I suppose, you can argue there’s one similarity between Alberta and Greece!

Well, as noted, we’re still a democratic society, and Dr. Mintz has a personal right to say whatever he pleases – but not at our expense, thank you very much.

Why do we have to subsidize his dissemination of destructive nonsense from a publicly financed perch at the University of Calgary where he and a self-sustaining cadre of far-right ideologues in the economics and political science departments have turned the so-called School of Public Policy into a neoliberal think tank no different from the Fraser Institute?

Why are taxes raised by the people who just voted for positive change being used by a group of ideologically motivated market fundamentalists – who ironically happen to be public employees – to finance tendentious propaganda designed to terrify us and undermine the government we just elected?

Maybe privatization, for once, may be the answer! There’s not much we can do about Dr. Mintz’s scaremongering, but not another dime of our tax money should be hosed away on the U of C’s partisan efforts to subvert our democracy.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

26 Comments to: ‘Alberta is not Greece yet’ … Why do we have to pay for Jack Mintz’s mythmaking?

  1. Martin d'Entremont

    June 19th, 2015

    Whatever happened to all those Conservatives that used to bray “there no such thing as ideology anymore”?

    Reply
  2. Francus Bluntus

    June 19th, 2015

    Alberta as Greece.

    – imagine the beautiful beef dishes we could create
    – fusion of the music would be interesting
    – would Greece trade some of that amazing white sand for processed oil or beef?
    – Alberta could learn how to stand up to regional and economic bullies who are full of shit (ie. Germany)
    – we could learn good food service and having mama in the front greeting customers
    – we could study more philosophy and include Plato and Socrates and not just Aristotle
    – they have ships!

    The possibilities are endless.

    The Austrian, Chicago, Calgary Schools and all of the Canadian neo-liberal think tanks can continue *THE 2014 JIM PRENTICE & PCAA TOUR OF DOOM* and fawn over JACK MINTZ and freak out over every ridiculous statement – imagine if aliens landed here and took *JACK’s BRAIN*……..}{ >>>>>

    http://youtu.be/6NoanXOsazQ

    “Without the controller, we will all die” (Spock’s RIP, Brain Star Trek ep circa 1966-69)

    Neo liberal cry babies think they have the *JACK* but he seems more like the *JOKER*.

    Jack, I have absolutely no time for his *Schtick*, go to USA and peddle that nonsense, or stay here and be pathetic.

    We have work to do on our new Alberta menu and you sir are out of the kitchen.

    Reply
  3. anonymous

    June 19th, 2015

    It looks like the Calgary school is suffering from classic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Just let it go, Dr. Mintz. It is emotionally and physically unhealthy to keep those emotions bottled up. And, luckily for you, the NDP will be increasing public funding for mental health issues.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubzIMHxU58Y

    Reply
  4. Maria

    June 19th, 2015

    Perhaps Dr. Mintz should practice what he preaches and leave Alberta.

    Reply
  5. June 19th, 2015

    Mintz was seen as an expert at Finance Canada and the drop in the federal corp tax rate from 28% in 2000 to 15% today is due in part to his influence. It certainly wasn’t because of campaign rhetoric.

    The NDP should come clean and disclose what the civil servants at Alberta Finance have to say about corporate taxes. I note that the NDP campaign said the corp tax hike would raise $800M or more and they are already down to half that. The truth is that it’ll probably end up net revenue negative when considering the impact on all revenues.

    Reply
  6. Raj

    June 19th, 2015

    Mintz’ article is hilarious:

    ‘Alberta’s federal-provincial effective corporate tax rate on non-resource new investments from 17 to 18.6 per cent, making it the fourth highest in Canada and 17th highest of 44 OECD countries.”

    For his next article, will Jack Mintz write: “Alberta’s heavy tax burden (top 10 in Canada) will result in something that feels like the Great Depression.”

    Reply
    • pogo

      June 20th, 2015

      Jack Mintz? Gormless ventriloquist dummy of the Preston Manning school of “It adds up to whatever I say it does!”.

      This attack is a twofer for the cons and likely more of a federal kind of mud slinging in the hopes that the “very scarey” NDP in Alberta can be assaulted with some of the damage felt by Mulcair.
      Contracting David Dodge was really a top tactical move and the timing was sublime. The fact that it should help to remind voters that Field Marshall Harper started his reign with a surplus is just too sweet.
      I like our ND Premier more every day and hope she avoids all the cheap penny ante sins of appearance that so vexed our previous masters. I’m hopeful she is capable of being an example of what most people in all the parties respect about good leaders.

      Reply
      • TD in Redmonton

        June 27th, 2015

        “Gormless ventriloquist dummy”, I almost wet myself, funniest thing I’ve read in a long time! Apt too…

        Reply
  7. Tom in Ontario

    June 19th, 2015

    Perhaps the good “Dr.” Mintz can prescribe Viagra for his Tory friends still hanging down, shall we say? following the results of the Alberta election.

    Reply
  8. Alex C Polkovsky

    June 19th, 2015

    I don’t have the economics degree to challenge Professor Jack Mintz. But I can’t help but be suspicious of someone unwilling to (in the words of many math teachers) show his work. I feel comfortable saying Greece is not a viable model for Alberta, though, what else does Dr Mintz have up his sleeve?

    Obviously, we are also not associated with a heart healthy diet.

    Reply
  9. Val Jobson

    June 20th, 2015

    I oppose trying to limit the academic freedom of a university professor; but Mintz essentially has two jobs which are in conflict. He should be required to choose one and resign from the other; either his Imperial oil job, or his university job which we pay for. I wonder if the university’s policies or even provincial legislation has anything to say about that.

    I don’t know how the School of Public Policy is funded; perhaps any provincial funding could be directed elsewhere.

    Reply
  10. Athabascan

    June 20th, 2015

    The irony of these high priests of neoliberalism and corporatism extolling the virtues of the so-called free market, while suckling on the public teat, is amazing.

    If Mintz and his ilk actually believed what they are spewing forth, they would go out and earn their living in the private sector, and not at a publicly funded institution. What a bunch of hypocrites.

    Reply
  11. jay

    June 20th, 2015

    Members of the Economist Party never tire of telling is we can’t compare Alberta to Norway, but knee-jerk comparisons to Greece and Detroit are apparently ok. Maybe they should admit that they’re not speaking as economists when they get involved in political debates.

    Reply
  12. Bruce Jackson

    June 21st, 2015

    Indeed the sky is falling. Any Chicken – Little will tell you so. After awhile it starts to smell like chicken manure. Sure be good on the roses and gardens and lawns of those who do not have any chickens.

    Reply
  13. Alvin Finkel

    June 21st, 2015

    In my view, Mintz is simply a shameless puppet on a string of his Imperial Oil masters. Some of the oil companies are pretending to be cooperating with the new government on issues of royalties and the environment, much as health insurance companies pretended to work with President Obama on health insurance reform. But behind the scenes they are trying to undermine the elected government and its clear platform, funding supposed experts who are happy to spout a fundamentalist “free enterprise” ideology (free enterprise in quotes because, in fact, these companies have always been happy to take corporate welfare and to pay very little in taxes relative to ordinary folk). We can expect a steady stream of Mintzes. Remember that the Fraser Institute began operations in BC in 1974 during the period of that province’s first NDP government (1972-75). Under the guise of independent research, they conducted all their “research” with corporate monies.

    Reply
  14. jack

    June 22nd, 2015

    What about extremist, ideologically motivated market communists? I’ll stick with the market fundamentalists because their ideology has been proven to work.

    Reply
    • Athabascan

      June 22nd, 2015

      I agree with Jack the troll.

      The ideology of market fundamentalism does work, but only for the top one-percenters. It works so well for this privileged elite they are reluctant to let it go, even when there is incontrovertible proof that it is detrimental to the other 99% of the population.

      People can oppose mythical economic ideology without being communists. Market fundamentalism is inherently anti-social, because it promotes greed and selfishness at the expense of others.

      Reply
      • ernie

        June 23rd, 2015

        Greed and selfishness are not inherently bad. Read Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. Those collectively acting in their own self interest creates the ideal outcome. For 100%. Proven to work.

        The 1% are required, and there is nothing wrong with them. Or the 99% that they support.

        Reply
        • Frankie Warbucks

          June 23rd, 2015

          Still think she was wacko, but here she is giving trickle down “conservative” the whatfor: http://youtu.be/4196WvmEcYM
          Neoliberalism mixed with social conservatism always a rusltly bed and arguments about who’s on top.
          Hint: €$$$$£¥ always on top, you can bank on that.
          As for 99 worshipping 1 …. Maybe if you just count top 40 rap/pop & lottery players and winners and marketing general. I sense some change, maybe I am seeing things that are not there. You tell me.

          Reply
  15. David Grant

    January 15th, 2018

    I agree with David and the others about the flawed comparison between Greece and Alberta. As has been pointed out in this blog, are many articles that have been written about the School For Public Policy which has put out this information and how fraudulent their thinking is. I think that problem is that many people actually think that this school is really doing quality research when many of its people used to work for the Fraser Institute and other neo-conservativel think tanks. I am glad that David is here to use his journalistic skills to debunk a lot of this disinformation.

    Reply

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