Thursday, March 12, 2009

John McCallum pseduo-live blog

Liberal finance critic John McCallum gave a talk today at U of O, part of the U of O Economics Week. The talk was "Dealing with a recession in the 21st century: The Return of John Maynard Keynes". I don't have the net on my blackberry, but I did take real-time notes, so enjoy this "live"blog of it.

ps: After trying to type full paragraphs on fingernail sized buttons, I have even more respect for Kady O' Malley

5:30: Looks like I'm the only Raven who made the trip downtown, and I only recognize one other guy who I know to be a U of O Young Liberal, so I am assuming the bulk of the people here are economics students, not partisans.

5:32: McCallum shows up.

5:36: Man, my French sucks, I am getting maybe 10% of the French being spoken by the MC.

5:39: I dunno if anyone else sees this, but McCallum has a passing resemblance to Louis St. Laurent.

5:40: McCallum is talking now, he says the global banks "went crazy", and a significant factor in the chain reaction of collapsing banks and the economy was that the big minds of banking were using prediction models based on the previous few years data, so they were basically trying to see the future by looking backwards, with bad results.

5:43: Interestingly, McCallum openly makes a mea culpa. He says one of the big reasons Canada's banking system has been relatively ok in the global crisis is that Liberal governments in the 90's vetoed banking mergers, and when McCallum was with the Royal Bank of Canada from 94-2000, as Chief Economist, he was an advocate for bank mergers, including ones RBC attempted to do.

5:45: In addition to structural issues with the banking system, McCallum says the issue of consumer confidence is important, and with the economy in a "state of fear", it is difficult to stimulate consumer spending.

5:47: McCallum notes when he was first being trained as an economist, he was taught by direct disciples of Keynes, then he became a neoliberal, now he is leaning more back towards Keynes.

5:49: As informative as this has been so far, I would probably be getting more out of this if I got better than a C in first year economics.

5:51: McCallum doesn't think protectionism will become a big issue, says while rhetoric can get heated, and some protectionism will arise, the international economy is just too intertwined.

5:53: Prediction of double digit unemployment for both US and Canada by the end of 2009.

5:56: Now he starts to get partisan, blasts the Conservative November economic update, discusses the coalition as a means to get a real stimulus package out the door, the Liberal budget amendments, etc

6:03: Gets off the partisanship, starts talking about how Ontario should get it's fair take on EI, and with the economy hitting Ontario hard, rules regarding how long workers have to work to get it should be changed.

6:04: Final points, says a Liberal government would "support jobs of tomorrow", with a mix of interventionist measures and market tools, says Liberals would focus stimulus money towards students, building the green economy, and tax credits and cuts for venture capitalist projects.

6:06: Question time!

6:10: I ask him a question about what specific policies he would like to see toward venture capitalism, he mentions we need to increase the commercialization of research to use the power of the private sector to drive R&D for new technologies forward for venture projects.

6:16: A bunch of complex banking system questions asked by econ students that go over this Public Affairs student's head.

6:27: McCallum really doesn't like protectionism. He also mentions that the importance of internal trade cannot be overlooked.

6:35: McCallum says governments need to have balance between tax cuts and spending, thinks the Tories were irresponsible for spending money like crazy during the early part of their mandate while introducing tax cuts that played well politically, but did nothing to help the economy, and now that the government has to spend, it is in deficit.

6:37: For his closing, McCallum says that while the environment has declined in priority for Canadians as the economy becomes the big focus, it would be a mistake to write off the environment, as green technology offers a potential opportunity to help recover from the recession.

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