January 20th, 2009


[PHOTO] Hallam and Dovercourt

Hallam and Dovercourt
Originally uploaded by rfmcdpei
The intersection of Hallam Street and Dovercourt Road forms the heart of Dovercourt Village, a "[s]mall but energetic and community-conscious [neighbourhood that] extends along Dovercourt Road north and south from Hallam Street as well as east and west along Hallam. It boasts a concentration of small shops offering a variety of items, from taste-tempting baked goods to fashionable apparel." One of these shops that I've blogged about is Progress Bakery, visible towards the left of the photograph on the southwestern corner of the intersection. In the center of the photograph, behind the trees is one of the intersection's two corner stores.

This picture is fairly typical of west-end Toronto, though if the real estate advertisements for old homes and new townhouses in this neighbourhood means anything this may change.

[LINK] "Shrinking job market sending people back to school"

The Globe and Mail's Elizabeth Church shares the unsurprising news.

Demand for university spots in Ontario is increasing, driven by applications to Toronto campuses and interest from mature and returning students looking to go back to class in the face of grim financial news.

Applications from high-school students are up by 1.1 per cent this year to 84,300, new figures show. The interest from those returning to school is more dramatic, with early numbers showing a 10-per-cent jump in these applications, a sign that a shrinking job market is prompting people to hit the books.

"This is good news for the Ontario economy," said Paul Genest, president of the Council of Ontario Universities. The rising interest for higher education, he said, means the province will be better equipped to meet the needs of a changing economy. The challenge, Mr. Genest said, is to find ways to meet the demand.

Yesterday's news was better for some universities than for others. The numbers show a wide variation in interest across the province, with double-digit increases at most Toronto campuses and a drop in applications to schools in other regions of the province. It's a trend that has been growing for several years and is likely to make it more difficult to gain a spot at universities in the country's largest city.

Toronto's population is increasing and some suggested yesterday that many local students may be trying to trim their expenses by attending a university closer to home.

At Ryerson University, first-choice applications from high- school students are up 10.5 per cent at a time when the school is not planning to add undergraduate spaces. Interest from those not in high school is even higher. Applications from this group, which does not have to meet the same early deadline as high-school students, is already up by 19 per cent, Ryerson president Sheldon Levy said.

"It is going to be extreme this year," Mr. Levy said when asked about competition for spaces. "Undoubtedly, there are a growing number of people who would benefit from a Ryerson program who we are going to have to turn away."

Numbers are up by 4.3 per cent at the University of Toronto, and applications to the University of Guelph's Toronto campus at Humber College increased by 22 per cent. It was the same story at the Ontario College of Art and Design, which received 21 per cent more first-choice applications.

The only exception to this Toronto trend was York University, which is in the grip of a two-month-old strike, and experienced a drop in applications of 15 per cent.

[LINK] "Crashonomics: the secret formula"

The Globe and Mail's Doug Saunders asks a question: "Once the global economy's spigot of cash was turned off, which countries, if any, wound up with their people floating higher, with perhaps a few drops left in the bucket for the dark years?"

His answer?

I can think of only one country that managed to take full advantage of the boom years, building strong companies and lucrative exports, and used the money to build a much better and fairer society while accumulating rainy-day cash reserves.

This balancing act proved impossible for most rich countries, so it's all the more impressive that it was accomplished by a place known for great poverty.

Brazil didn't do it by accident. President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva used the latter half of the boom years to build on a trick pioneered by his predecessor, economist Fernando Henrique Cardoso: Rather than viewing the high-spending social state and the free-market, free-trade capitalist state as polar opposites and swinging between the two competing models as if on a pendulum, unite them into a single force and let them reinforce one another.

Mr. da Silva's supporters called it "social capitalism," and it remained unpopular with both socialists and capitalists through much of the boom. Today, in a crisis that has defied the orthodoxies of conservatism, socialism and liberalism alike, nobody's laughing at Lula.

During the boom, Brazil managed to pay off all its debts to the International Monetary Fund and to operate its finances on a constant-surplus basis, accumulating more than $200-billion (U.S.) in foreign reserves to get through the bad times.

It pursued an inflation-fighting monetary policy, reformed its government and won an investment-grade bond rating--extraordinary for a country that at the beginning of the boom was deeply impoverished and had just emerged from decades of military dictatorship.

Meanwhile, Brazil also spent heavily on its people, creating the developing world's first universal social program--it offers a maximum of $100 a month to the poorest families, so long as they fulfill conditions such as sending their children to school and having them vaccinated.

It costs only 2.5 per cent of government spending, but its results are striking: Infant mortality was cut almost in half, to fewer than 22 deaths per thousand from 39 a decade ago. Childhood malnutrition fell to 7 per cent from 13 per cent.

Such programs are a generation ahead of China and India, where they ought to be emulated. And China and India, for all their gains, remain reliant on peasant agriculture, while Brazil has been turning farming into a high-employment business.

And while Brazil is now having a slowdown (though not a recession--it'll have 2-to-4-per-cent growth), it won't need to cut social spending or go into deep debt.


[BRIEF NOTE] Mirabile dictu

It's difficult for me to underestimate the extent to which the people around me were caught up by the inauguration. In the mall, people were sitting before the video monitors (amazingly, with the sound on) that were carrying the CBC feed, and I even saw one little old lady standing in front of a flatscreen TV in Circuit City and watching.

As for the inaguration, it seemed OK. I found Elizabeth Alexander's poetry prosaic, little more than prose, and the number of references to God and the presence of so many religious figures reminded me yet again that Canadian political culture is decided different from the American.

I'd like to thank Americans for making the right choice by electing Obama: This one, as 81% of Canadians would say, is a keeper.