Research

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Report Card on Alberta’s High Schools 2016

The Report Card on Alberta’s High Schools 2016 collects a variety of relevant, objective indicators of school performance into one, easily accessible public document so that anyone can analyze and compare the performance of individual schools. By doing so, the Report Card assists parents when they choose a school for their children and encourages and assists all those seeking to improve their schools.

Where parents can choose among several schools for their children, the Report Card provides a valuable tool for making a decision. Because it makes comparisons easy, the Report Card alerts parents to those nearby schools that appear to have more effective academic programs. Parents can also determine whether schools of interest are improving over time. By first studying the Report Card, parents are better prepared to ask relevant questions when they interview the principal and teachers at the schools under consideration.

Of course, the choice of a school should not be made solely on the basis of any one source of information. Families choosing a school for their students should seek more information by visiting the school and interviewing teachers and school administrators. The web sites of Alberta Education, local school districts, and individual schools can also be sources of useful information. And, a sound academic program should be complemented by effective programs in areas of school activity not measured by the Report Card. Nevertheless, the Report Card provides a detailed picture of each school that is not easily available elsewhere.

Certainly, the act of publicly rating and ranking schools attracts attention. Schools that perform well or show consistent improvement are applauded. The results of poorly performing schools and those whose performance is deteriorating generate concern. This attention, in itself, provides an incentive for all those connected with a school to redouble their efforts to improve student results. However, the Report Card offers more than just incentive: it includes a variety of indicators, each of which reports results for an aspect of school performance that might be improved. School administrators who are dedicated to improvement accept the Report Card as another source of evidence that their schools can do a better job.

In order to improve a school, one must believe that improvement is achievable. The Report Card on Alberta’s High Schools, like all the other editions, provides evidence about what can be accomplished. It demonstrates clearly that even when we take into account factors such as the students’ family background, which some believe dictates the degree of academic success that students will have in school, some schools do better than others. This finding confirms research results from other countries.1 Indeed, it will come as no great surprise to experienced parents and educators that the data consistently suggest that what goes on in the schools makes a difference to student success and that some schools make more of a difference than others.

By comparing a school’s latest results with those of earlier years, we can see if the school is improving. By comparing a school’s results with those of neighbouring schools, or of schools with similar school and student characteristics, we can identify more successful schools and learn from them. Reference to overall provincial results places an individual school’s level of achievement in a broader context. There is great benefit in identifying schools that are particularly effective. By studying the proven techniques used in schools where students are successful, less effective schools may find ways to improve. Comparisons are at the heart of improvement and making comparisons among schools is made simpler and more meaningful by the Report Card’s indicators, ratings, and rankings.

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How Income and Wealth are "Earned" Matters in Understanding Inequality

This paper examines a key missing piece of the inequality debate: differences in how income is earned and wealth accumulated that ultimately result in inequality. Put simply, how income is earned or wealth amassed matters with respect to the degree to which citizens should be concerned about inequality.

Individuals can earn income and accumulate wealth in a number of different ways. The first is by serving other people through the creation and provision of demanded goods or services at prices consumers are willing to pay. Individuals, entrepreneurs, and businesses that earn income and accumulate wealth by innovating and providing such goods and services benefit not only themselves and their businesses but also society more generally.

This paper explores several real-world examples that highlight the benefits of such activities. One example is Chip Wilson, founder of Lululemon, who has an estimated net worth of $2.2 billion. As an entrepreneur, Wilson took enormous risks to innovate and develop a line of products that consumers wanted and were willing to pay for. In doing so, he benefitted millions of customers by providing them with something they valued that didn’t exist before. He built a company from nothing to one that, in 2015, employed over 8,500 people with sales of roughly $1.8 billion.

There are, however, other methods by which to “earn” income and accumulate wealth that do not provide such social benefits. Individuals can earn great amounts of income and amass wealth by securing special privileges and protection from governments. Such activities are referred to as “crony­ism” in this paper; while generally legal, they almost always impose large costs on society for the benefit of a small group of individuals.

For example, Mexico’s Carlos Slim used special privileges granted by gov­ernments to reduce competition and thereby provide their businesses with monopoly powers. Specifically, the Mexican government placed barriers to competition in the telecommunications market, allowing Slim’s companies to charge consumers higher prices than would otherwise have been the case in a competitive market. It is these protections, rather than competitive success, that explain the extraordinary wealth of Carlos Slim.

Another way to “earn” income and amass wealth is through corruption. Unlike cronyism, corruption is generally regarded as an illegal activity. Like cronyism, it imposes enormous costs on the majority of citizens for the benefit of a few. In many cases, corruption involves outright theft from the population. An example discussed in the essay is Indonesia’s Suharto family, which reigned for decades, embezzling between US$15 billion and $35 billion in a relatively poor country.

The implications of how income is earned and wealth accumulated can be aggregated up to the country level to better help understand why the “how” is so important in debates regarding inequality. Hong Kong and Haiti have similar levels of inequality. The economic systems in the two countries are quite different though. Hong Kong generally has open, competitive markets with a high level of economic freedom and low levels of corruption. Haiti, on the other hand, has a low level of economic freedom and high levels of corruption. The similar levels of inequality observed in the two countries result from very different types of economic activity. Hong Kong is predominantly characterized by the type of economic activity that benefits society broadly (think Chip Wilson), while Haiti is characterized by cronyism and corruption, which benefit a very few at the expense of the majority.

Understanding the source of income and wealth is a critical yet too often ignored component of the inequality debate. Similar levels of observed inequality can have markedly different sources and thus effects on society.

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The Costs of Pipeline Obstructionism

This paper reviews how Western Canadian oil producers are being con­strained by the inability to access new markets via ocean ports and how this constraint, along with the drop in oil prices, the Alberta ceiling on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in oil sands operations, and regulatory obstacles are affecting pipeline infrastructure requirements and decisions.

Western Canadian conventional and non-conventional (i.e., oil sands) heavy crude oils continue to suffer from price discounts relative to world region crude oil prices such as North Sea Brent (adjusted for quality differentials and transportation cost), and are at risk of being displaced by increasing US oil production. Access to port facilities on the west and/or east coast would allow Canadian producers to access world crude oil prices.

If Canada were able to export 1 million barrels of oil per day to markets accessible from ocean ports—with the lion’s share of heavy oil and bitumen exports continuing to flow to US oil markets—substantial incremental rev­enues could result. At a US$40/bbl price this could be as high as $2 billion per year (in Canadian dollars) compared with selling into the flooded US market. At an average price of US$60/bbl, it could reach CA$4.2 billion; and at US $80/bbl, CA$6.4 billion. If higher netbacks from markets accessed from tidewater connections were realized by all Western Canada heavy oil production, at the US$40, US$60, and US$80/bbl price levels the annual benefits could reach CA$8.9 billion, CA$18.5 billion, and $CA28.2 billion, respectively.

Both the oil price and the volume of production drive the Alberta and Saskatchewan crude oil royalty formulas. The importance of the price factor is underscored by the impacts of much lower prices on royalty revenues. In the Alberta October 2015 budget, royalty revenues were projected to plunge to $1.5 billion in 2015–16 from $5.0 billion. Royalties from conventional oil production were estimated at $0.5 billion compared with $2.2 billion in 2014–15 (Alberta, 2015a). Saskatchewan’s February 2016 Budget Update projected oil royalty revenue of $347.9 million in fiscal 2015–16—38.5 per­cent less than previously (Saskatchewan Ministry of Finance, 2016a).

Understanding the sensitivity of royalty revenues to price changes allows governments to predict how revenues will be affected by improved prices as, for example, access to new markets is achieved. Oil royalty revenues in Alberta and Saskatchewan would increase by about CA$1.2 billion a year if the WTI oil price were to increase by US$7/bbl. A US$5/bbl increase in the price of WTI crude oil would increase Saskatchewan’s annual royalty revenue on heavy oil production by approximately $29.5 million, and total oil production royalties by about $94.5 million (assuming an exchange rate of 71.5 cents per Canadian dollar).

The capacity to transport crude oil to coastal refineries is insufficient to solve the pricing dilemma that western Canadian oil producers face due to heavy dependence on the US mid-continent region. Oil pipeline projects with a combined capacity of about 4 MMbpd (million barrels per day) have been proposed or conditionally approved. But investors may be less inclined to move ahead with oil sands and related infrastructure projects than before the downturn in prices.

With no reduction in GHG emission rates, the 100 Mt limit on GHG emis­sions from oil sands operations will be reached in 2025, at which point total oil sands production is projected to increase by 1.5 MMbpd. If, as the NEB has suggested, Western Canadian conventional oil production will then have peaked, the required increase in pipeline takeaway capacity will be about 1.9 MMbpd (assuming a system capacity utilization rate of 80 percent). Clearly, without significant reductions in oil sands GHG emissions rates, much of the proposed increase in pipeline capacity from Western Canada will not be needed.

The Energy East Pipeline, the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion, and the Northern Gateway Pipeline project would enable about 2MMbpd of Western Canadian crude to access coastal US and overseas markets. But all three proj­ects face serious challenges, mostly environmental, from First Nations, and from various communities. Further, the federal government has imposed new consultation obligations and upstream GHG emission assessment requirements on the Energy East and Trans Mountain projects that will prolong the review process.

Every effort should be made to expedite pipeline project review and assess­ment processes before windows of opportunity for access to new markets are largely pre-empted by competitors. If the legislated regulatory review process with regard to a particular project is unduly delayed, the federal government may need to help resolve impasses or, in the case of projects that are truly in the national interest, introduce special legislation to allow a project to proceed.

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Rates of return for expanded CPP remain meagre

Last month, Canada’s finance ministers announced an “agreement in principle” to expand the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), which will require workers to pay more into the program starting in 2019 in exchange for higher CPP retirement benefits in the future.

As we have noted elsewhere, the case for expanding the CPP is based on either incorrect or highly debatable claims. One of these claims is that the CPP offers a competitive, even a high rate of return for Canadians. A recent Fraser Institute study calculated the rate of return that individual Canadians receive from their CPP contributions in the form of CPP retirement benefits under the existing system and found a meagre return for virtually all working Canadians. This blog updates the rate of return calculations based on the limited details available on the proposed CPP expansion.

Source of the mistaken claim

First, we should clarify the source of the mistaken claim that the CPP provides strong returns. It is driven by people conflating the rate of return on investments made by the CPP Investment Board (CPPIB), which manages the investable funds of the CPP, and the return earned by individual contributors. In reality, the returns of the CPPIB do not in any direct way influence the CPP retirement benefits received by individual Canadian workers. CPP retirement benefits are based on the number of years a person works, their earnings in each year (relative to the maximum under the CPP), and the age at which they retire.

The existing Canada Pension Plan 

Before presenting the revised calculations, it is important to understand some of the key features of the current CPP. Contributions are made on earnings in excess of the annual exemption ($3,500) up to a maximum amount referred to as the Year’s Maximum Pensionable Earnings (YMPE). The YMPE in 2016 is $54,900, which changes every year with inflation. The combined rate of contribution (tax) is 9.9 per cent of the employee’s eligible earnings. Currently, the maximum annual total contribution to the CPP for an individual worker is approximately $5,089.

Retirement benefits are designed to replace 25 per cent of a worker’s average annual pensionable earnings (their earnings between the annual exemption and the YMPE). Earnings above the YMPE are not included in the retirement benefit calculation. In 2016, the maximum retirement benefit (based on retirement at age 65) is $1,092 per month.

Rates of return under the existing CPP program

In order to calculate the rate of return from the CPP for individual Canadians, a number of key assumptions have to be made that are fully detailed in the original study. Under the existing CPP program (that is, before expansion), the rate of return that Canadian workers receive in the form of CPP retirement benefits compared to their contributions varies considerably depending on when the worker was born and retired. For instance, a worker born in 1905 who retired at age 65 in 1970—one of the first years Canadians received CPP benefits—would have enjoyed a 39.1 per cent rate of return after inflation. For Canadians born after 1956, however, the CPP rate of return is a meagre 3.0 per cent or less. The rate of return (adjusted for inflation) declines further to 2.1 per cent for those born after 1971 (see chart below).

Rates of return by birth year under current CPP program - Chart 1

The rates of return declined for two main reasons. First, the contributory period in the CPP’s early years (10 years) was much less than is the case now (47 years). Second, the total contribution rate has increased from 3.6 per cent when the program was started in 1966 to its current level of 9.9 per cent.

Proposed changes to the CPP—what we know

While the details on the proposed changes to the CPP are limited and some technical issues have not yet been clarified, the agreement in principle outlined the following changes:

  • The total contribution rate will increase from 9.9 per cent to 11.9 per cent for earnings up to the YMPE. This increase will be phased in from 2019 to 2023.
  • A new combined contribution rate of 8.0 per cent will be applied to additional earnings 14.0 per cent above the YMPE. This portion of the increased CPP contribution will be phased in from 2024 to 2025.
  • In 2025, the YMPE is estimated to be $72,500 and the maximum income threshold for the 8.0 per cent contribution rate will be $82,700. In that year, the maximum additional CPP contributions as a result of expansion will amount to $2,200.
  • CPP retirement benefits will also be increased. The replacement rate for pensionable earnings will increase from 25 per cent to 33 per cent. According to the Department of Finance, it will take “about 40 years” for the full increase in retirement benefits to be phased in (the calculations below assume 39 years).
  • The Department of Finance has stated that like the current program, future benefits will be based on the years of contribution and actual contributions.

Rates of return under the expanded CPP program

To calculate the rate of return, we assume that the increase from a replacement rate of 25 per cent to 33 per cent will be phased-in in equal increments from 2019 to 2023. The chart below displays the inflation-adjusted rate of return before and after CPP expansion for individual contributors born from 1950 to 2007. The period ends in 2007 since Canadians born that year will begin contributing to CPP in 2025 (at age 18), making them the first cohort eligible to receive the full increase in CPP retirement benefits. The results displayed are for workers who earn the YMPE and retire at age 65.

Rates of return by birth year before and after CPP expansion - Chart 2

Under the expanded CPP, Canadians born after 1956 still receive a meagre rate of return of 3.0 per cent or less. The expanded CPP has resulted in modest increases in the expected rates of return for Canadian workers. For example, the rate of return for eligible workers born in 1971 to 1980 is 2.3 per cent. Those born in 1993 or later can expect to receive a 2.5 per cent rate of return (after inflation) from their CPP retirement benefits. In other words, there is only a small increase in the long-term rate of return for individual Canadians under the expanded CPP—2.5 per cent after expansion versus 2.1 per cent before expansion.

Notably, the CPPIB itself must generate a 4.0 per cent return (after inflation) simply to keep the program actuarially sound. In other words, Canadian workers born in 1993 or after are required to contribute to a fund that must generate a 4.0 per cent rate of return in order to sustainably provide recipients with a 2.5 per cent return.

Rates of return before and after CPP expansion - Table

A similar calculation is made for the rate of return for Canadians who will contribute to the CPP up to the maximum income level, 14 per cent above the YMPE. For these individuals, the long-term rate of return is slightly higher: 2.6 per cent for individuals born in 2001 or later.
 
Conclusion

After taking account of the proposed changes to the CPP, the rate of return for individual Canadians remains meagre. Expansion of the CPP therefore cannot be justified on the basis of offering a strong rate of return to Canadians.

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Biologics Revolution in the Production of Drugs

To date, almost 200 biologic medicines have been brought to market. It is projected that by 2017, biologics could comprise seven of the top ten global pharmaceuticals and account for up to 30 percent of pharmaceuticals under development. This study is an introduction to biologic medicines and to some of the issues and controversies that are unique to their production, regulation, and marketing.

Biologics are defined as “a large molecule typically derived from living cells and used in the treatment, diagnosis, or prevention of disease. Biologic medicines include therapeutic proteins, DNA vaccines, monoclonal antibodies, and fusion proteins.” Specifically, most biologic medicines are developed using recombinant DNA (rDNA) technology. They are produced by genetically engineering living cells to create the required proteins rather than through traditional chemical synthesis.

Biologics are highly sensitive to the conditions in which they are manufactured and handled, as well as their physical environment. As such, biologics are more difficult to chemically characterize and to manufacture than small molecule drugs, such that even minor differences in production processes or cell lines can generate variations in the resulting protein. Consequently, quality control is even more critical and production complications are potentially more catastrophic than in the production of traditional small molecule drugs.

Biopharmaceutical firms specialize in the manufacture of a social good characterized by high fixed costs, substantial informational and regulatory costs, and a comparatively low marginal cost of production. Biopharmaceutical innovations are easily copied and sold by their competitors—the knowledge is non-rival (that is, available to all and undiminished by use), and non-excludable (the innovator cannot prevent the knowledge from being used). Given the inherent challenges in delineating and enforcing property rights to new technologies, it is difficult for innovative firms to appropriate the returns accruing from their investments.

Due to the tremendous costs of bringing a new medicine to market, the protection granted to innovators through intellectual property (IP) rights is disproportionally important for the biopharmaceutical industry. Moreover, the intellectual property elements of biologic medicines include both the chemical structure of the molecule and the process for reliably, safely, and consistently manufacturing the molecule at scale in living tissues. While critical to protecting the intellectual property of biologics, neither product nor process patents are able to protect the intellectual property of the innovator firm’s safety and efficacy data, developed through proprietary preclinical and clinical trial results. This information must be protected with data exclusivity provisions.

As the market for biologic medicines matures, generic versions—properly known in Canada as subsequent entry biologics or SEBs—will enter the market. The creation of subsequent entry biologics is considerably different from the creation of generic versions of traditional small molecule drugs. Unlike generic small molecule drugs, subsequent entry biologics are not identical to the pioneer biologic. As such, questions arise surrounding interchangeability—a standard that differs across countries and regions.

In Canada, interchangeability is a provincial decision. It is critical to be very cautious with automatic substitution and conservative in the extrapolation of indications, since there is great uncertainty about how the process of substituting a subsequent entry biologic for its pioneer reference product can affect patients’ immune systems.

Canada’s protection of intellectual property in the life sciences significantly lags behind that provided by many other industrialized nations, including the United States, the EU, and Japan. Canada currently has one of the shortest terms of data exclusivity for pre-clinical and clinical trials. Canada’s unique misinterpretation of what is known as the utility standard is also a significant barrier to biopharmaceutical innovation. Through the promise doctrine, Canada is the only developed country in the world with a patent utility standard that is inconsistent with both NAFTA and TRIPS.  The promise doctrine causes significant uncertainty for innovators because it requires the innovator both “soundly predict” how the invention will be used and also provide sufficient information in the patent application to establish that the invention will successfully fulfill its promise. Increased levels of IP protection are needed in order to provide the incentives for investment in new breakthrough therapies and cures.

Several issues remain for future research. These include determining the most effect means of protecting the intellectual property embodied in biologics, establishing the best mechanism for how biologics and subsequent entry biologics should be named, estimating the cost savings that will result from the use of SEBs, and developing a safe and effective policy on the interchangeability and substitutability of subsequent entry biologics with their pioneer reference products.

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Impact of Land-Use Regulation on Housing Supply in Canada

As Canadians continue to converge on urban centres and concerns about the affordability of housing grow, it is crucial to understand why the country’s major housing markets have seen such dramatic growth in prices. This study presents evidence that the regulation of residential development restricts the housing supply, encouraging the growth of prices and distorting local economies.

Growing demand for homes in a region is generally followed by growing home prices and a growing housing stock, but the balance between these two outcomes depends on the structure of the housing supply. Markets with a responsive housing supply tend to address demand with the construction of new homes, while less responsive supply leads to a rise in prices. This study’s em-pirical analysis suggests that costly and challenging land-use regulations have made the housing supply less responsive to demand in Canada’s urban centers.

The study compares growth of housing stock between 2006 and 2011 with five measures of land-use regulation—approval timelines, timeline uncertainty, council and community impacts, costs and fees, and the prevalence of rezoning—as well as a summary index of these measures. More regulated districts tend to grow less, even after accounting for a range of other factors like geographical constraints and transportation. In particular, increasing the average approval timeline for residential development by six months is associated with a decrease in growth of 3.7 percentage points—equivalent to halving growth of the average neighbourhood in our data.

Direct estimates of regulation’s effect on the housing supply suggest that long and uncertain project-approval timelines are particularly detrimental to supply’s responsiveness to demand. In fact, the data suggest that moving from the average city’s approval timelines or perceived timeline uncertainty to a higher level (one standard deviation above average) is sufficient to mute completely the responsiveness of the housing supply to demand in desirable neighbourhoods. Opposition from council and community groups also substantially reduces the housing supply’s ability to respond to growing demand. On the other hand, high costs and fees and how frequently municipalities require rezoning appear to have less direct effect on the housing market’s tendency to respond to demand with new supply.

The study concludes by assessing how growth might have been distributed across each of metropolitan Toronto, Vancouver, and Calgary if regulation did not affect where housing gets built. Best estimates suggest that differences in municipal land-use regulations within these regions encouraged growth to occur farther from metropolitan cores, increasing urban sprawl. This effect is particularly stark in Greater Calgary, where less stringent regulation in Rocky View County (which surrounds Calgary) would have driven new home building closer to the region’s core—instead growth has leapfrogged over Rocky View to more distant municipalities. Under harmonized regulations, Greater Toronto would have had additional growth along the central Yonge Street corridor, which has transit access to Canada’s largest downtown. Finally, the study estimates that, if the city of Vancouver were regulated similarly to its suburbs, it might have seen additional growth in its highly desirable downtown and west-side neighbourhoods.

The negative relationship between regulation and the growth of housing stock found in this study has important implications for policy makers. First, greater regulation is associated with lower growth in an average neighbourhood even after accounting for differences in labour-market conditions, access to transportation, key demographics, and the availability of land. Finding this relationship across similar neighbourhoods in nearby municipalities shows that it is robust, and difficult to explain by other factors. Second, the relationship is a standard feature of modern housing markets: prior work has found a negative correlation between growth and regulation across the United States and this study demonstrates the same trend in a broad cross-section of Canadian cities. These results suggest that having the right regulatory framework is crucial for encouraging the supply of available and affordable housing in Canada’s growing metropolitan areas.

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A Diverse Landscape: Independent Schools in Canada

This study is the first of its kind to offer a national survey of independent schools in Canada. It seeks to address the persistent myth that independent schools are of one dominant type serving a single sort of family. Contrary to the common caricature that they are enclaves for the urban elite, independent schools parents come in a wide variety of types and serve many educational preferences. They address diverse religious preferences, pedagogical variations, and special needs.

Using school-level data from each provincial ministry of education, this study builds a national picture of the variety of independent schools in Canada.

Although a recent study found that the share of students enrolled in independent schools in Canada is increasing while the share enrolled in gov­ernment schools is in decline (Van Pelt et al., 2015), it did not examine enrol­ments in different types of independent schools.

In 2013/14, Canada’s ten provinces were home to 1,935 independ­ent schools. They enrolled 368,717 students from Kindergarten to Grade 12, equivalent to 6.8 percent of total enrolments in independent and govern­ment schools in Canada’s ten provinces. Their enrolment distribution roughly matched the population distribution across the country, as a third attended independent schools in Quebec (33.4 percent), almost a third in Ontario (31.4 percent), a fifth (20.4 percent) in British Columbia, and 7.6 percent in Alberta.

Although Canada is overwhelmingly an urban society (over 80 per­cent of the population lives in urban areas), 37.1 percent of all independent schools were located outside of large urban areas. 22.1 percent were in rural areas and 15 percent in small or medium-sized centres.

Almost half (48.6 percent) of independent schools in Canada had a reli­gious orientation. Almost a third of all independent schools were Christian non-Catholic (30.1 percent), 8.4 percent were Catholic, 4.9 percent Islamic, and 4.5 percent Jewish. Together, religious independent schools enrolled 48.3 percent of all independent school students. Of these 178,119 students, 45.2 percent attended Christian non-Catholic schools, 31.6 percent independent Catholic schools, 10.8 percent Jewish schools, 9.1 Islamic schools, and 3.3 percent attended schools defined by other religions.

A total of 581 schools (30 percent of independent schools) were classified as specialty schools. These declared a special emphasis in the curricu­lum (e.g., arts, athletics, language, or science/technology/engineering/math), distinct approaches to teaching and learning (e.g., Montessori or Waldorf), or an emphasis on serving specific student populations (e.g., students with special needs or distributed learners). In 2013/14, specialty schools enrolled 27 percent of all independent school students in Canada (99,614 students).

Rigid typecasting of independent schools is more myth than reality. In Canada, the lingering stereotypes are not reflective of the landscape.

Perhaps surprisingly, independent schools most evidently matching the stereotypical image of the traditional type of private school are considerably less common than might be anticipated. When membership in the Canadian Accredited Independent Schools was used as a proxy for such schools, they constituted only 90 independent schools (4.7 percent) and enrolled just 12.1 percent of all students attending independent schools in 2013/14.

In terms of grade-level variation, approximately two-fifths of all independent schools were elementary-only (44.3 percent), two-fifths (37.3 percent) secondary-only, and a fifth (18.4 percent) combined elementary and secondary grades.

In terms of variation in school size, while 65 percent of independent schools had fewer than 150 students, almost half of independent school students (47.2 percent) attended schools with over 500 students.

The funding status of independent schools varies across Canada, in accordance with whether the province offers partial government funding for independent schools (as is the case in five of the provinces). In all, at least 60.6 percent of independent schools in Canada receive no government funding. Considered another way, government funding is not received for at least 41.4 percent of all students enrolled in independent schools in Canada.

The evidence examined in this study leads to a clear finding. Rigid typecasting of independent schools is more myth than reality. In Canada, the lingering stereotypes are not reflective of the landscape. Independent schools are diverse in their religious orientations and their academic emphases. A disproportionate number are located outside of urban centres. They span a diversity of sizes and grade levels. Their funding statuses vary, even in the five provinces where the provincial governments offer some support.

In all, the parents of over 368,000 students—one of every fifteen stu­dents in Canada—are sending their children to one of the 1,935 independent, non-government schools in the country, and the picture is clear. They are choosing schools that differ in many ways from one another, the vast majority of which do not conform to the prevailing caricature that private schools in Canada are exclusive enclaves serving only the wealthy urban elite.

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Annual Survey of Mining Companies: 2015

This report presents the results of the Fraser Institute’s 2015 annual survey of mining and exploration companies. The survey is an attempt to assess how mineral endowments and public policy factors such as taxation and regulatory uncertainty affect exploration investment. The survey was circulated electronically to over 3,800 individuals between September 15th and November 27th, 2015. Survey responses have been tallied to rank provinces, states, and countries according to the extent that public policy factors encourage or discourage investment.

A total of 449 responses were received for the survey, providing sufficient data to evaluate 109 jurisdictions. By way of comparison, 122 jurisdictions were evaluated in 2014, 112 in 2013, 96 in 2012/2013, and 93 in 2011/2012.

The Investment Attractiveness Index takes both mineral and policy perception into consideration

An overall Investment Attractiveness Index is constructed by combining the Best Practices Mineral Potential index, which rates regions based on their geologic attractiveness, and the Policy Perception Index, a composite index that measures the effects of government policy on attitudes toward exploration investment. While it is useful to measure the attractiveness of a jurisdiction based on policy factors such as onerous regulations, taxation levels, the quality of infrastructure, and the other policy related questions that respondents answered, the Policy Perception Index alone does not recognize the fact that investment decisions are often sizably based on the pure mineral potential of a jurisdiction. Indeed, respondents consistently indicate that roughly only 40 percent of their investment decision is determined by policy factors.

The top

The top jurisdiction in the world for investment based on the Investment Attractiveness Index is Western Australia, which moved up to first from fourth in 2014. Saskatchewan remained in second place this year. Nevada dropped to third, after Western Australia displaced it as the most attractive jurisdiction in the world. Ireland moved up 10 spots into fourth place. Rounding out the top ten are Finland, Alaska, Northern Territory, Quebec, Utah, and South Australia.

The bottom

When considering both policy and mineral potential in the Investment Attractiveness Index, the Argentinian province of La Rioja ranks as the least attractive jurisdiction in the world for investment. La Rioja replaced Venezuela as the least attractive jurisdiction in the world. The complete list of bottom 10 jurisdictions (beginning with the worst) are La Rioja, Venezuela, Honduras, Greece, Solomon Islands, Chubut, Guinea (Conakry), Kenya, Mendoza, and Rio Negro.

Policy Perception Index: A “report card” to governments on the attractiveness of their mining policies

While geologic and economic considerations are important factors in mineral exploration, a region’s policy climate is also an important investment consideration. The Policy Perception Index (PPI), is a composite index that measures the overall policy attractiveness of the 109 jurisdictions in the survey. The index is composed of survey responses to policy factors that affect investment decisions. Policy factors examined include uncertainty concerning the administration of current regulations, environmental regulations, regulatory duplication, the legal system and taxation regime, uncertainty concerning protected areas and disputed land claims, infrastructure, socioeconomic and community development conditions, trade barriers, political stability, labor regulations, quality of the geological database, security, and labor and skills availability.

The top

For the third year in a row, Ireland had the highest PPI score of 100. Wyoming, in second place, followed Ireland; it moved up from 9th place the previous year. Along with Ireland and Wyoming the top 10 ranked jurisdictions are Sweden, Saskatchewan, Finland, Nevada, Alberta, Western Australia, New Brunswick, and Portugal.

The bottom

The 10 least attractive jurisdictions for investment based on the PPI rankings are (starting with the worst) Venezuela, Myanmar, La Rioja, Zimbabwe, Chubut, Neuquen, Niger, Kyrgyzstan, Rio Negro, and Honduras. Kyrgyzstan, Zimbabwe, and Venezuela were all in the bottom 10 jurisdictions last year. Four out of the 10 lowest rated jurisdictions based on policy were Argentinian provinces. Displaced from the bottom 10 in 2015 were Philippines, Bolivia, Ecuador, Mendoza, and Mongolia.

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In 2016, the average Canadian family will earn $105,236 in income and pay a total of $45,167 in taxes (42.9%).

If the average Canadian family had to pay its total tax bill of $45,167 up front, it would have worked until June 6 to pay the total tax bill imposed on it by all three levels of government (federal, provincial, and local).

This means that in 2016, the average Canadian family will celebrate Tax Freedom Day on June 7.

While Tax Freedom Day in 2016 arrives two days earlier than in 2015, when it fell on June 9, there is little to cheer about as the earlier date is not the result of any major tax reductions by Canadian governments. Rather, it is the result of the leap year in 2016, conservative government projections of tax revenues, and weak economies in some provinces.

Tax Freedom Day for each province varies according to the extent of the provincially levied tax burden. The earliest provincial Tax Freedom Day falls on May 17 in Alberta, while the latest falls on June 14 in Newfoundland & Labrador.

The Balanced Budget Tax Freedom Day for Canada arrives on June 18. Put differently, if governments had to increase taxes to balance their budgets instead of financing expenditures with deficits, Tax Freedom Day would arrive 11 days later.

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Expanding the Canada Pension Plan Will Not Help Canada's Most Financially Vulnerable Seniors

Concerns about the adequacy of retirement income are mostly driven by a misplaced focus on middle (and sometimes upper) income Canadians not saving enough for retirement. The debate should be refocused on Canadian seniors who, because of their very low income, are financially vulnerable in retirement.

According to Statistics Canada’s low-income cut-off, single seniors living alone are more likely than other seniors to experience financial difficulties. In 2013, 10.5% of single seniors living alone lived in low income, which is considerably higher than the rate for all seniors (3.7%). The group of low-income, single seniors is disproportionately made up of women.

A subset of single seniors is at even higher risk of low income, namely, single seniors with no income from the Canada Pension Plan (CPP). In 2013, nearly half (48.9%) of single seniors with no CPP income lived in low income.

Expanding the CPP is an ineffective way to help Canada’s most financially vulnerable seniors since many of them have a limited work history. Those who have not worked, or worked only a little outside the home, have made limited contributions to the CPP. Those contributions are a key determinant of the CPP retirement benefit, so expanding the CPP would do little or nothing to help Canadian seniors with a limited or no work history.

Even for low-income single seniors with a work history and sufficient CPP contributions to receive retirement benefits, expanding the CPP may provide little or no net increase in their total income. That’s because a higher CPP benefit could simply result in a reduction in government-provided benefits targeted at low income seniors, such as the Guaranteed Income Supplement.

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