The Broadbent Blog

THE HUB FOR CANADA’S LEADING PROGRESSIVE VOICES.

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed herein are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Institute.

Union Communities, Healthy Communities: Canada won’t work without them

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There’s no doubt that low-income people, especially children and their parents, are better off because of social unionism’s strong tradition in Canada. At all levels, unions take the lead in pressing for public policies such as decent minimum wages, fair labour practices and progressive public services that support families when they are in the labour force and when they are not.

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The union advantage: confronting the austerity and anti-union agendas

 

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We are at a socio-economic and ecological crossroads with governments at every level pushing an austerity agenda. Yet, in this moment of financial, economic, social, and environmental crisis, with the socio-economic and ecological shocks being felt in communities, the last and most enduring institution that represents the interest of workers – the labour union – is under threat from powerful vested interests.

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Unions and environmentalists: working together for strong communities and a healthy environment

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There was a time when you wouldn’t walk into the local union hall wearing your organic cotton “Save the Whales” t-shirt, and also when you probably wouldn’t take part in the local Earth Day parade wearing a hard hat and well-worn safety boots. But fashions change and so do perceptions. Union members and environmentalists have discovered they have much more in common than anyone once thought.

Like with any relationship, the road from mutual mistrust to grudging acceptance to warm embrace has had its share of potholes. But what we have come to recognize is that our planet needs us – and not us and them.

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Back to the Future, Fraser Institute

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The Fraser Institute has jumped into the plutonium-powered DeLorean and has gone Back to the Future with their latest report on Canadian taxes.

The Fraser Institute claims that the average Canadian family’s tax bill has soared by 1,787% since 1961.

While that’s a clear exaggeration that ignores inflation, what is astounding is that their numbers don’t even remotely hold up.

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In a world of grave human rights violations, unions play a critical role

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Sadly, in many ways nothing more powerfully and obviously underscores the critically important role that trade unions and trade unionists play in human rights struggles - around the world - than the grave abuses they so frequently experience simply because they stand up for the rights of workers or lead and take part in important social movements addressing wider human rights concerns.

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Unions: More than we bargain for!

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“Union Communities, Healthy Communities” sets out the direct relationship between healthy rates of unionization and lower rates of income inequality. This is a critical factor to discuss in light of the current developing attack on unions in Canada. At a time when many provinces have been starting to address issues of poverty reduction, children's benefits and welfare reform; what little progress we are making will be quickly undone if "right to work" measures gain ground. Unions are not only a key force in mitigating income inequality but also in fighting against the growing trend to precarious employment -- contract, part time, no benefits etc. – that is multiplying the numbers of Canadians who rank among the working poor.

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Thatcherism: A grand, failed economic experiment

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Admirers and detractors of Margaret Thatcher can agree that she will be remembered as one of the key political architects of our times. Along with her soulmate, U.S. President Ronald Reagan, she broke decisively with the post-war Keynesian welfare state and ushered in the still-enduring age of neo-liberalism.

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Why is Joe Oliver okay with 2° C of warming?

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This morning La Presse published a stunning statement by Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver. He stated “I think that people aren’t as worried as they were before about 2° C of warming” (my translation). 

Really? To recap, 2° C is the absolute upper limit that climate scientists suggest the world can reach before we introduce the danger of runaway climate change because of feedback effects such as the releases of natural carbon sinks. If we go beyond 2° C we might not be able to turn climate change around.

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And what if there was a Sweden on the Saint-Lawrence?

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Comparing inequality between societies is useful, if only to remind us that inequality is not like gravity: there is no “law of inequality”. Political choices matter. True, worsening inequality trends across the OECD countries indicate important structural forces are at work in labour markets and in making it harder for governments to redistribute wealth. But significant variation persists between countries, meaning that we are not fated to become ever more deeply unequal.

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Income inequality: A matter of life and death

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Most Canadians would agree that all citizens should be able to develop their individual talents and capacities and to meet at least their basic needs. We may differ on just how much economic inequality we are prepared to tolerate, but we generally agree on the importance of equalizing opportunities for all of us to live meaningful and healthy lives.

There is probably no single better indicator of how we are doing as a society than life expectancy. This varies a lot among countries at different levels of development – and differs to a surprising degree among the rich advanced industrial countries.

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