When Red Tories hear that union leaders, trade union economists, academics and thoughtful politicians of the left (and Red Tories believe there are many) are planning to engage and advocate on the issue of inequality, we have cause to worry a little. We worry because their focus is often on legislating outcomes that must be glaringly and unabashedly equal. We also worry about polemicists on the far right who argue that most unequal outcomes happen because the winners worked harder, took more risks, had more skill and well, that's how freedom and free markets are supposed to work, even though many of the winners were winners because their parents were or because they were at the right place at the right time. Both biases are deeply unhelpful to finding genuine solutions to inequality.
In 2008, the collapse of financial markets around the world tipped country after country into recession. Canada was no exception. In a short eight month period, hundreds of thousands of Canadians lost their jobs and the Employment Insurance and Social Assistance rolls started to climb. The proportion of part-time and temporary jobs increased as full-time employment disappeared. Canadians had to stretch their dollars further to pay for rising food costs and shelter, many turning to food banks – and credit cards – to make ends meet.
Canadians can sometimes be smug. We pride ourselves on our supposed modesty, but we never miss a chance to stress all the ways in which we are better than our American neighbour. We have a universal public health care system. They don't. Our public school system performs much better than theirs. And, on a number of indicators, from child mortality to the rate of poverty of the elderly, we appear to be a more just society.
When it comes to income inequality in Canada though, there is nothing to be proud of. Over the last fifteen years, Canada has had one of the greatest increases in inequality amongst OECD countries. Inequality is not just an American problem.
The Finance Department’s long-awaited study on the economic and fiscal implications of our aging population was finally released on Oct. 23. It’s a gloomy outlook that underpins the Harper government’s view that we have to cut government spending today to maintain costly social programs tomorrow.
What the report fails to look at is the positive impacts of slower growth in the labour force, namely the prospect of better jobs and higher productivity.
We often hear that there is a large and unfair gap between the life-chances of the baby boomers – those persons now in their mid-50s to early 60s – and their children, the echo-baby boomers now in their 20s.
In reality, class inequality within generations is far greater than differences between generations. There are extremes of rich and poor and a shrinking middle-class within all age groups.
When Ontario’s Bill 115 was first proposed, and then made law, I was perplexed. Are these the kinds of lessons that we should be teaching our children?
Preparing students for active participation in a democratic society is part and parcel of the work educators perform every day. When I was young, teachers taught me what it means to be a good citizen: respect others, stand up for what is right, and play fair. Today my son, in senior kindergarten, learns these same lessons.
But for some reason, Premier Dalton McGuinty seems to be having trouble remembering these lessons.
Twenty-five years ago this week, the signing of the Canada – U.S. free-trade agreement (FTA) sparked one of the most passionate political debates in Canadian history.
Reflecting on the debate, and the outcomes of the FTA, can we now say who was right, and who was wrong?
Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney recently delivered a widely-publicized major speech in Calgary on the economic phenomenon known as the “Dutch Disease.” This was more nuanced than much of the media coverage.
Governor Carney argued that the booming energy and wider resource sector concentrated in Western Canada has provided a significant boost to the national economy, creating jobs in the rest of the country in both manufacturing and services. Overall, he said, high resource prices have been a plus for Canada.
Right-wing commentators like to claim that unions undermine good economic performance. But respected organizations such as the OECD, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have shown this isn’t so. They have recognized that unions promote more equitable societies, and that countries with strong unions have less extremes of rich and poor, stronger public services and social safety nets, without adversely affecting good economic performance.
So why are Conservatives in Ottawa and the provinces disturbingly adopting the anti-union rhetoric of the American right?
12 June 2012, Toronto Star (Op-Ed)
Stephen Harper is often portrayed by his supporters as a pragmatist, a man who simply wants to do what works. But the evidence suggests that the “major transformation” he promised at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January is aimed in a more radical direction.