For large parts of the 20th century, social democracy was the natural habitat for many in the labour movement, and vice versa. Social democrats built the political space where union aspirations for better living conditions and social solidarity found a sympathetic hearing. For their part, social democrats have always relied on strong unions as a major force for economic equality, full employment and the economic democracy that are the necessary pillars of a progressive welfare state1. Social democratic parties also benefited from close union ties in the electoral arena through union political support, both in terms of resources and expertise, as well as a connection to their natural voting constituency.
On May 23, Statistics Canada released an interesting and widely reported study by Yuri Ostrovsky, with the title “Doing as Well as One's Parents?” It showed that some two thirds of Canadian children born between 1970 and 1984 (broadly speaking, the children of baby-boomers) had, at age 30, family incomes at least as high as their parents at the same age and that this proportion has been stable.
It is now three months into the Presidency of Donald Trump, and policy makers around the world are still unsure how to respond to the new administration's challenge to the liberal global order and the looming threat of “America First” trade policies.
The election of President Trump and the potential imposition of border taxes and other protectionist measures is clearly of great concern to Canadian exporters, the workers they employ and the communities they support. This underlines just how much NAFTA and the wider liberalization of trade with rising economic powers such as China have shaped our economy and made us highly vulnerable to forces outside our control.
In the October 2013 Speech for the Throne, the Canadian government announced it would introduce balanced-budget legislation. At the time this vague proposal attracted little interest from anyone, although a year later the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) did produce a substantial document analyzing the benefits and costs of such a proposal.
The recent election was full of varying promises to increase growth rates and employment levels. Few of these promises, however, addressed a critical weakness in our ability to compete in global markets: significant literacy and numeracy skill shortages.
This is a critical area where the federal government has a vital role to play.
When we talk about jobs during the current election campaign, we should be concerned about both the short term and the next few years. We badly need to create jobs now, and also need better labour market policies to avoid emerging skills shortages.
Posted by Ellen Russell and Mathieu Dufour · September 07, 2015 8:30 AM
The current federal election is being fought against a backdrop of deepening inequality and the social problems that accompany it. Promises to “make things better” will no doubt be uttered throughout the campaign.
As we mark another labour day, it is important to remain discerning of the policies on offer.
Few Canadian economic debates are as long-standing and as predictable as that over the pros and cons of raising the minimum wage. Progressives call for a higher wage floor to combat inequality, low pay and poverty. But employers and the political right generally argue that a decent minimum wage comes at the cost of jobs, and harms those it is intended to protect.