If anything positive has emerged from Canada's rising inequality, it is that a bona fide discussion about "the Canada we want" is becoming a mainstream staple of political dialogue. Not only politicians and pundits but also ordinary Canadians have begun to make the connections between health and wealth, public services and social justice, economics and the social sphere, democracy, taxation and fairness. These issues, occupying public attention since the recession began in 2008 gained strength when the Occupy Movement shone a global spotlight on inequality last year.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his party have recently attempted to demonize Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair for his alleged advocacy of a “job-killing carbon tax.”
As has been widely noted, Mr. Mulcair and the NDP have, in fact, only called for a cap and trade system based on the broader principle of “polluter pay,” which would require major carbon polluters to purchase emission permits from the government or on a carbon market. This is identical in basic design to Conservative policy during the first Harper government.
If you woke up this morning and put your feet on the floor in Moosenee, Iona, Bella Coola or Longlac, then the chances are that your health is poorer than if you were greeting the day in any major Canadian city. Overall, rural folk have lower life expectancy, more injury, chronic disease and mental health concerns, higher rates of smoking, alcoholism and drug misuse and poorer perceptions of their own mental and physical health than Canadian urban dwellers. There are inequalities in health outcomes between rural and urban residents, as well as among other subpopulation groups in Canada. I argue for a more nuanced look at the unfairness of inequalities and what we can do collectively to find ways to address them.