Towards a More Equal Canada nicely summarizes three recent discussions about equality: the question of why people should endorse egalitarian policies, or, as I would prefer to put it, why they should combat and try to reverse growing inequality; demonstrations of the nature and extent of inequality; and recommendations for equality-supporting public policies. In responding to Ed Broadbent’s request for reactions to the paper, I shall address a question it calls to mind put by the U.S. democratic theorist, Ian Shapiro: “why don’t the poor soak the rich?” (Daedalus, 2002. no. 1).
Inequality is often described as differential status among individuals or groups. However, places can be unequal too. Canada’s cities are sites of growing urban inequality, and it is entire neighbourhoods that are experiencing these changes. About 80% of Canadians live in cities, and that percentage is rising. What does inequality look like in Canada’s urban communities and on city streets?
Do you wonder what the future holds for the world? Are you concerned about things like climate change, poverty, public health and education, housing and government policy? Do you believe that global and local issues are connected? Do you feel that our economic system is focused on profit at the expense of people and the planet? Do you believe it is possible for us, as communities, to do things differently at home and abroad, to eradicate poverty, to deal with conflict peacefully, to rise to the climate challenge fairly, and to ensure everyone has access to good public health and education services?
If you answered yes to any of the questions above, this program may be for you.
Many of the growing social and economic inequalities visible in Canada today are rooted in, or enabled by, inequitable public policies. The impacts of policies on diverse groups of people are not adequately considered, and the result is often unequal access to programs and services. This inequality creates a problem of fairness (inequity). For example, in my city of Fredericton, NB, if you live in an apartment, you probably don’t have your recycling picked up. If you live in a house, your recycling is picked up every week. Your experience differs depending on whether you’re a renter or a homeowner. In our country, you may not have access to clean drinking water if you reside in a rural area where logging is a major industry. If you live in an urban area in Canada, you almost certainly have clean drinking water. You have a different experience depending on whether you have access to a good water treatment system, and whether you reside close to a natural resource extraction industry. In my city, my province, and our country, you cannot vote until you’re 18 years old. Access to an important piece of our democracy depends on your age.