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.
OTTAWA—Following the release of Towards a More Equal Canada, a discussion paper on income inequality, the Broadbent Institute has published the first of a series of responses to the report from a number of academics and politicians. This first round of responses includes opinions by Senator Hugh Segal and academics Luc Turgeon and Katherine Scott. Alongside the paper, these newly-released responses represent the next step in the Institute’s Equality Project.
“The public response to our paper has been tremendous,” says Broadbent Institute founder Ed Broadbent. “We are at a critical time in our history; it is more important than ever that we have a national discussion on income inequality.”
An Environics poll commissioned by the Broadbent Institute shows that Canadians are ready to challenge income inequality: 77% believe that income inequality is a major problem for Canada, and a clear majority – including a majority of Conservative voters – are willing to protect our social programs, even if it means paying higher taxes. 9 out of 10 respondents agreed that reducing income inequality should be a priority for the federal government.
“Canadians are prepared to have this discussion,” explained Broadbent. "It is my hope that these responses to our paper will prompt a wider national debate on the political choices that can reduce, or exacerbate, inequality."