Is Income Inequality a Problem in Canada?

This post originally appeared on the blog of TVO's The Agenda with Steve Paikin.

As part of TVO's contributions to the cross-media series "Why Poverty?", The Agenda is conducting online interviews with people who explore issues of poverty and who are trying to help the poor build better lives. 

Our latest is an interview with Andrew Jackson of the Broadbent Institute, a recently-founded progressive think tank named in honour of former federal NDP leader Ed Broadbent. Jackson talks to the Agenda about income inequality, the subject of a recent Broadbent Institute report, "Towards a More Equal Canada."

There will always be people that will have more than others. But Jackson argues that income inequality has reached levels in Canada that are a detriment not just to the poor and working poor, but to the middle class. 

This week, TVO's focus regarding "Why Poverty" is on the working poor. For more on that specific topic, check out TVO's infographic on the working poor in Ontario.

Experts, politicians weigh in on Broadbent Institute income inequality report

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."

Broadbent think-tank wants more 'wealth redistribution'

A left-wing think-tank led by former NDP leader Ed Broadbent says greater "wealth redistribution" is needed to battle income inequality in Canada.

The Broadbent Institute says the growing gap between the rich and the poor became the "defining political issue of our time" after the Occupy movement swept across North America last fall.

In response, the think-tank proposes raising corporate taxes, the creation of "good jobs" - employment with high labour standards and environmental protections - and expanding public services.

"Higher tax rates for very high-income earners are likely the most effective way to deal with the fact that the incomes of the top 1% are rising at the expense of everybody else," the report says. "Top tax rates today are certainly much lower than they were 20 years ago."

Broadbent's institute also argues Canada is currently moving backwards because for "every $1 increase in national earnings over the past 20 years, more than 30 cents have gone to the top 1%, while 70 cents have had to be shared among the bottom 99%."

Broadbent, who has also narrated a YouTube video on the topic, says societies with greater income inequality are generally more violent, less healthy and less prosperous.

The NDP built its election platform on the assumption that a higher corporate tax rate would bring in billions in additional revenue. Conservatives argue lower corporate rates attract foreign investors and create jobs.

Ed Broadbent calls for more taxes to battle income gaps in Canada

Toronto - One year since Occupy Wall Street became one of the leading political movements, the left-leaning Broadbent Institute published a report that highlights income inequality as one of the most important issues facing Canada.

The Broadbent Institute, founded by former New Democratic Party leader Ed Broadbent, released the findings of its latest "Equality Project" on Tuesday. The results suggested that more than three-quarters (77 percent) of Canadians believe income inequality is a serious issue and say they are willing to do more to tackle the problem.

If left unresolved and government doesn’t provide necessary solutions, participants said then the long-term negative impact could eventually be seen in the standard of living (79 percent), community safety (75 percent), quality of healthcare and public services (72 percent), employment opportunity for youth (71 percent) and democratic principles (67 percent).

Participants (71 percent) in the research study concurred that the widening gap between the rich and poor is something that “undermines Canadian values.”

What are some of the solutions? The group said that an overwhelming number of Canadians, both high- and middle-income, support the introduction of new taxes and tax increases as some of the answers to the problem.

Although the federal government faces a near $600 billion national debt and a $31 billion budget deficit, most Canadians want the government to do more. If Ottawa cannot then a majority of Liberal, NDP and Conservative respondents said they’d be willing to pay more to protect public services and reduce income disparity.

Furthermore, 83 percent of Canadians in the survey said that they support higher income taxes for the affluent in society and nearly three-quarters said they want corporations to pay higher tax rates (2008 levels)

More than two-thirds (69 percent) support introducing a new 35 percent inheritance tax on any estate that is estimated to be valued at $5 million or more – Canada used to maintain such a tax but it was scrapped in the 1980s.

“The current rise of extreme income inequality must now be reversed. Canadians need to take action, and demand that their governments take action on income inequality,” said Broadbent in a statement. “Drafted in consultation with some of Canada’s leading thinkers and policy experts, I hope that this paper will stimulate a serious national discussion on extreme income inequality, and what to do about it. We are facing a serious and growing inequality problem, and the time is now to re-balance our priorities.”

Broadbent also published a cartoon video along with the report that shows the former NDP leader writing on a white board with a black marker.

The institute noted that in the coming weeks it will release responses to the study from across the political spectrum.

Earlier this year, the organization published a similar study that suggested Canadians are willing to pay “slightly” more in taxes to protect the nation’s social services, such as education and health care. The survey also suggested the same taxes: 35 percent inheritance tax, corporate tax increase and higher income taxes for those earning between $250,000 and $500,000.

Income Inequality In Canada: Ed Broadbent Wants To Give Tories 'A Good Shake'

Ed Broadbent has a novel idea for convincing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other Conservative politicians to care about income inequality.

“I would like to take them all and give them a good shake, and take them back to talk to their parents or grandparents,” he said.

As he envisions it, these heart-to-hearts would remind them of the fact that politicians of all stripes — including Conservatives — had a hand in helping to create Canada’s social welfare state.

“My lifetime was mostly spent with governments of all persuasions that at least claimed that they were trying to reduce inequality. Now we have governments that proudly are indifferent to it,” he said.

Raising the profile of Canada’s growing rich-poor divide is top of mind for the former NDP leader and founder of the left-leaning Broadbent Institute, which is dedicated in large part to tackling rising income inequality.

Speaking to The Huffington Post Canada in advance of the release of the think-tank’s latest report on the growing gap, Towards A More Equal Canada, Broadbent explained why income inequality “affects us all.”

The elder statesman also weighed in on the performance of new NDP leader Thomas Mulcair (a candidate he did not endorse in the recent leadership race), and what Trudeaumania 2.0 could mean for the NDP.

What do you hope to achieve with this report?

The major goal is to help stimulate debate right across the political spectrum in terms of [getting all of the] parties to pay attention to the problem, and across the communities, in towns and villages to get engagement in what is a very serious social issue for the country.

We’re getting worse more quickly than other rich countries when it comes to inequality. If you look at incomes, from 1982 to 2004, the bottom 60 per cent of Canadians working, when you allow for inflation, had no increase. And the precise middle, the median income, had [an increase of] $1,000, from $42,000 to $43,000. The rest [of the income gains] went to the top 20 per cent, and the top one per cent almost had their income doubled from $380,000 to $684,000.

So there’s a growing change in what Canada is all about. It’s totally different from the Canada I grew up in. Sure, we had inequality, and no one ever expects perfect equality, but my lifetime was mostly spent with governments of all persuasions that at least claimed that they were trying to reduce inequality. Now we have governments that proudly are indifferent to it.

With that in mind, what are the major obstacles to raising the profile of income inequality issues?

One is that the average Canadian has to understand that inequality affects us all, and not just the poor. Most ordinary people are feeling the pinch because they’ve had no real income increase in 20 years, but they often think of inequality in terms of poverty. But the key thing, the major democratic significance of inequality, is that we’re all affected, even middle-income Canadians, even upper-income Canadians.

The data is overwhelmingly clear that the more equal the society, the lower the level of teenage pregnancy, the lower the level of crime overall. There’s more political participation and civil participation by citizens. Kids are more and more likely to become what they want to be than they are in unequal societies.

Another, to put it candidly, is the ideology of politicians. We have had in the Western world a kind of market-driven ideology. If you let the markets go, [and that] was overwhelmingly reinforced by tax changes that benefit the rich, we [would] all benefit. Many of our politicians, particularly Mr. Harper and the Conservatives, remain locked in that mentality. It hasn’t worked. It brought on a global crisis. It’s led us to the worst inequality since the 1920s. So they have to be persuaded. We have to have a serious debate about re-balancing markets and governmental forces on the other side.

Persuading the Conservatives seems like it will be a pretty big challenge. How will you overcome it?

Well, I’d like to take them all and give them a good shake, and take them back to talk to their parents or grandparents. I’m half-serious about this. Because it was [during] my parents’ generation and that of the grandparents of Mr. Harper — he’s a little younger than I am — that we had the creation of our more socially balanced state. Mr. Diefenbaker brought in hospitalization [insurance] for example, he was a Conservative. Mr. Pearson brought in the broader foundation of the welfare state in the 1960s, with universal health care with the Canada pension.

Of course, my party, the CCF [Co-operative Commonwealth Federation] and the NDP played a leading role in all that, but previous politicians did see the need for this balance. They didn’t want the markets to totally dominate our lives.

I wish I had the answer to how I could persuade other politicians. The Occupy movement ... has called attention to the problem. A lot of it will come from activist organizations, trying to mobilize around the issue. I think more of that needs to be done.

What are the specific Tory policies working against what you’re trying to achieve?

The reductions of income tax. Not only reductions of income tax, but disproportionate benefits to upper-income [individuals] that take away the money that’s needed for post-secondary education, for health care, for Canada pensions. Two of the economists that we [include] in our report show that these kinds of programs that go to everyone that need more expansion right now are, from a cost-benefit analysis, the best thing that middle-class Canadians will ever get.

The other thing that’s happened here, and you see it almost every day from Mr. Harper and in Ontario now, is attacks on unions. Again, the data is very clear, the OECD reports the higher level of unions that you have in a society, the higher level of equality that you have overall. Companies that want to keep unionized employees out frequently raise the wages and salaries of their own employees.

Increasing government support for social programs means convincing Canadians that taxes isn’t a dirty word. How do you plan to accomplish that?

We did a poll a few months ago, and we found that Canadians are upset with the degree of inequality. They believe it should be dealt with. But we asked a hard question, not just “Are you in favour of increasing taxes on the rich.” [It] was “Would you be willing to pay somewhat more in taxes yourself if this led to the improvement of social programs and reducing the degree of inequality.” And the answer, overwhelmingly, is yes.

If we compare ourselves to the U.S., which is a very anti-tax country, the majority of Canadians still see [the benefits], because we have universal health care. We have Canada pension. We have an employment insurance program.

[But] I don’t underestimate it. It’s still a challenge for politicians to go out there and say, “We need to increase taxes.”

You didn’t endorse Thomas Mulcair as the new leader of the NDP. How do you think he’s doing so far?

I think he’s just doing splendidly. He’s been fighting on the very issue we’re talking about, particularly in the case of jobs. Our report [puts] a lot of emphasis on creating jobs that are higher paying paying jobs, not just minimum wage jobs. [Mulcair has] done that.

I strongly endorse Tom. Yes, I supported another candidate [NDP president Brian Topp], but that’s part of the democratic process, and once you have a leader in place, whether or not you supported a leader, we’re in the same party, we share the same broad values. There have been past cases going back many years when I haven’t always been on the side of the newly elected leader, but I have rapidly joined the rest of the team and supported him or her.

What’s your take on Justin Trudeau’s decision to run for the Liberal Party leadership? How concerned are you about him splitting the centrist left vote, and reducing some of the gains the NDP made in the last election?

I suspect [I’m] right there with the majority of Canadians. Mr. Trudeau seems like a personable young man, but he hasn’t demonstrated yet, in the number of years he’s been in politics, a degree of expertise in any particular field.

This is not to say he won’t do that, that he won’t have policies that will be attractive to the people of Canada. All I would say right now [is that] we have a young man with a famous name. [His father was] a man who did some exceptionally good things for Canada, but I would also say some exceptional things that weren’t so good for Canada. [Justin] has won a couple of elections like most MPs have in their own area. But he has not as yet established solid credentials for why he should be prime minister. It’s early yet, so we’ll just have to see.

Gap between rich and poor is the defining issue of our time: Broadbent Institute

A year after the Occupy movement set up camps in cities around the world to protest economic disparities, the institute founded by former NDP leader Ed Broadbent has conducted a study that says income inequality is the defining issue of our time.

“Reasonable people can differ over what income and wealth differences are needed to provide incentives and appropriate motivation in a market economy,” said the report released Tuesday. “But extreme economic inequality clearly undermines equal developmental opportunities and individual freedom since unequal economic resources give rise to significant imbalances of power.”

The policy report is the first to be released by the Broadbent Institute which was founded last year to promote social democratic issues across Canada. It is accompanied by a video that features an animated version of Mr. Broadbent, complete with his trademark bushy eyebrows, explaining the problem of income inequality using a black marker on a white board. This study follows on a poll conducted for the institute earlier this year which suggested a majority of Canadians would be willing to pay higher taxes to preserve social programs.

In the new report, Mr. Broadbent calls for economic policies that promote an increase in middle-income jobs, enhanced public support to those with low incomes, expanded public services, and changes to the tax system that would do more to redistribute wealth.

It is a view that is more easily espoused by a left-wing think tank than a party vying for political power. Even New Democrats would have trouble campaigning on a platform of higher taxes.

But, with the resentments that led to Occupy continuing to simmer and with the U.S. presidential election focused so heavily on the merits and moral legitimacy of wealth redistribution, the institute lays out the argument for a more socialist construction of Canadian society.

Pointing to data obtained from Statistics Canada, the study asserts that, between 1982 and 2004, there was no increase in the incomes of the bottom 60 per cent of families, when adjusted for inflation. But, over the same period, the share of taxable income going to the top one per cent of families rose from 7.4 per cent to 11.2 per cent, it says. And the top 1 per cent of all tax filers receive 14 per cent of all income – up from 8 per cent in the early 1980s.

Since the mid-1990s, the study says, the increase in income inequality in Canada has been greater than the average of most advanced industrial countries.

The Broadbent report argues that, when left to their own devices, “markets generate large inequalities of income and wealth which pose a threat to the moral goal of equal life chances.” It says a society based on merit is undercut when extremes of wealth allow the very rich to buy advantage for their children.

And it says that, in situations of extreme inequality, less wealthy consumers try to copy the spending patterns of the affluent, creating unaffordable debt and economic bubbles which burst causing recessions like the one that began in 2008.

Canada must address growing income inequality

Canada is moving in the wrong direction and must address its extreme and growing income inequality, according to a new discussion paper from the Broadbent Institute.

The paper, released to Postmedia News on Monday, argues that developing a comprehensive policy agenda - which could include affordable housing, improvements to Employment Insurance, "fair" taxes and a national prescription drug program - is needed to address the problem.

What's concerning is that inequality is getting worse instead of better, and while Canada has the financial means to turn this around, those steps aren't being taken, said former NDP leader Ed Broadbent, the founder of the left-leaning institute.

"We've had this policy of slashing taxes, and particularly disproportionately, slashing the taxes of the rich. It's time we reverse this," Broadbent said.

"It's not as if we don't have the wealth, but it's the distribution of the wealth that really matters."

Income inequality, sometimes known as the shrinking of the middle class, occurs when there is a large polarization between the top and the bottom of society in terms of their share of economic resources, according the institute.

The Conference Board of Canada and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development have both recently pointed out that Canada is becoming more unequal, more quickly than most other countries in the OECD, Broadbent said.

For instance, the Conference Board of Canada reported in 2011 that, from the mid-1990s to the late 2000s, Canada had the fourth-largest increase in income inequality out of 17 peer countries.

Canada was ranked 12th out of those countries, a slip to "below the average."

One of the effects of this is that there's less upward mobility, Broadbent said, adding that there's "overwhelming" evidence that an unequal society decreases the opportunity for climbing.

"Most Canadians grew up with the expectations that their son or daughter could be whatever they want to be, whether it's a hockey player or a brain surgeon ... now the reality is, if you want to live the 'American dream', you should move to Sweden," Broadbent said.

And beyond economic indicators, income inequality affects everything from health to political participation to crime rates, Broadbent said. And what people need to understand is that this affects everybody in the population - not just the poor, he said.

Several recent studies have found that more "equal countries," such as Germany and Sweden, do better overall than "unequal countries" such as Canada and the United States when it comes to indicators such as life expectancy, the incidence of mental illness, obesity and homicide rates, the institute's paper noted.

"Yes, the poor suffer. And we know that, and we have too high a level of poverty, but the really serious thing that we should be aware of is that, with this degree of inequality, everybody suffers," Broadbent said.

There is no "single magic bullet," to achieve greater equality, the paper said, and urged that a comprehensive policy agenda must become a core political commitment. And while a commitment to equality must come from all levels of government, leadership must come from the federal government, the paper said.

The report, Towards a More Equal Canada, is part of the Broadbent Institute's Equality Project, which was launched earlier in 2012.

Canadians can challenge income inequality: new Broadbent Institute paper

OTTAWA—Launching the next phase of its Equality Project, the Broadbent Institute has released a new discussion paper, “Towards a More Equal Canada”, which analyses the causes of, and proposes solutions to, income inequality. The paper follows the springtime publication of a Broadbent Institute-commissioned Environics poll on income inequality that shows Canadians overwhelmingly support taking action to alleviate our growing inequality problem.

“What kind of Canada do we want to live in? What kind of Canada do we want to leave to the next generation?” asked Broadbent Institute founder Ed Broadbent. “The current rise of extreme income inequality must now be reversed. Canadians need to take action, and demand that their governments take action on income inequality.”

The Environics poll conducted earlier this year 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. 

“Drafted in consultation with some of Canada’s leading thinkers and policy experts, I hope that this paper will stimulate a serious national discussion on extreme income inequality, and what to do about it,” added Broadbent. “We are facing a serious and growing inequality problem, and the time is now to re-balance our priorities.”

In the coming weeks, the Broadbent Institute will release a series of responses to this paper written by a number of prominent Canadians from across the political spectrum.


Ed Broadbent on ways to bridge Canada’s growing income gap, and why the one per cent should care

Canada is careering “strongly and wrongly” toward increasing inequality, Ed Broadbent told a crowd last Thursday night at the Steelworkers Hall in Toronto. With social implications that will be felt across the economic strata, we all ought to be concerned – even the one per cent.

The former NDP leader was tapped to talk by Economic Inequality, a group formed in response to the growing income gap in Canada.

Broadbent outlined four broad prescriptions for bridging this gap, and ultimately, for creating a fairer society: investing in good jobs, strengthening income supports, increasing access to public services and reforming the tax regime to make it more progressive.

He wasn’t short on specifics either. Concrete actions toward these goals might include funding skills development in such sectors as early childhood education; introducing a minimum guaranteed income modeled on the system we have for seniors; expanding affordable housing and creating a national child care program; and cracking down on tax evasion and closing “boutique” tax loopholes.

The biggest obstacle, most attendees agreed, is persuading the masses to pay higher taxes. Since slaying the deficit dragon of the 1990s, service cuts have become standard and taxes taboo.

Broadbent, however, borrowed a line from Stanley Knowles, who was fond of saying “taxes are the prices of civility.”

Investing in social services produces better outcomes for most indicators of a country’s well being, including lower crime and poverty rates, as well as stronger economic performance.

Although the discussion seemed to pick up where the Occupy Movement left off, the more than 100 attendees were more grey-haired than youthful like the face of last year’s protests. This may point to a burgeoning crop of ageing baby boomers concerned about making ends meet in retirement.

The growing income gap in Canada over the past few decades has been well documented, particularly by the progressive think tank Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA.) In a December 2010 report entitled The Rise of the Richest 1%, the CCPA found that Canada’s top one per cent had seen its share of income double since the late 1970s.

It was not until the most recent recession that Canada has seen so public a backlash against this increasing inequality.

“It’s long overdue that the top one per cent paid their fair share,” Broadbent said.

The great free-trade debate: 25 years later

OTTAWA - It was a day in Canadian history that eventually spawned an emotional election campaign that forced Canadians to make a crucial decision at the ballot box.

Twenty-five years ago, on Oct. 3, 1987, Canadian and American negotiators reached a free-trade deal just minutes before a midnight deadline.

To this day, there is still disagreement over whether Canada is better or worse off - with political party leaders from the era offering different assessments.

Former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, who will deliver a major speech about the deal at a tribute to him in Toronto Wednesday evening, believes the agreement was a "winner" for Canada.

John Turner, the Liberal leader who made opposition to the deal "the fight of my life", now says the agreement changed little because it never really provided free trade.

Ed Broadbent, whose New Democrats also opposed the deal, says the deal has cost Canadian jobs, particularly in the manufacturing sector, and has not been the economic "panacea" that was advertised.

These days, as the Harper government seeks free trade deals with Europe, India and Pacific Rim nations, it's easy to forget how contentious the very notion of free trade with the American economic giant was a quarter-century ago.

Once the trade deal was reached by exhausted Canadian and American negotiators in Washington, D.C., the political floodgates were thrown wide open.

Suddenly, Canadians were immersed in a debate about the very future of their country.

Economic prosperity. Political sovereignty. Entrepreneurial confidence. National pride.

These were hallmarks of an unprecedented coast-to-coast discussion at thousands of our kitchen tables and in the House of Commons.

It was all capped in a roller-coaster of an election campaign in the fall of 1988 that saw Mulroney, Turner and Broadbent compete for the trust of voters on the divisive issue.

Mulroney's Tories won a majority, paving the way for free trade with the U.S. to become a reality. Still, in some quarters, the debate has never ended.

"It was a hot topic back then and it's still a hot topic around some tables," said Derek Burney, who, as Mulroney's chief of staff was in the final free trade negotiations and later became ambassador to the U.S.

Burney said in an interview the trade deal was good for Canada - tripling exports to the U.S. market and giving Canadians more confidence.

"I think it did change the way that Canadians looked at themselves. I think it was kind of a maturing process for Canadians to be able to say that we can compete - provided the playing field is even and we don't have second-rate referees."

What would have happened to Canada if the deal had not been reached? Burney has no doubts.

"We would be a much smaller, less prosperous country. And we would still be pulling at the forelock, uncertain about our destiny here in North America, let alone in the world."

Under the complex deal, reached after 18 months of tough negotiations, Canada and the U.S. removed tariff barriers in goods and services, allowed more cross-border business investment, and established a dispute-settlement mechanism to resolve trade fights.

Douglas Porter, deputy chief economist of BMO Capital Markets, provides a thorough analysis of the trade deal's impact in Inside Policy magazine.

Canadian annual exports to the U.S. jumped from about $100 billion in the 1980s to $350 billion in 2000. However, those exports then "flattened" out - thanks in part to the strong Canadian dollar, the thickening of the border due to security measures post-9/11, and the recession that walloped the U.S. economy in 2008-09.

Foreign investment has shot up, writes Porter. U.S. investment in Canada increased from just $1.7 billion annually in the six years prior to the trade deal, to $19.8 billion per year since 1995.

Similarly, Canadian investment in the U.S. jumped from an average of $3.8 billion in 1983-88 to $22.3 billion per year since the mid-90s.

Porter concludes the trade deal helped "modernize the Canadian economy" and turn it from an "underachiever" among industrialized countries to an "overachiever."

In a recent interview with Postmedia News, Mulroney pointed to the free trade agreement as an example of his government working in the "national interest" - even though the deal was unpopular in some quarters.

"We all know the benefits that (the agreement) has brought to Canada," he said.

"But there's some of us who can remember how tough it was to get that through. And how criticized we were for it, and how brutal that election campaign was in 1988."

In an interview with Inside Policy, Mulroney said the deal has proven to be of "great significance for Canada, both economically and psychologically."

"It's established Canada as a winner, a clear winner in our bilateral relationship," he said."

However, Turner told Postmedia News the deal has made little difference.

"It really hasn't changed things much. We still have a good relationship with the United States and trade moves very well, but not under the agreement."

"It's not a free trade agreement. So we are not enjoying free trade with the United States."

Turner said the American Congress has never yielded its jurisdiction over trade and the U.S. wrangling to delay Canadian softwood lumber exports has shown the weakness of the dispute settlement mechanism.

Broadbent offered a nuanced assessment, insisting that while countries should not turn their backs on exploring international trade deals, they should ensure that both nations benefit and that certain standards - such as labor laws - are respected.

"If you look at what was promised, this was sold to Canadians as a kind of panacea for all our economic problems, particularly in manufacturing." Broadbent said of the Canada-U.S. trade deal.

"It would make us competitive. We'd get research and development, our competitiveness vis-à-vis the U.S. would improve. And we would get lots of jobs. Well, that by and large, has not materialized."

Broadbent also dismissed the idea that the trade deal offered a level playing field, noting that it's difficult for the Canadian auto industry to compete with competitors in the southern U.S., where wages are much lower and labor laws don't exist.

Broadbent said the free-trade deal offers some lessons for Canada as it looks abroad at more agreements.

"I'm not saying don't look at them. But there has to be a rational expectation of mutual benefit. And especially to protect the manufacturing sector."