On a hot summer July afternoon, a social worker handed me over to a young Saskatchewan farming couple. I was three months old, and my adoptive mother tells me I wouldn’t stop crying. She eventually realized I was too hot because my foster mother had dressed me in all the clothes that I possessed.
The Canadian government passed Bill C-24 this week, giving itself the power to revoke citizenship of dual citizens convicted in Canadian courts or abroad of committing "acts against Canada,"including terrorism, espionage or treason. Though the government claims it is now better able to protect Canadians from "jihadi terrorism," the law does not make Canadians safer. Instead, it creates a class of second class citizens, whose status as Canadians is insecure.
“You can do anything you put your mind to” is a message that has been instilled in the minds of North Americans.
People are taught that if they work hard enough, anyone can succeed. This is why many people believe in equality and fairness as forces that shape our economic system and tend to overlook the power of systemic factors like racial discrimination or class barriers in economic inequality.
Over the past 20 years, income inequality has been growing faster in Canada than in other similar countries. During this period about one third of all income growth has gone to the top 1%, leaving precious little to be shared among the remaining 99%. We know the inequality problem all too well, but what is the answer to addressing it?
There seem to be three main pillars that provide effective solutions: progressive taxation, a robust safety net, and ensuring fairness in the workplace. This third pillar includes raising the minimum wage in a transparent and predictable manner, improving associated employment standards legislation, and generally making sure labour laws have kept pace with what’s happening in workplaces across the country.
In a recent feature interview with Amanda Lang, host of CBC's The Exchange with Amanda Lang, Broadbent Institute Chair Ed Broadbent spoke about inequality, politics, government, social democracy and more.
On January 16, the Macdonald-Laurier Institute published a study by former Statistics Canada analyst Philip Cross, entitled “Dutch Disease, Canadian Cure.” It argues that “after 10 years of a muscular dollar, Canadian manufacturers have adapted well to a strong currency – demonstrating that Dutch Disease is economic myth rather than reality.”
Mr. Cross argues, quite reasonably, that high commodity prices are not the only reason for the strong appreciation of the Canadian dollar after 2000. However, as Mark Carney noted in a recent speech, they are an important part of the story, explaining about one half of the exchange rate appreciation.
I don’t know whether it’s smugness or indifference, but we Canadians can be a self-deluding lot. Growing inequality, portrayed recently in The Economist as a global scourge, when viewed from Canada, seems to be a problem only for others.
After all, it was other countries’ banks that crashed in 2008. It’s in southern Europe that tens of thousands are taking to the streets. And it was in France and the United States that recent elections were fought over the fact that those who created the mess, the top 1 per cent, are still getting big bonuses and low tax rates.
"The ideas of economists and political philosophers … are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist." - John Maynard Keynes, The General Theory of Employment Interest and Money (1936)
In economics, hope and faith coexist with great scientific pretension and also a deep desire for respectability. - J.K.Galbraith, New York Times Magazine (June 1970)
The policy community praises the ideal of “evidence-based” policy – policy with a solid research base. In the real world, however, we all know that public policies, as implemented, are more often than not only vaguely related to research results and the best available data.
When Red Tories hear that union leaders, trade union economists, academics and thoughtful politicians of the left (and Red Tories believe there are many) are planning to engage and advocate on the issue of inequality, we have cause to worry a little. We worry because their focus is often on legislating outcomes that must be glaringly and unabashedly equal. We also worry about polemicists on the far right who argue that most unequal outcomes happen because the winners worked harder, took more risks, had more skill and well, that's how freedom and free markets are supposed to work, even though many of the winners were winners because their parents were or because they were at the right place at the right time. Both biases are deeply unhelpful to finding genuine solutions to inequality.