Fairness, equality of opportunity and a positive role for government in fostering fairness in Canadian society are fundamental to liberal values. We believe in free enterprise as the most effective system yet developed for enabling creativity, enterprise and opportunity, but equally believe that markets must be democratically regulated to the extent necessary to ensure that they operate in the long-term interests of all Canadians in ways that are consistent with Canadian values. In response to concerns that Canada is rapidly becoming a far less equal society and that the policy and other decisions of the current Conservative government typically exacerbate that divide, consistently favouring higher-income segments while further disadvantaging those who are struggling, we sponsored a non-partisan public forum on income inequality here in Kingston on November 20, 2013.
Rapidly increasing income inequality threatens the prosperity and life chances of the majority of Canadians. For example, a recent study on employed residents of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton regions found that barely half of those working are in permanent, full-time positions which provide benefits and a degree of employment security (click here to view this report). What was the Canadian norm a mere decade ago is becoming accessible increasingly only to the fortunate few.
Relevant articles by the speakers at our public forum and other experts on income inequality include:
- Living with Slower Growth by Charles Beach
- April 25, 2013 Submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee by Robin Boadway
- Inequality and the Fading of Redistributive Politics edited by Keith Banting and John Myles
- Equality and Efficiency by Andrew G. Berg and Jonathan D. Ostry
- Public policies for equality and social mobility in Canada by Miles Corak
- Income Inequalities in Canada: Fiscal and Gender Dimensions by Kathleen Lahey
- Kingston Employment and Youth Services write-up by Michael Harris
Coincidentally, the Globe and Mail ran a series of feature articles on this issue that same week as our Kingston forum. These included:
- What growing income inequality is costing Canada’s future generations
- The great offside: How Canadian hockey is becoming a game strictly for the rich
- Wealth begets health: Why universal medical care only goes so far
- As unions lose power, Canada gets the blue-collar blues
- Videos related to the articles in this series
For further reading, you may want to check out Plutocrats: a look at the income gap between the super-rich and … the rest of us by Chrystia Freeland, the newly-elected Liberal MP for Toronto Centre.
The November 20th forum began with our three panellists each giving a 10 to 15 minute presentation conveying their professional insights into various aspects of this very large and complex issue:
- Charles Beach on the major economic forces which have been driving inequality equality at an increasing rate (click here to view Dr. Beach’s speaking notes);
- Kathleen Lahey on the role of the income tax system in fostering equality and on the impacts on women; and
- Michael Harris on real-life consequences for Kingstonians
The panel was moderated by our Policy Director, William McCarten, a retired World Bank Senior Economist. Click here to view Dr. Beach’s presentation (preceded by introductions by Ted Hsu and William McCarten (27-minute YouTube video) and click here to view Kathleen Lahey’s and Michael Harris’ presentations.
The second half of the meeting was devoted to open discussion in which those attending related their own stories, asked questions of the panellists and suggested possible solutions. Kingston and the Islands Member of Parliament Ted Hsu moderated this discussion.
We believe that public meetings should generate tangible outcomes which justify the time which interest citizens invest in their participation at such events. For this public forum, that outcome is a Petition to Parliament. Participants to the forum on income inequality were invited to sign up either to participate in a subsequent working meeting to draft a petition asking Members of Parliament of all parties to take appropriate action to restore reasonable equality of opportunity or to receive the resulting petition so that they could sign on. That meeting took place exactly a week after the public forum, resulting in a draft petition which was sent to Clerk of the House for vetting to ensure that in complied with parliamentary requirements for such petitions, and was then sent by email to all those who had signed up for that purpose. Ted Hsu will present the signed petition in the House of Commons soon after Parliament resumes on January 27th.
We have extended the deadline for those who wish to sign the petition to January 24th at 4:30 pm. To view the text of the petition and to download a copy for printing and signature by yourself and/or others in your respective circles, click here to go to our Petitions page. Please note the instructions at the bottom of that page for signing and submitting such petitions.