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Liberals use Opposition Day to push government to reduce income inequality

Posted by Bob Rae on September 25, 2012 | No Comments

Canadians are feeling the pinch. In the face of declining and stagnating incomes, families are having to deal with the rising cost of everyday essentials, like groceries and prescription drugs. Students are grappling with rising tuition rates and have fewer opportunities for employment when they graduate. Youth unemployment is at a historic high and student employment is at record lows.

As Canadians adjust to these economic realities, our debt-to-income ratio has grown to 152%, much higher than the United States, and entire generations of Canadians have little or no savings.

All, or at least most, of us recognize that income inequality is a growing issue. Whereas in the years between about 1945 and the mid-1990s, the growing economy created greater equality not only because of the well-paying jobs that were created but also because of a range of government programs that sustained people who were in difficulty.

That is why Liberals are using our Opposition Day Motion to address pervasive income inequality. We are putting forward practical steps to reduce income inequality. Specifically, we are calling on the government to

  • roll back their recent Employment Insurance Premium;
  • end their punitive new claw-back of Employment Insurance benefits;
  • make tax credits, such as the Family Caregiver Tax Credit, refundable;
  • adapt the Registered Disability Savings Plan available to sufferers of chronic diseases, such as Multiple Sclerosis; and
  • removing interest charges from the federal component of student loans.

What we are asking the government to do is to first of all recognize that this is a problem, not to dismiss it. We had to work very hard to convince a number of Conservative members of Parliament to allow the finance committee to study this question. And then we want the government to institute our practical measures.

Income inequality is in fact the issue of our time. We cannot assume that prosperity will be fairly shared and we cannot take prosperity itself for granted. We have to avoid the mistakes of the extreme right and the extreme left and we have to come up with practical proposals that will make a difference to ordinary people and ensure that our prosperity is fairly, deeply and widely shared.

Bob Rae

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  1. Profile photo of Brian Sanderson Brian Sanderson said on

    I don’t agree. The issue of our time is overpopulation. Poverty (and income disparity) are merely symptoms of that fundamental problem.

    Yes Canada is “resource rich” but the global market means that we are all forced work harder and harder as world-wide per capita resources become more and more scarce and more and more expensive to obtain. Not to mention the other species who share this planet, they are greatly more impoverished.

    The matter is not simple and there is a serious need for serious discussion, analysis, and action. Unfortunately, the discussion was abandoned 30-40 years ago… and the matter left to blow in the wind.

    Max Born, one of the great physicists of the early 20th Century, published: “My Life and My Views” in 1968. Born was a physicists physicist and deeply committed to humanity and civilization. On page 120, Born writes:
    Science and technology will then follow their tendency to rapid expansion in an exponential fashion, until saturation sets in. But that does not necessarily imply an increase of wealth, still less of happiness, as long as the number of people increases at the same rate, and with it their need for food and energy. At this point, the technological problems of the atom touch social problems, such as birth control and the just distribution of goods. There will be hard fighting about these problems…

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  2. Profile photo of Andy Walters Andy Walters said on

    Wow ! Did you know that about 5% of the highest income people pay about 50% of all income taxes.

    If you don’t believe me, look it up on the CRA website.

    How much more Tax do you think would be fair?

    Andy

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    • Profile photo of Brian Sanderson Brian Sanderson said on

      A very pertinent point, Andy. Taxing our way towards a more equitable system will not work. Indeed, an equitable distribution of the worlds wealth would pretty much kill most of the economy. (An equitable distribution would be about $8,000 per person per year — which would make most things in the present world unaffordable by anyone… on the bright side, we might all fall below a reasonable tax threshold!)

      Historically (and ecologically and economically), brief periods of increasing egalitarianism are associated with major innovations (and/or discoveries and/or conquests) that increase the availability of resources. Subsequent population growth eventually obviates the advantage, increasing inequity.

      The honest position would be to admit the fundamental error that has been made (on a global scale, this time) and not pretend that there is some sort of quick fix. It took generations of blind leadership to create the problem and it will take generations of insightful leadership to fix it.

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