Statistics from Unifor economist Jim Stanford comparing a slew of economic indicators pre-Harper government to today show a deteriorating economic and labour market situation, not all of which, by any stretch of the imagination, can be blamed on the 2008-09 global financial crisis.
And since the government has bragged repeatedly of its record coming out of the recession, perhaps that bragging should be tested with some facts and data. Yes, the stuff this Conservative government derides and mocks with increasing frequency.
Inequality has deepened under Mr. Harper’s watch, job quality has declined, wages have stagnated, economic growth has been anemic, social protections have been reduced while corporate profits and CEO pay soar.
Throw in the fact that wages are stagnant and inequality is growing and the only folks doing better are those at the top who are accumulating more and more wealth under Mr. Harper’s failed economic policies.
Inequality and poor jobs are not inevitable. Nor are they just because of technological change and globalization, as some would want us to believe. We can, with good economic policy, make a difference for the citizens of Canada, but we have to first believe that government has a role to play.
A recent report from the Broadbent Institute entitled “Haves and Have-Nots: Deep and Persistent Wealth Inequality in Canada” highlights just how bad the concentration of wealth is in this country. Inequality is not just a U.S. problem.
The report found that the top 10 per cent of Canadians hold almost 50 per cent of all wealth, while the bottom 30 per cent account for less than one per cent of all wealth. Stunning. Indeed, the bottom 50 per cent of Canadians controlled less than six per cent.
The concentration of wealth for the top 10 per cent is highest in British Columbia at 56.2 per cent and lowest in Atlantic Canada (31.7 per cent) and Quebec (43.4 per cent).
More and more countries and experts, including economists, are recognizing the importance of higher minimum wages, including their ratio to average wages, as important in alleviating working poverty. Of course, it should go without saying that strong collective bargaining is also important in combating poverty and inequality.
As Martin Luther King once noted, the best anti-poverty program is a union.
The report for the G20 ministers concludes that higher minimum wages and increased coverage for collective bargaining are key if governments wish to address working poverty and inequality. So, pretty much everything the Harper government hasn’t done.
Given all of this, it appears the NDP has hit on something with their call for a $15 federal minimum wage.
Canada can’t change the pattern of inequality if it doesn’t take steps to do so.