Friday, October 04, 2013

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Glen Hodgson and Brenda Lafleur explain how Canada's lower and middle classes alike have been left out of any economic growth as a result of increased inequality:
We believe the more accurate interpretation is that after worsening in the 1980s and 1990s, income inequality and poverty in Canada remained stuck at a relatively high level during the 2000s. This interpretation should prompt the question, “Can anything be done about it?”

The 1990s were a difficult decade for Canadians. By the late 1990s, real median after-tax income fell to its lowest level in more than three decades, and income inequality reached its peak. Yet even though higher commodity demand and prices helped Canada’s economy grow faster from 2000 to 2010 than most of its peers, including the United States, income inequality did not decline.
Furthermore, the gap between the top and bottom income quintiles increased the most in the 1980s and 1990s. The top 20 per cent got relatively richer, and the bottom 20 per cent got relatively poorer. The gap between richest and poorest quintiles grew more slowly in the 2000s, but it clearly did not shrink. The top income quintile increased its share of total after-tax income from 43.4 per cent in 1998 to 44.3 per cent in 2010. The share going to the bottom income quintile remained the same (4.8 per cent), while the share going to the three quintile groups in between (which could be broadly defined as the middle class) fell.

In short, it is statistically accurate to say that the middle class – at least as defined by having a mid-range income – is being squeezed in Canada.

And what about low-income Canadians, including those in poverty? Using Statistics Canada’s Low Income Measure (LIM), the share of Canada’s population in low income is somewhat smaller than during the mid-1990s, but it remains higher than it was in the 1970s and 1980s. Even if the income share of lower-income Canadians was stable in the 2000s and their incomes are rising modestly, Canada’s performance is far from stellar. When put in the context of a relatively healthy Canadian economy from 2000 to the onset of the financial crisis in 2008, lower-income Canadians did not get that much further ahead.
- Meanwhile, Rick Smith duly mocks the promise of a "consumer first" Throne Speech from a government which has gutted the federal regulatory system and trashed any meaningful consumer protections introduced by other parties throughout its stay in power.

- And on the subject of public accountability, Thomas Walkom recognizes that the real story behind the planning of Toronto's Pan Am Games is the danger involved in handing matters of public interest over to unaccountable private actors.

- Vaughn Palmer discusses British Columbia's reasonable concerns about the threat of bitumen spills on land and water alike. And CBC reports on Justice Marceau's finding that Alberta's exclusion of environmental groups from the review of tar sands projects resulted in an unfair and invalid process - which may be particularly important given that the Cons have imposed exactly the same standard at the federal level in order to remove critical voices from pipeline assessments.

- I'll have more to say about the flurry of discussion set off by Michael Ignatieff's book launch over the weekend. But for now, the essential recent reading on Ignatieff's tenure and departure includes: Paul Wells on Ignatieff's lack of substance; Bob Hepburn on his apparent state of denial; Frances Russell on his complete misapprehension of a parliamentary system; and Chris Selley's brilliant assessment of Ignatieff's combined sense of entitlement and appetite for self-aggrandizement.

- Finally, Paul Krugman offers his theory as to how the Republicans ended up where they are - and it's a lesson that we should watch for within our own party structures as well:
Coming back to the class warfare issue: my working theory is that wealthy individuals bought themselves a radical right party, believing — correctly — that it would cut their taxes and remove regulations, but failed to realize that eventually the craziness would take on a life of its own, and that the monster they created would turn on its creators as well as the little people.

And nobody knows how it ends.

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