Friday, December 09, 2011

Friday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Jeffrey Simpson compliments the NDP's leadership contenders for dealing with the issue of inequality, but rightly notes there's a long way left to go:
Good for the NDP leadership candidates for talking about income inequality in Canada.

At their first leadership debate last weekend, and on their websites, some of the candidates have made proposals about reducing it. The ideas are broad brush, of course, although Brian Topp has a detailed list of big tax increases proposed for the wealthiest people and corporations. But at least the candidates are willing to underscore what has been a frequently ignored challenge.
Inequality has been growing in Canada for many years; correcting for it will not be easy or fast. The factors making Canada a less equal society are deep and complex. Some are beyond the reach of government.
In Canada, as elsewhere, taxes and social benefits directed at the least well off helped mitigate inequality. They still do, but not as effectively as before, and less effectively than in most OECD countries.

Inequality has been increasing in Canada, especially since the mid-1990s. Before then, the ratio between the wealthiest and poorest Canadians was 8 to 1. It’s now 10 to 1. Top marginal tax rates have fallen here, as they have in many OECD countries. Benefits that used to be targeted at the poorest have either been reduced or spread across many income bands.

Other factors have played a role. More part-time work has meant lower earned income compared with full-time work. Within the work force, even among those with full-time jobs, wage inequality has spread. The higher-paying jobs are paying more; others are not.

We’ll see more disparities as companies shed defined-benefit pension plans for defined-contribution plans. They’re insisting on the change for their own bottom lines today, but their employees are likely to suffer later.
We’ve talked a lot in Canada about inequalities among regions, gender and ethnicities, and made progress on these fronts. Income inequality, however, has slipped beneath the radar.
- One might have thought the massive amounts of money spent marketing the tar sands would include at least some effort to back up the oft-repeated (if never justified) assertion that constant development is environmentally sustainable. But we shouldn't be surprised that the Cons don't care if no such evidence exists.

- Adam Radwanski offers some reasons for Ontario to follow Alberta's lead in moving its fixed election dates to the spring. But I'm surprised that in raising the topic, he doesn't note the glut of campaigns set for the fall of 2015 (and the likelihood of overlapping provincial and federal elections) as making for another independent reason as to why provinces should look at modifying their schedules.

- Finally, Jesse points to NDPstar as a grassroots expression of the NDP's principles. We'll have to see how much traction this particular effort can develop, but it's undoubtedly a plus to know that members aren't looking solely to the leadership race as a means of discussing the NDP's future.

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