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Home Policy Articles: Welfare & Social Issues: Inequality


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"Markers" of Wealth and Poverty in BC

Steve Kerstetter’s article “Markers” of Wealth and Poverty in BC examines Statistic Canada financial data to understand who is likely to be rich and who is likely to be poor in British Columbia. Kerstetter draws a strong correlation between wealth and income, finding those with higher income often have great wealth, while the reverse is true for those with low income.

2006 Manitoba Alternative Budget: Investing in Tomorrow, Today

Even though there have been positive signs in the Manitoban economy, this paper cautions that problems lie ahead: a) a growing gap between rich and poor; b) the inequality between women and men in income; c) poor environmental policy; d) a growing concern for farmers; e) a failing health care system; and f) a crumbling urban infrastructure.

Are Wage Supplements the Answer to the Problems of the Working Poor?

This paper explores the notion of wage supplementation in Canada as a solution to the high levels of failure to reach the poverty-income line (as defined by Statistics Canada).

Bringing Minimum Wages Above the Poverty Line

Stuart Murray and Hugh Mackenzie argue that raising the minimum wage across all Canadian provinces to $10 an hour is possible and necessarily fair. They report that since the minimum wage hit an all-time low between 1984-1990, it has remained stagnant with only minimal increases.

Canada’s Social Contract: Evidence from Public Opinion

This article by Matthew Mendelsohn provides “a detailed synthesis of the last ten years of Canadian public opinion data on what Canadians think about the social contract”, specifically how Canadians are “reconciling pressures for competitiveness, innovation, efficiency, and globalization, with the traditional view of a sharing and caring Canadian identity.” Mendelsohn finds that Canadians are overwhelmingly internationalist, open to immigration and integration, and manifest a strong sentiment of social solidarity and of belonging to the Canadian state. They have, however, moved away from the traditional left by becoming more open to trade liberalization and being committed to the maintenance of a balanced budget.

COEP: Brazilian organizations

In this international community story, Ann Simpson discusses COEP – the Comitê de Entidades no Combate à Fome e Pela Vida (“Committee of entities Against Hunger and For Life”) – a Brazilian network that mobilizes organizations to combat hunger and poverty.

Cost Shift: How British Columbians are Paying for Their Tax Cut

As Sylvia Fuller and Lindsay Stephens describe in Cost Shift: How British Columbians are Paying for Their Tax Cut, the first order of business for the newly elected Liberal government in BC was a massive tax cut. According to Fuller and Stephens, the cuts have left a massive gap in government revenue. The authors argue this revenue gap, in tandem with the Liberals’ campaign promise to produce a balanced budget by 2004-05, has necessitated spending cuts to a number of programs. In addition to these cuts, Fuller and Stephens claim the government has engaged in ‘cost-shifting,’ transferring the expense of various services and programs from the public to individuals, families and employers.

Engaging Disenfranchised Groups in Urban Health

Sherri Torjman presented this paper at the International Conference on Urban Health held in Boston in October 2004. She addressed the issue of urban health and disenfranchised groups from the perspective of the Vibrant Communities project.

Framing the Canadian Social Contract: Integrating Social, Economic and Political Values Since 1940

This report by Greg Clarke and David Laycock lays out an “analytical framework for understanding key dimensions of post-war thinking about the implicit Canadian social contract.” The social contract entails for the authors, among other things, the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and Canada’s sense of responsibility towards the rest of the world. The authors subsequently outline the three major social contract models in Canadian public discourse as well as the trade-offs each entails.

Getting the Balance Right: Saskatchewan Alternative Budget, 2006-07

This alternative Saskatchewan budget, presented by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, focuses on three areas that the Centre considers undervalued: economic security, health services, and education.

Maintaining Investment in Nova Scotians: Alternative Provincial Budget 2006-2007

According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the Nova Scotian provincial government underestimates its surpluses. This propensity for underestimation stifles debate on how public funds should be distributed, and thereby diminishes the opportunities available to improve services and infrastructure.

Moving Forward: Alternative Federal Budget 2006

Analyzing the federal Conservative minority platform, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives presents an alternative federal budget that honours commitments to prior parliamentary decisions (including child care, First Nations, cities and Kyoto), improves the lives of Canadians, and meets international obligations (including aid commitments)

Negotiating Without a Floor: Unionized Worker Exclusion from BC Employment Standards

This report by David Fairey and Simone McCallum examines the consequences for unionized workers in British Columbia since the changes to the Employment Standards Act (ESA) in 2002.

Ontario's Growing Gap: Time for Leadership

Using a 30-year period beginning in the 1970s, Armine Yalnizyan’s report examines the income gap between the richest 10 percent and poorest 10 percent of Ontario families with children under 18.

Policy Development and Implementation in Complex Files: Lessons from "Vibrant Communities"

Developed by the Canada School of Public Service for its Special Studies series, this case study is intended as training material for federal public servants.

Rags and Riches: Wealth Inequality in Canada

Steve Kerstetter’s report Rags and Riches: Wealth Inequality in Canada analyzes Statistics Canada data on the net worth (total assets minus total debts) of Canadians. Kerstetter’s report concludes that Canada has a deeply unequal distribution of personal wealth. His analysis compares personal wealth according to a number of different factors, including region, age, housing status, and education. Kerstetter finds that in 1999 the wealthiest 10 percent of Canadian family units had a combined 53 percent of the wealth, while the poorest 10 percent had negative average wealth. Perhaps more shocking, Kerstetter maintains, in the same year the wealthiest 50 percent of family units had 94.4 percent of Canadian personal wealth.

Reflections on Vibrant Communities

In this paper, Eric Leviten-Reid discusses the progress made to date in Vibrant Communities, a pan-Canadian initiative that seeks local solutions to reduce poverty.

Standing Up for Which Families? Who Benefits from the Conservative Tax Cut Promises

Block and Russell present a challenge to the federal Conservative Party’s promise to “stand up for families,” suggesting that Conservative policy has resulted in a divide, with some families benefiting more than others.

The Global Divide: Inequality in the World Economy

In The Global Divide: Inequality in the World Economy, Marc Lee, of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, contends that the growing global gap between rich and poor is one of the most pressing issues of our time. Lee discusses two forms of inequality – inequality between nations and within them. He asserts that growing interconnections as a result of globalization mean that inequality is cause for concern in wealthier nations. The driving force behind inequality, according to Lee, is neo-liberal economic policy – privatization, restrictive fiscal and monetary policies, and financial liberalization – proposed by rich countries as the “cure” for the plight of the poor. Lee concludes by calling for radical changes in the economic order, changes he believes will address global inequality.

The Key to Tackling Child Poverty: Income Supports to Meet Their Needs and Assets to Support Their Future

In 1989, the House of Commons unanimously agreed to eliminate child poverty in Canada by the year 2000. However, as Jennifer Robson-Haddow points out, approximately 15.6 percent of Canadian children live in poverty (2001 census) and the gap between rich and poor Canadians is widening.

Towards a Solutions Budget for BC

Towards a Solutions Budget for BC calls for the 2002 British Columbia budget to avoid proposed tax and spending cuts and, instead, investments in provincial social programs and long-term future. The authors assert the Government of British Columbia’s plan to cut taxes and spending is flawed because: 1) the “fiscal crisis” experienced by the Province is the result of the Government’s massive tax cuts; 2) the decrease in both tax cuts and spending at the same time increases inequality by disproportionately affecting low-income residents; 3) the timing of the cuts is awful because the BC economy is in recession; and, 4) the Government’s plan is “a high-stakes gamble” with unsure results. The paper contends that if the Government follows through on its proposal the result will be a reduced standard of living for British Columbians. Finally, the paper concludes with a series of budgetary proposals – including investment in the resource sector, greater funding for social services, and democratization of the public sector – prescriptions to overcome the recession and improving the standard of living for all British Columbians.

Upstairs, Downstairs and in Between: The Assets and Debts of British Columbians

Upstairs, Downstairs and in Between: The Assets and Debts of British Columbians, by Steve Kerstetter, of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, concludes that a sizeable portion of BC’s population has debts larger than their assets. Drawing on Statistics Canada’s Survey of Financial Security, Kerstetter looks at three distinct population groups: 1) ‘downstairs’ (the poorest 20 percent); 2) the middle 20 percent; and, 3) ‘upstairs’ (the richest 20 percent). He finds that only those in the ‘upstairs’ group are financially secure enough to weather major economic shocks.

We Can’t Afford Poverty: Ontario Alternative Budget 2006

In a response to the March 2006 Ontario provincial budget, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives presented an alternative budget that it suggested would aid in developing a stronger public service system. Financial inequalities, public service deficits, and tax cuts are the three areas of focus.