All the income gains in the past thirty years have gone to the top 10 percent of the population, with 60 percent of all income gains going to the top one percent. Meanwhile, the incomes of everyone else have stagnated or declined.
This stark rise in inequality has produced devastating, far-reaching consequences for our society, leaving millions of Canadians in financially precarious situations, drastically reducing opportunities for young people, undermining our democracy, and stifling our economic potential as a country.
What makes this situation particularly outrageous is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Canada used to be a much more equitable country. In the 1940-1980 period — often referred to as the “Golden Age of Capitalism” — Canada enjoyed its strongest and most sustained period of economic growth, and yet the economic gains were widely shared.
When this began changing in the 1990s, we were told it was due to “globalization,” and that we had no choice but to tighten our belts and learn to do with less if we wanted to compete in the global economy.
But other countries in the developed world – notably Germany and the Scandinavian nations – have remained much more equal societies with strong social programs, and yet they are competing very successfully in the global economy and have been especially resilient since the crash of 2008.
The real cause of rising inequality isn’t globalization, but rather the specific set of right-wing economic policies adopted by both Conservative and Liberal governments over the past thirty years: tax cuts for the rich, social spending cuts, privatization, deregulation and attacks on labour.
Our country is in urgent need of a new public policy agenda, one that advances the interests of working people by, among other things, strengthening minimum wage laws, pensions, employment insurance and protections for unions, while restoring and enhancing essential social programs – including medicare – and creating a fairer tax system.