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Workers at Ottawa's Salvation Army shelter ask for a living wage

Photo: PSAC-NCR | AFPC-RCN/Flickr
Workers at Ottawa's Salvation Army shelter say it is increasingly difficult to work for poverty wages.

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The commodification of children's play

Photo: Fiona L Cooper/Flickr
What are the implications for children and their caregivers when access to play spaces is limited?

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Unions are key to fighting inequity for all workers

The people who have been occupying financial districts in Canadian and American cities are motivated by anger over the glaring economic unfairness that exists in our society. The labour movement welcomes what these young people camping outdoors in tents are saying -- because we have said the very same thing for many years.



The growth of extreme inequality in Canada

There was always skepticism about claims that, as the rich became richer, income would "trickle down" to others. What wasn't perhaps foreseen was that the trickling would actually be in the other direction, and that it would be more of a torrent than a trickle.

But the evidence is now clear. Over the last three decades, the tables of the rich have overflowed, with barely any scraps falling off. On the contrary, there's been a massive transfer of income and wealth from Canada's middle and lower class to the rich.

The result is that Canada has become a highly unequal society.


Improving social well-being would reduce health-care costs

Governments are still reeling from recession-induced deficits, but now their attention is turning to another fiscal elephant marching into the room: the coming renegotiation of federal-provincial transfer payments. The Canada Health Transfer (CHT) expires in 2014, and must be extended soon. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty plans to clamp down on transfers to reduce his own deficit. But that just passes the buck to the provinces, whose fiscal position is even worse.

As this debate heats up, there's a new piece of knowledge that should be considered carefully as finance ministers arm-wrestle. Since the CHT was implemented in 2004, researchers around the world have established a whole new field of scientific knowledge regarding the social determinants of health.


We need inspired political leadership to champion greater equality

Nobody ever accused Barack Obama of having too stiff a spine.

Even so, there is something crushingly disappointing about reports last week that the U.S. president is likely to retreat from his promise to cancel George W. Bush's tax cuts for the rich.

Such a capitulation to the Republicans would concede defeat before the battle to achieve greater equality and to "spread the wealth around" is even waged. The audacity of hope seems to have turned into a readiness to choke.

Obama's promise was a modest one -- to push the top marginal tax rate from 35 per cent back up to its Clinton-era level of 39 per cent.


Time to kick over the prevailing orthodoxy in economic thought

Something is seriously wrong with the economy, here and abroad. By now, the Canadian mainstream media should have recognized it. Instead, we get reassurances from business sources about "recovery" being just around the corner.

In Canada, the U.K., and the U.S., experts offer the same failed analysis (government failed), and governments propose the same discredited solutions (reduce deficits).


Restoring inheritance tax could raise education revenue

Almost 40 years ago, Ottawa quietly cancelled Canada's estate tax.

Few Canadians even knew about the tax. Those who did mostly belonged to a small number of wealthy families who were rich enough to pay it. With its cancellation in 1972, this tiny crowd was suddenly a lot richer.

U of T economist John Bossons calculated that ending the tax amounted to a windfall of about $12 billion ($62 billion in today's dollars) for Canada's wealthiest families.

The removal of the estate tax, which remains an obscure event in Canadian history, had momentous implications, depriving Ottawa of revenue and putting Canada on a path toward greater inequality.

Summit power politics, fancy formulae and the madness of crowds

Bleeding Earth Protected By Love -- Painting by Jane Marlo Nerenberg -- Age 4

At the height of the 1999 World Trade Organization ministerial meeting in Seattle, just as the proceedings were being suffocated by tens of thousands of street protesters, Pascal Lamy, then the EU's trade commissioner and now WTO director general, pronounced that what the world was witnessing in Seattle was "a medieval process."

Within earshot of Monsieur Lamy, legions of baton-totting gladiatorial robocops smacked their shins in unison. The Seattle Trade and Convention Center, from which M. Lamy uttered those words, had become a hollow fortress as the riotous discontents outside drew a line, ate Roquefort, and whacked a few store fronts.



Canada's best economic policy option: Inequality reduction

Since the early 1980s, Canadian economic policy has consisted of introducing market-friendly policies. The stated goal was to increase productivity, defined as output per person-hour worked. Reliance on markets has not produced the expected results.

Speaking to the Ottawa Economics Association this spring, Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney put a pointed question to Canadian business leaders. Given all the measures put in place by successive governments to promote productivity, why is business failing to invest?

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