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Columnists

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.

The humiliation of inequality: An interview with Richard Wilkinson

Richard Wilkinson speaking at The Pursuit of Happiness gathering in Rome to discuss the theories behind his book The Spirit Level, May 2010.

Canada is quickly slipping from its status as an equal and fair society, according to Richard Wilkinson, a British social epidemiologist and Emeritus Professor at the University of Nottingham in England.

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Greater equality is better for everyone: Richard Wilkinson

Call it Unequal Canada -- the national tour. British professor and epidemiologist Richard Wilkinson has packed his first visit to Canada with public meetings, and private sessions with senior government officials and community leaders. His message is powerful, yet simple: Greater equality is better for everyone.

"It's not just the poor, but everyone is worse off in unequal societies," said Canadian statesman Ed Broadbent as he introduced Wilkinson for his sold-out Toronto presentation on Dec. 10. "More equality, not more growth, matters."

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Columnists

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.

Columnists

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?

Columnists

Canada's rapidly growing wealth gap remains off the political agenda. Why?

Photo: v i p e z/flickr

The Onion magazine suggests we should consider the gap between rich and poor the Eighth Wonder of the World -- "a tremendous, millennia-old expanse that fills us with both wonder and humility … the most colossal and enduring of mankind's creations."

Another aspect of the rich-poor gap that has always filled me with wonder is how the rich manage to keep it off the political agenda.

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