Ed Broadbent: Inequality’s a problem for Canada, too
I don’t know whether it’s smugness or indifference, but we Canadians can be a self-deluding lot. Growing inequality, portrayed recently in The Economist as a global scourge, when viewed from Canada, seems to be a problem only for others.
After all, it was other countries’ banks that crashed in 2008. It’s in southern Europe that tens of thousands are taking to the streets. And it was in France and the United States that recent elections were fought over the fact that those who created the mess, the top 1 per cent, are still getting big bonuses and low tax rates.
Well, guess what? Canada is not doing better. From 1982 until 2004, almost all growth in family income went to the top 20 per cent, with much of that going to the top 1 per cent, while the bottom 60 per cent saw no growth at all. The increase in inequality in Canada since the mid-1990s has been the fourth highest in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
But does this matter? Yes, the evidence is in, and the conclusion is clear: Inequality does matter. In terms of social outcomes, more equal societies do better for everyone, not just for the poor, in almost every respect: health outcomes, life expectancy, level of trust in society, equality of opportunity and upward social mobility. A recent study showed that if Americans want to experience the American Dream of upward mobility, they should pack up and move to Sweden. They would have to leave the most unequal democracy and move to the most equal.