Jock Finlayson’s article “Income inequality not a problem in Canada” misses the point. Just because inequality in Canada is somewhat lower than in the U.S. (the Western world’s most unequal country) doesn’t mean we don’t have a serious problem.
The small decline in the share of income going to the top one per cent Finlayson focuses on does not erase three decades of growing inequality. Canada’s top one per cent are taking home a much higher share of the income pie today than they did in the early 1980s (45 per cent higher, to be exact).
Moreover, the social programs that have kept inequality lower in Canada than in the U.S. are being eroded as tax cuts have undermined our government’s ability to act in the public interest. Recently, the Conference Board of Canada, a business think tank, reported that B.C. is budgeting to spend $1.6 billion less on education and $1.8 billion less on health care than what would be needed to maintain a constant level of service over the next three years, accounting for inflation and population growth. In their efforts to post artificial budget surpluses, our provincial and federal governments are making cuts that can only worsen income inequality and reduce social mobility going forward.
Instead of patting ourselves on the back for not being the most unequal country in the rich world, we should be asking what we need to do differently to catch up with the many OECD countries that are doing better than us.
This letter to the editor was sent to both the Vancouver Sun and the Province, since both newspapers published the same article by Jock Finlayson (here and here). My letter was published in the Vancouver Sun (here).