This week, the Globe and Mail launched an in-depth series on income inequality in Canada entitled the Wealth Paradox. The two-week series will investigate various negative impacts of inequality on the lives of Canadians, highlighting how and why unequal societies provide less opportunity, less social mobility and a blinkered democracy.
Income inequality and what to do about it
This is an important – and long overdue – journalistic investment by the self-styled national paper of record, one worth checking out.
Inequality has worsened in Canada as a result of political choices governments have made. But as the series points out, the trend can be reversed with other political choices.
The Globe puts forward several meaningful options, including making Canada's tax system fairer, investing in skills training, boosting support for the working poor and precarious workers, and investing in early childhood education. All worthwhile ideas.
Curiously missing from the list is a discussion of wages and labour rights. The Globe, like other mainstream outlets such as the Economist, duly identify the weakening of unions and the stagnation of wages as an important factor in rising inequality. Strengthening unions, collective bargaining rights and promoting a living wage for all ought to be added to the Globe's policy considerations.
There's no better time to talk about this, given the Harper government is girding for a fight with oganised labour over collective bargaining rights. The Conservative Party just adopted a series of radical policies at its convention that advocate optional union membership, an opt-out provision when it comes to paying for union activities, and so-called "right-to-work" legislation.
Inside the House of Commons, Conservatives are doing their part to advance the same agenda. One bill winding its ways through the legislative process would change the rules for forming and dissolving a union, making it harder to form one and allow a minority (45 per cent vote) to decertify one. Another bill, widely criticized as unconstitutional, seeks to silence unions to requiring every union and union local to post detailed financial reports.
You can't have a national conversation on income inequality without talking about this, because unions contribute an equalizing effect and help to create broad-based prosperity by successfully promoting fair wages, decent working conditions, social programs and public services that benefit all citizens – not just unionized workers.