Monday, November 05, 2012

It's No Longer a Gap, It's a Chasm

Carol Goar, in today's Toronto Star, writes that two recent reports highlight the new solitudes in Canadian society. One report comes from the Toronto Dominion Bank, the other from Food Banks Canada. TD proclaims:

“Canadian corporate balance sheets are solid as a rock,” the bank assured its clients in a special report. “Unlike households and governments, companies are less vulnerable today than they were heading into the 2007-2008 financial crisis.”

Food Banks Canada reports that:

Food bank use has increased 31 per cent since the economy plunged into recession four years ago and it continues to climb. In the past 12 months alone, an additional 20,000 Canadians turned to charity to eat.

The contrast couldn't be starker. Goar writes:

The two snapshots — one from a Bay Street office tower, one from a Mimico warehouse — depict starkly different Canadas. Not only are they separated by a yawning income chasm. Their priorities and values are so far apart that there is no common ground, no basis for conversation.

These reports have been made public as the House of Commons gets set to approve the Canada-China trade treaty which, the government admits, first and foremost protects investors from both countries. And this week Stephen Harper is in India trying to drum up the same kind of agreement. It's pretty clear whose interests Mr. Harper is promoting:

Until about a decade ago, politicians acted as a bridge between the two Canadas. They accepted their responsibility to speak for all of their constituents regardless of socio-economic class or political allegiance. Today, MPs and MPPs have abandoned that role — with a few honourable exceptions — leaving it to think-tanks, social agencies, unions, voluntary organizations, a few progressive economists and a handful of concerned public figures.

Mr. Harper claims that he is creating jobs. But the Food Banks report offers some insight into the kinds of jobs he is creating -- "18% of employed Canadians -- almost one in five -- earn less than $17,000 a year."

 No country can sustain this kind of inequality.


Lorne said...

I read the article this morning, Owen, and as I wrote in my blog, I feel that my participation as a volunteer at a local foodbank is ultimately counter-productive since foodbanks, while necessary given the current climate, are ultimately making it easier for governments to ignoring the growing poverty in our midst. It seem that they would like us to return to a Victorian model of charity, when it was largely left to the goodwill of churches and individuals to meet the needs of the poor.

Anonymous said...

The country and Harper will survive. The Canadian citizens won't.

Harper has already sold huge chunks of the tar sands to China. They are bringing their cheap labor to work their tar sands. China is going to build the Enbridge pipeline, very quickly and very cheaply. China will own the pipeline. Harper very kindly will maintain the pipeline for China. The refining jobs also go to China. All company's can hire cheap labor. If China owns the rest of the tar sands. Who will get the jobs? Canadians or the Chinese?

Gordon Campbell gave China our BC mines. 2000 Chinese are going to work those mines. Campbell has already shipped BC mills to China, along with the raw logs. The jobs in BC, are also for cheap Chinese labor.

The U.S. owns some of the mines, going into Northern BC. They too bring their own people to work in Canada.

The U.S. dismantled the old smelter in Kitimat. They are also building the new smelter. They brought their own workers.

If China owns any of the new mines, they too will bring their own workers.

Canada is being divided up between the U.S. and Communist China. The border deal between the U.S. and Canada has been signed. Read: Harper gives a speech in New York, at the Council of Foreign Relations. This was, Sept 25/2007.

Jobs in Canada, are not for Canadians. They are for, China, Ireland, Poland, the U.S. and for all cheap foreign labor.

"Temporary labor", will be in Canada until 2040

Owen Gray said...

Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses? Your post this morning was excellent, Lorne.

One wishes that the ghost of John Diefenbaker, who -- whatever his faults -- had more sympathy for the common man and woman than do his inheritors, would visit Stephen Harper as the ghost of Conservatives Past.

Owen Gray said...

As far as the Harper government is concerned, Anon, all labour is temporary and too expensive.

These folks are determined to render labour powerless.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

For an explanation of income inequality in Canada you might enjoy reading this article.

In the post war years up until 1980 the average citizen could expect his income to double every 20 years. Since 1980 incomes have hardly changed in real terms.

Need I point out that not only is the average wage not increasing there is a real effort to shrink people's income (so Canada can be more competitive) with wage and benefit cuts. Unions are partially frustrated in their effort to resist this by anti-union government that change the rule of the game.

Beijing York said...

Even the NDP have failed on this front by jettisoning all references to workers in their policies and platforms of the past 2 decades.

This prolonged attack on labour has led to this sad state. The free market left unfettered does not create great jobs or provide security. Their goal is to keep shares high, create unprecedented profits and offshore their gains whenever possible.

The Mound of Sound said...

I guess what Carol Goar points out is that the pressure continues to build. Inequality is corrosive of the middle class and dangerously undermines social cohesion. Sort of like that subduction fault thingee that's building underneath this very island.

As Nikiforuk writes, Canada has come to behave just like a classic petro-state and this is part of that.

I am reluctantly having to conclude that social upheaval is probably inevitable.

Owen Gray said...

Thanks for the link, Philip. You're absolutely right.

Governments -- particularly the Harper government -- are no longer willing to red circle wages. They want to shrink them -- hence the foreign temporary worker program -- which dictates that those workers must earn 15% less than the going wage -- and thereby lower all wages.

These folks work for the bosses. And, sadly, they believe they are the bosses.

Owen Gray said...

Precisely, Bejiing. This is a return to the unfettered capitalism of the 19th century and the robber barons, who sold Social Darwinism as the way of the world.

Owen Gray said...

I'm inclined to agree with you, Mound.

As Bob Dylan warned forty-five years ago, "It's A Hard, Hard Rain's a Gonna Fall."

gaianicity said...

Carol Goar is one of Canada's best social commentators. It surprised me that she wrote that Canadian politicians weren't speaking up for the poor. That's pretty broad. The NDP have been speaking up about the growing gap for years; the Harper government hasn't. Since Steve has become Canada's Energy Promotion CEO and abandoned his role as a prime minister in a democracy, opposition parties have had a much harder time getting their messages out. Steve has trashed Canada's parliamentary traditions and replaced debate with "Canada's Economic Action Plan and "ethical oil".

Owen Gray said...

The NDP has highlighted Canada's lopsided economy, Gaianicity, stressing the "Dutch Disease" nature of how things now work in Canada. Big salaries exist in Alberta for skilled tradespeople -- but for no one else.

Bob Rae has tried to put inequality front and centre -- something Michael Ignatieff failed to do. We'll see what happens with their new leader.

As for Stephen Harper -- well, his father helped him get his first job. And he has relied on contacts ever since.