Michael Den Tandt writes that the next election will be about the Canadian middle class. Justin Trudeau has made it his mantra. And now the Conservatives -- as they try to take the focus off Mike Duffy and friends and talk instead about "consumers first" -- will try to make it theirs. Den Tandt writes that rhetoric about the long suffering middle class is not just political hot air:
This problem is already giving Canadian politicians night sweats, driving their future planning and shouldering other issues — climate change, to name one — into the ditch. And it dictates that Federal Election 2015, to the extent it revolves around policy at all, will be about the one remedy to income inequality/stagnation that is both politically feasible and economically sound: education. Education, skills training and “strategic” learning are about to become the dominant buzzwords in Canadian politics.
Stagnating middle class incomes is a world wide problem. Mr. Harper likes to trumpet his claim that Canada is a world economic leader. But, when Canada is compared to other countries, the data give us no reason to cheer:
In Divided We Stand, the OECD’s 2011 examination of income inequality across the developed world from the mid-1980s through 2008, Canada posted average annual household disposable income growth of just 1.1%, versus the OECD average of 1.7%. Australia, by contrast, racked up an impressive 3.6%. Other countries outperforming Canada included the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Norway, Ireland, Israel, the Czech Republic, Finland, Luxembourg, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, Portugal and Chile.
One obvious solution is to raise taxes on the wealthy. Den Tandt predicts that none of the major parties will go there. That's curious because, as income inequality has risen, taxes have fallen. And there is the simple demand for social justice. Linda McQuaig has made it an issue in her campaign; but Tom Mulcair moved quickly to take that idea off the table.
The middle class may be front and centre. But social justice isn't.