Huffington Post: Inequality exists, now what?

*The following is an excerpt from a blog posted on the Huffington Post this week.  CWP Executive Director Rob Rainer writes about the presence of inequality in Canada and challenges Canadians to move forward asking ‘now what?’

Spiked by public attention to the Occupy phenomenon, 2011 was the year in which the issue of income and wealth inequality mainstreamed in Canada. Witness: Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney called the Occupy demonstrations “entirely constructive.” Jeffrey Simpson, perhaps the land’s top newspaper columnist, wrote about inequality. The Conference Board of Canada released a significant report.

On January 6, Jeffrey Simpson wrote further to say that, “it’s imperative that political actors put the issue front and centre on the national agenda.” The NDP leadership race, at least, is embracing the challenge, for example Brian Topp’s plan for federal tax reform.

So let’s herald a little good news: Inequality is on the public and political radar.

And let’s review a few facts:

• Between 1976 and 2009 only the richest 20 per cent of Canadians increased their share of national income.
• At a finer scale, in 2008 the average income of the top 10 per cent ($103,500) was 10 times higher than that of the bottom 10 per cent ($10,260), representing an increase from an eight to one inequality gap in the early 1990s.
• At a finer scale still, the top one percent (the rage of Occupy) — some 246,000 individuals whose average income is $405,000 — raked in almost a third (32 per cent) of all growth in incomes between 1997 and 2007.
• At the very top, the richest 0.1 per cent — an estimated 24,600 Canadians with minimum income of $621,300 and an average income of $1.49 million — held 5.5 per cent of total income in Canada, up from less than 2 per cent between the 1940s and 1970s.

And so, in her accompanying message to the Conference Board’s report, their President, Anne Golden rightly asked: “What does income inequality say about our values? In short, is it fair?”

To read the full blog post go to the Huffington Post Canada website.