Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The rich and the rest of us

The Sudbury Star:

Income inequality is growing in Canada, and with that growth comes a series of social problems for ordinary Canadians who are having more trouble than ever before to make ends meet.

That was the message at The Rich and the Rest of Us, a panel discussion that included a number of union leaders representing public and private workers in Ontario, at the United Steelworkers Union Hall on Tuesday night.

"Income inequality, we believe, is the most serious problem facing Ontarians today, and indeed Canadians," said James Clancy, president of the National Union of Public and General Employees.

Clancy and Janet Gasparini, executive director of the Social Planning Council of Sudbury, led off a wide-ranging discussion on social inequality, with about 500 people in attendance and another 2,000 listening in on a conference call.

Clancy said there are three key factors that have led to great income inequality in Canada. The first is what he called the attack against labour rights from various levels of government. The second was Canada's lack of a modern industrial strategy. The final factor, according to Clancy, was Canada's unfair tax system that benefits the ultra rich and leaves the middle class to pick up the brunt of the tax burden.

Gasparini said underfunded social programs make social mobility very difficult for people who find themselves in the lowest income bracket and make less than $10,000 a year.

"There's more than enough money, but it's in the wrong hands," said Clancy. He added social programs to help get people out of poverty could easily be supported if corporations paid their fair share of taxes.

He said about $1 trillion of Canadian corporate money sits in offshore accounts that are completely tax-free.

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