A nice use of Twitter by Citizens for Public Justice last week. A simple graphic tells us that In 1981 in Canada there was a thirty three percent shortfall between average actual poor family income and the generally accepted poverty line. Pretty much the same after adjustment for the passage of time as right now. That’s over a thousand dollars a month and what we at suburban-poverty.com call a punch in the stomache.
Canadian poverty has been traditionally defined by income. What would be the findings if financial assets and net worth were taken into the measurement of poverty alongside tools like the low income cut off or LICO?
Asset poverty is a relatively new concept in Canada. An academic paper published in December 2013 undertook to create a national threshold for this phenomenon in Canada. The researchers found that this more complex look at the security of Canadians indicates many of us are asset poor and would be in difficulty quickly if faced with disruption or reduction of income. Pursuing an asset poverty threshold in fact reveals a rather dire incidence of insecure living in this country. Page ten of the report states:
“…1 in 2 Canadian families lack sufficient financial assets to survive at the LICO line for 3 months”.
With this measuring device, it would seem that insecure living is actually a social norm in Canada.
Definition and measurement of asset poverty in Canada
link to abstract and 24-page .pdf file
Paper by David W. Rothwell, McGill University & Robert Haveman, University of Wisconsin
image: RL Hyde via Wikimedia Commons
Infographics are fantastic things. They function like road maps to keep us from becoming lost in complex issues. Citizens for Public Justice whipped one up last year allowing Canadians to make a speedy and direct comparison of the social welfare system with its possible replacement: a guaranteed income. The GLI or Guaranteed Liveable Income emerges right away as a cheaper and less nasty way for Canadians to look out for those in social difficulty. The immediate cost of a GLI is more than balanced out by the reduction in costs accrued to society for the impact of crime, poor health and poor mental health incurred by social difficulty. Not to mention the bureaucracy and poor efficacy of current social welfare programs. We’re talking about billions of dollars and more importantly, the bedrock quality of life here.
The C in CEO might as well stand for cash. Apparently at lunch time on January 2nd the compensation plans of Canada’s chief executives had already put them beyond the pay of the average worker. Not by a little either.
All in a day’s work? CEO pay in Canada. HIghest paid CEOs make 171 times the average worker Centre for Policy Alternatives
Major polling data has been included in a Toronto Star series that indicates the weakening of the middle class is not exaggerated. The series looks into the matter of social cohesion in Canada from a large-scale, sociological perspective.
image: via Wikimedia Commons
This time last year, inequality seemed to have become a household word in Canada. There had been a modestly good level of media coverage of the way our incomes have been diverging and the effect this has on Canada. That focus seems to have been lost somewhat.
In June of 2012 parliament agreed to an all-party, high level effort to find solutions for the damaging effect of income inequality. The effort was brought to life by a private member’s motion asking the finance committee in the House of Commons to report on possible solutions.
Well, close to a year-and-a-half went by without much happening. Perhaps the government detected a slackening of public interest in the matter of income equality because a grand total of three hearings were held this fall. The final product is called Income Inequality in Canada: an Overview. The representatives of each party involved with the document came up with two dozen recommendations none of which are really radical or noteworthy. The document doesn’t call for legislation or urge any kind of war on poverty and inequality. The report seems to be about tweaks here and there to this and that. In an editorial in Friday’s Toronto Star Carol Goar referred to the report as “pathetic.”
A Tory-dominated government committee was unlikely to produce some anti-poverty manifesto but the document is still remarkably disappointing. Releasing it just as parliament adjourns and the holiday season unfolds was probably a deliberate attempt to dodge formal debate and media attention.
House of Commons income inequality report fails poor Canadians
Citizens for Public Justice
image: Johnathan McIntosh via Wikimedia Commons
What a role model for Canada! Imagine knowing that you and your neighbours would never fall below a certain minimum standard of living ever again. Imagine powerfully bolstering this society against precarious employment, downward mobility, food insecurity, social exclusion, austerity and crime while making it physically healthier and happier. You know, sometimes there are magic bullets and some problems can be solved by throwing money at them.
Concern over inequality seems to have allowed Swiss activists to force a referendum on the basic guaranteed income which would be the equivalent of nearly three thousand Canadian dollars a month. This is dramatic stuff: 120,000 signatures were quickly collected for the petition required to secure the referendum, backed up by the emptying of a twelve-wheeled dump truck full of five cent coins in front of the Swiss parliament in Bern. There were enough coins to represent each of Switzerland’s eight million people. The date for the referendum has not been set but it follows legislation driven by public anger earlier this year that caps executive compensation. Wow! This is a very serious contrast to shut-down America, cut-back Britain and a Canada still deeply in the throes of failed neoconservative policy. We bet many Canadians have no ability even to imagine this kind of prosperity and security.
Swiss vote for sweet minimum monthly wage: $2800
RT.com – see pictures of coin demonstration
Do you want to be well off, young man? Then have your dad get you into his workplace, preferably one he is the owner of. A new study using data from Canada and Denmark, both countries known for comparatively reasonable levels of opportunity and equality, indicates that nepotism is a major strategy for maintaining family wealth and privilege.
Income Inequality, Equality of Opportunity, and Intergenerational Mobility
29-page .pdf file from author Miles Corak’s blog
image: DJ Shin via Wikimedia Commons
Postmedia, an entity at the centre of Canada’s mainstream mass media gets big kudos from suburban-poverty.com today. Through a freedom of information request they went after a presentation given to the country’s federal Minister of Neo-Conservative Finance just recently and got hold of a copy. That’s what you call journalism, everybody! The presentation ought to concern all Canadians, including the government officials we privilege with leadership roles. The topic was middle class crisis. The rich are doing well here and even the poorest have caught some teensy little breaks lately. The middle class? Not so hot, they are dying under their debt loads. Jim Flaherty got a full-on briefing on this matter in October.
image: Joshua Sherurcij via Wikimedia Commons
When it comes to wielding a skill set that defines reality it is usually hard to beat the accountants. The Certified General Accountants Association of Canada have just shown us ourselves in the form of a new report. The bacon-and-eggs therein consist of the fact that a third of us merely live from one paycheque to the next. The cost of living and aspirational consumption is preventing many of us from saving any money at all.
In a word: precarity.
Nothing new really, including the fact this is worrisome and that for most of us this kind of insecurity still seems contrary to the very idea of life here in a prosperous, peaceful, youthful, developed country like this one still is intended to be.
Building nest egg not a high priority for most Canadians cga-canada.org
See also: (282) It’s more than poverty
image: Canadian Tire money by Shuki via Wikimedia Commons