Sunday, February 23, 2014
Canada's Mythical Middle Class and the Quislings of Parliament Hill
The government likes to say it's all about the middle class. So, too, the opposition parties. On Parliament Hill it seems Canada's middle class is virtually surrounded by a sea of friends, each clamouring to outdo the other to lend a hand, give a leg up. With friends like that in high places, those of the middle class can surely look forward to a bright and prosperous future.
Except that it's a load of crap.
An internal report prepared for the Harper government by Employment and Social Development Canada and pried out of the cold dead Tory hands by Canadian Press via a freedom of information demand, paints a much different, far less rosy picture of the state of Canada's middle class and the future that awaits them.
"The wages of middle income workers have stagnated," it says, referring to the period from 1993 to 2007. "Middle-income families are increasingly vulnerable to financial shocks."
The document, drawing on three years of "internal research," was prepared for the department's deputy minister, Ian Shugart, shortly before the resumption of Parliament last fall.
"In Canada, political parties are making the middle class a central piece of their agendas," notes the presentation.
"The market does not reward middle-income families so well," says the report. "As a result, they get an increasingly smaller share of the earning's pie" compared with higher-income families.
The Cheney-inspired, neo-conservative government of Harper, Flaherty, Oliver et al, seem happy enough to watch the middle class devolve into an American-style 'precariat' while the spoils of their labour increasingly accrue to the wealthy. Mulcair and Trudeau, with their pledge not to increase taxes, appear to be walking in lockstep with Harper.
"Over the medium term, middle-income Canadians are unlikely to move to higher income brackets, i.e., the 'Canadian dream' is a myth more than a reality."
When judging the culpability of our parliamentarians for this deplorable condition, remember this. Most inequality today and most of the stagnation of the middle class isn't market-driven or merit-based. It is legislated, the creature of statutes written and passed on Parliament Hill. Harper knows it. Mulcair knows it. Trudeau, unless he's an idiot, knows it. It's about time we got some straight talk from these characters - not from Harper of course but at least from our own.