A living wage is a fair deal

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by Lorraine Rekmans

In response to Willem Van Dam’s comment that “The Greens argue that the state should exercise its power to curtail the individual rights to these freedoms.” I say, the Green Party does not argue that the state should curtail individual rights and freedoms. The Green Party proposals are being mis-cast. There is no basis for claims that the Green Party would advocate unconstitutional proposals that would violate the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

At this point in our history, it is evident that our current economic system and our fiscal policy is deficient. This is evident in a number of ways, as we have noted that many of our institutions are underfunded, our food banks are overwhelmed, and people generally are not being paid a living wage. More and more Canadians are slipping into poverty and sliding out of the middle class. Many political parties in Canada are developing policies targeted to revitalizing the middle class.

Evidence shows many minimum wage jobs are part time, and, as a result, many employees must work several jobs with different employers to reach a full-time work week. This was the case with the PSWs, who would move from long term care facility to long term care facility just to make a full week’s wage.

A recent report from the Centre for Policy Alternatives concluded that minimum wage was insufficient to provide workers with anything more than a ‘subsistence wage’, and did not reflect the cost of living.

My sense of Mr. Van Dam’s comments is that he is talking about an economic system where, “if you just pull yourself up by your bootstraps, and work harder, you will fare better.” These days are long past us, as we live in a new economic reality where the wealth just doesn’t trickle down and the wealth distribution gap continues to grow.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer issued a report this June that tells us that the top 0.5 per cent of Canadian families hold 20.5 per cent, or $2.4 trillion, of the wealth, up from the previous estimate of 9.2 per cent. Canada’s total GDP in 2018 was approximately $226 trillion. Last September, the federal NDP proposed a one per cent annual wealth tax on fortunes worth more than $20 million, claiming it could raise nearly $70 billion over the next 10 years. Unlike a tax on income, a wealth tax would apply to all assets, including real estate, with the aim of reducing financial inequality among Canadians.

There is much untapped revenue that we could have access to with tax reforms; however, we need the political will to do it. The Green Party of Canada submitted its platform to the Parliamentary Budget Officer for review in 2019, and the costing of all proposals was found to be possible.

The last time Canada underwent any serious review and examination of monetary policy was in 1933, when the Prime Minister set up a Royal Commission to study “the organization and working of our entire banking and monetary system. This is what led to the creation of the Bank of Canada. The Green Party has also proposed a review of our tax system.

The Bank of Canada was an essential made-in-Canada tool that helped navigate us out of the Depression, where we used Canadian money to build our national infrastructure. The Bank of Canada is responsible for four principal functions: to manage the country’s money supply; to act as the federal government’s agent in issuing its bonds and managing its holdings of foreign currencies; to manage various monetary policies that can influence the performance of the economy, such as interest rates; and to manage the overall financial industry in Canada and economic relations with other countries and international organizations.

At this moment, the Government of Canada is printing money and selling bonds to the Bank of Canada, Pension Funds, and Investors to raise the capital we will need to navigate through the climate crisis, and this pandemic. The Bank of Canada itself is conducting a survey of the public on its mandate. I am happy to see Mr. Van Dam takes issue with the high interest we pay on servicing our debt to private banks, as I share the same concern. I have long advocated for the use of the Bank of Canada to fund the needs of Canadians and protect us from privatized financial institutions where our public assets may be put at risk.

Relegating people to an unlivable income in this crisis is a recipe for future social disasters. In many ways, the CERB is much like a Guaranteed Livable Income; however, there is no comparison to be made at this time, because of the pandemic where people simply cannot work. In Dauphin, Manitoba, in the 1970s, the first pilot project on a GLI left us with results that might surprise people. The project found that people would actually work, or volunteer, when they received the income supplement.

As a Green Party member, I have studied this issue for many years, and my opinion is still that we must strive for a comfortable standard of living for all, and that we have the means to do it.

When Graham F. Towers, the first Governor of the Bank of Canada, was asked, “Would you admit that anything physically possible and desirable, can be made financially possible? He answered, “Yes.”

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