“Last federal election Canadians voted overwhelmingly against policies that fuel income inequality. Now a federal government advisory council is making recommendations that fly in the face of what Canadians voted for.” — Larry Brown, NUPGE President.
Ottawa (09 Feb. 2017) — If the federal government implements many of the recommendations the federal Advisory Council on Economic Growth made this week, income inequality will increase. Among the recommendations are cuts to pensions, supporting the growth of precarious work, greater use of road and bridge tolls, and more “trade deals” that empower corporations and leave workers out in the cold.
“Last federal election Canadians voted overwhelmingly against policies that fuel income inequality. Now a federal government advisory council is making recommendations that fly in the face of what Canadians voted for,” said Larry Brown, President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE). “If the federal government respects the wishes of Canadians, most of the advisory council’s report will be thrown in the recycling bin.”
Pension cut recommendation tip of the iceberg
While the advisory council’s recommendation to increase the age of eligibility for Old Age Security (OAS), the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) and the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) got much of the media coverage, it was just the tip of the iceberg. For low- and middle-income Canadians, pension cuts are only one of the problems with the advisory council’s report.
Increase in precarious work likely consequence of recommendations
One factor driving up income inequality is the growth in precarious work. Workers are classified as “independent contractors” and no longer have pensions, benefits or predictable hours. They are told employment standards legislation doesn’t apply to them.
Instead of looking at how to create good, well-paying jobs, the advisory council seems to want to make the problem of precarious work worse. In their report, the advisory council calls for legislation to “support the growth of the ‘gig economy,’ in which workers are independent contractors.”
“Employers are claiming workers are independent contractors to take away their rights, cut pay and deny them pensions or other benefits,” said Brown. “Any recommendation that supports or facilitates an increase in the number of workers being treated as independent contractors is a recommendation to increase income inequality.”
Recommendation on trade deals bad news for average Canadians
It’s not surprising that an advisory council packed with wealthy investment fund executives is recommending more trade deals. The trade deals the Canadian government has signed recently have less to do with increasing trade than protecting investor profits.
But protection of investor profits comes at the expense of low- and middle-income families. What investors are being protected from are things like measures to protect the environment, protect public health or make prescription drugs affordable.
Calls for sharing border-monitoring will open up private information to U.S.
More surprising is that the advisory council is recommending joint border-monitoring stations with the United States at a time when Donald Trump is issuing racist and religiously based travel bans on people travelling to the United States.
“Joint border-monitoring means we would be associating ourselves with a policy most Canadians find repugnant”, said Brown. “It is also safe to assume that joint facilities would give United States officials more access to private information about Canadians. Most Canadians do not want Donald Trump’s administration to have more access to their personal information.”
Real danger government could implement recommendations
The federal government is already implementing one dangerous recommendation from the advisory council — increased privatization of new infrastructure. Until the federal government makes it clear that it will not be implementing the advisory councils recommendations, we have to assume they could end up as government policy.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE