Business of Supply – Opposition Motion—Income Inequality

That the House call on the government to take several simple and immediate actions to reduce the growing income inequality in Canada including: (a) a roll back of its recent Employment Insurance Premium hikes which inflict a higher relative burden on low to modest income workers; (b) ending the punitive new claw back of Employment Insurance benefits that are discouraging many Canadians from working while on claim; (c) making tax credits, such as the Family Caregiver Tax Credit, refundable so that low income Canadians are not excluded; (d) making the Registered Disability Savings Plan available to sufferers of chronic diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis; and (e)removing interest charges from the federal component of student loans.

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I was pleased when the hon. member for St. Paul’s mentioned a book that I think is critical to this debate: The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone, by British researchers Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. It is a substantial body of work and its data shows a wide variety of indicators such as rates of violence, successful child rearing, infant mortality, crime and health outcomes.

In every one of the indicators that they checked, wealthy countries like the U.S., U.K. or Canada, where income disparity is wide, they found that people were less well off than in those countries where, relatively speaking, people were more equal. The strength of the middle-class then is a key to our health as a society.

I would like to ask my hon. member what other insight she took from that book.

Hon. Carolyn Bennett: Mr. Speaker, I think the other piece that comes from The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone is the issue of social inclusion, that we are all in this together and it does not pit one level of society against another, as our leader said this morning. This is actually about being all in the same boat and people coming together with their neighbours.

We know that social inclusion is important just as not smoking is to health outcomes. The fact is that inequality begets division and jealousies.

We are calling on the government today to admit the problem of the diminishing middle-class, the bigger gap between the rich and the poor, and the damage that does to our country and to its spirit of getting along.