A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Does Income change the Outcome?

By now you have all seen the OCED report that says “The richest 1% of Canadians saw their share of total income increase from 8.1% in 1980 to 13.3% in 2007”. It was this discrepancy along with the actual amount that the rich take home compared with the average working man that spawned the Occupy movement. Recently questions are being asked, and rightly so, as to if or how this effects our democracy and I will get back to that in a minute. First, so that we can truly see what this divide real means let us look at the actual numbers (as provided by Stats Can for 2009), below is data extracted from two separate Stats Can tables combined for easy comparison and with % columns added. Click on table to enlarge.

Whilst all the dialog has been about the top 1% and the remaining 99% I prefer to take a little broader view. It can be see for instance that only just over 5% of individuals made more than $100,000 whilst the remaining 95% or so are below that threshold. The same column indicates that a full quarter of individuals took home less than $15,000 and that the median income was $28, 840. Please note 'median' is not the same as average, this indicated that an equal number of individuals made more than $28, 840 as did make less. It does not of course show the obscene salaries (and other perks) of those few at the very top but (presumably) includes them in the 'making above $250,000 category!.
A warning here statistics can be spun any which way and are reliant upon the input data so if for instance some of those very low income individuals filed income tax (which is I presume where this data came from) to get the gst rebate and some did not it would skew the numbers, as would the use of offshore accounts and creative bookeeping from the more affluent. Never the less I find it more revealing to look at actual income levels rather than saying the gap is getting wider or the top XX% is getting XX% more than the bottom XX%, that to me is pretty much meaningless!

I have transferred the family incomes to the chart for the same income levels for comparison, make what you wish of them but do note that nearly 10% of FAMILIES bring home less than $25,000. One final note before I move on, the report also says that “Since the mid-1980s, annual hours of low-wage workers fell from 1300 to 1100 hours, while those of higher-wage workers fell by less, from 2200 to 2100 hours.” Its not so much the change that bothers me but the fact that those with low income who NEED the hours cant get them, whilst those who could afford to make room for a few more fellow workers by reducing their hours do not. Not as simple as that perhaps but sharing a job may be better than more on unemployment or welfare?

Any way, my excuse for posting this was to talk about if such disparities of income effect our democracy, I recently heard a discussion on TVO on this very subject where one speaker said yes, the rich (particularly the corporate rich) have greater access to government via lobbying and 'consultation' than do the poor. Another speaker (I believe it was Preston Manning) said that so long as 5 or 6 citizens can form a political party, expand it and develop it into a viable option then democracy is alive and well! Well Preston you may have done that but the party you formed is no longer in existence and conditions today are a far cry from those days, nor does the ability to form a political party constitute all there is to democracy. The ability to spend vast sums of money to publicize and promote your point of view has been clearly shown to be necessary to get the voters to take any notice, a fact that our current government has grasped only too well with their ever expanding 'publicity' department in the PMO and their removal of per vote funding to developing and smaller partys. Additionally, those that are on the upper rungs of the income ladder can better afford to contribute larger sums to the party of their choice than can the guys at the bottom for whom a $50 or $100 donation is a big hunk out of their budget.

So yes, income does indirectly effect our democracy by a disparity of both access and funding to political partys and thus effect both the platform, actions, and media attention of whatever party the rich or poor support gets. Money and the ability to spend on advertizing should not affect the way the population votes and the party who gets to run our government for a while, but it clearly does, and indeed recently did, enough so that the conservatives 'bent the rules' so that they could spend more. Meanwhile just to rub salt into the wound the very services that the folk on the lower end of the ladder, and those who have just been pushed back one more step, need are being cut. “Employment Insurance processing centers are being cut from 120 to 19.” NINETEEN! across the entire country with “The number of unemployed Canadians increasing for the second straight month, climbing by 20,500 to 1,394,700.” I bet these folk believe there is a effect upon democracy and governance by income values!

And that’s the way it looks to this lower income Canadian as service cuts loom, full time jobs disappear, and banks and corporations report increasing profits and I feel helpless to effect the choices that various levels of government are making.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

you are absolutely right! thanks for your post..