How Income Inequality Hurts Every Canadian's Change of Building a Better Life

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Via The Globe and Mail.

Canada is at a crossroads. A gap has grown between the middle class and the wealthy. Now, that divide is threatening to erode a cherished Canadian value: equality of opportunity for all. This article is part of The Globe's Wealth Paradox series, a two-week examination into how the wealth divide is shaping Canada's cities, schools, social programs – and even its national sport.

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It is expensive to be poor

Fantastic ‪#‎longread‬ from Barbara Ehrenreich, writing in The Atlantic:

"It’s time to revive the notion of a collective national responsibility to the poorest among us, who are disproportionately women and especially women of color. Until that happens, we need to wake up to the fact that the underpaid women who clean our homes and offices, prepare and serve our meals, and care for our elderly—earning wages that do not provide enough to live on—are the true philanthropists of our society."

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Growing demand on need to tackle income inequality

So, what’s a fair wage ratio between the highest paid employee and the lowest?

A disturbing but fleeting fact graced the news of the day on January second this year. As of 1:11 PM on January 2nd, top CEO compensation had exceeded what the average Canadian worker would earn all year. That average Canadian earned just under $47,000 in 2012. It took the top 100 CEOs of Canada just over a day and a half to earn the same amount.

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Elimination of poverty requires a dedicated plan

Surrounded as we are by the tunes and decorations of the holiday season, Industry Minister James Moore’s recent uncharitable comments about child poverty and hunger invoke inevitable comparisons to Charles Dickens’ famed miser Ebenezer Scrooge. One could easily imagine Scrooge haughtily asking his nephew, “Is it my job to feed my neighbour’s child? I think not.”

The spirit of Moore’s comments offend the many Canadians who do think that if their neighbour’s child goes hungry it ought to concern them, that our responsibility for each other goes beyond the walls of our own homes. The attitude behind such comments is far from admirable, and disappointing to hear voiced by any elected official. It’s a position far from the values of Canadians.

Perhaps more disturbing from the Federal Ministry of Industry, however, is the comment that poverty is not Ottawa’s problem.

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Food security = health

Food security is an essential social determinant of health, among the top four as identified by the Canadian Medical Association earlier this year. Here are a few facts about nutrition and food security from the CMA study:

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‘Super users’ of health care system the target of reforms

Building on local strengths key to cooling medical hot spots

An intriguing idea was recently put forward by the Government of Saskatchewan, that of addressing medical hot spots. It has been reported that just five people were responsible for visiting Saskatchewan emergency rooms over 500 times in the last year. One patient alone is said to have required over one million dollars in health services.

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Upstream: Talking differently about health

Social factors play a significant role in determining whether we will be healthy or ill. Our health care is but one element of what makes the biggest difference in health outcomes. This has been understood for centuries, and empirically validated in recent decades with study after study demonstrating health inequalities between wealthy and disadvantaged populations. 

Yet political conversations about health still tend to fall into familiar traps. When we talk about health we return by reflex to doctors and nurses, hospitals and pharmacies. And when we talk about politics — the field of endeavour with the greatest impact on what determines health outcomes — a narrow and economistic outlook seems to trump any attempts to address those social determinants.

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Canada’s doctors call for action on healthy equity

Doctors link income, education, housing and nutrition to health inequities

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) held its annual General Council in Calgary this week (August 18-21, 2013). Last summer in Yellowknife, I attended this meeting as a representative of Canadian Doctors for Medicare. It was not at all what I’d expected.

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Connect upstream.