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Canada's performance on inequality, poverty, environment 'very troubling': NUPGE

Canada's poor efforts in dealing with income inequality, poverty, and the environment are "very troubling," the head of National Union of Public and General Employees said today.

A news release issued on February 5 by NUPGE quoted its national president, James Clancy as saying "The failure to tackle these issues has profound implications in terms of fairness, opportunity and security for all Canadians."

A new report by the Conference Board of Canada, called How Canada Performs: A report card on Canada, evaluates Canada's quality of life and compares it to a number of peer countries.

The report examines data from 17 countries across six performance categories and issues a report card on each one: Economy, Innovation, Environment, Education and Skills, Health, and Society.

When it comes to the Society Report Card, Canada gets an uninspiring "B" grade on overall social performance. Canada's middle-of-the-pack ranking means "it is not living up to its reputation or its potential," says the Conference Board.

Clancy emphasized four key consequences of income inequality:

• Poor economic performance: You can't build a strong, stable and sustainable economy with a shrinking middle class and a majority of workers facing stagnant wages and losing good jobs while the cost of living is rising;

• Social and health costs: Lower life expectancy rates; higher infant mortality rates; more violent crime and imprisonment; more cases of mental illness and addictions; lower literacy and math scores;

• Social divisions: Less social capital (e.g. less trust, empathy, mutual responsibility, social connectedness); social cohesion breaks down and a country becomes unable to deal with the most pressing collective problems it is facing; and

• Undermines democracy: A tiny elite effectively purchase laws, regulations and policies that work in its favour; people lose faith in democracy, political and civic participation decreases, and people lose confidence in public institutions.

The Conference Board's report has also been discussed in The Ottawa Citizen and the Victoria Times-Colonist.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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