Inequality a threat to Canadian society: law professor

Devan C. Tasa, Omega Contributor  Ω

An increasing gulf between the rich and poor is a threat to Canadian society, according to Osgoode Hall tax law professor Neil Brooks.

The TRU Facility Association and the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC hosted Brooks’ presentation in the Irving Barber BC Centre at the University, where he presented his findings, as well as his book on the topic, The Trouble With Billionaires, which he co-authored with journalist Linda McQuaig.

“There has been an enormous increase of inequality in Canada,” said Brooks.

“Wealth has become incredibly concentrated at the top one per cent of Canadians.”

According to Brooks, CEOs made 20-30 times more money than the average worker in 1960, whereas they made 200-300 times more than the average in 2007.

Brooks claims that in an unequal society, the wealthy are advantaged and the poor are disadvantaged.

“At every level of the political policy making process, (the rich) are able to influence it through their wealth,” Brooks said.

Some of those advantages are that they can fund think-tanks, purchase newspapers, and make large donations to political parties.

As for the poor, Brooks said that studies have shown that they are more likely to be less healthy, possess less education, and have less confidence in themselves and their society.

“[I] think something should be done about it,” said Brooks.

Studies have shown that more equal societies have a higher quality of life, more social mobility, higher wages, and higher economic growth.

“The best instrument for dealing with this increasing inequality in income” is to change the tax system so that the wealthy pay more than the poor, said Brooks.

Figures he presented showed that while the bottom ten per cent of Canadians pay a total rate of 30.7 per cent of their income, the top one percent pay 30.5 per cent.

Brooks had some suggestions on how the Canadian government should reform the tax system.

“We should add more brackets to our income tax system for higher income people,” said Brooks.

“And the other thing we should do is introduce a wealth transfer tax.
When rich families give all of their wealth to the next generation, we should have a tax on that transfer of wealth.”