01/13/2015 12:33 EST | Updated 03/15/2015 05:59 EDT

Why Are Harper and Couillard Completely Silent on Growing Income Inequalities?

In the past few days, you may have seen the reports on the hardships experienced by the rich in Canada, as 2015 begins. There are a number of elements that confirm just how heavy their burden is... And they must be grateful for the Canadian and Québec governments that are working hard to lighten their load!

First, Canada's top 100 CEOs earned on average $9.2 million in 2013, a 25 per cent increase over the period from 2008 to 2013 inclusively! The RDI French-language TV news service reported on a study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA). During the same period, the average salary in Canada rose by 12 per cent (or slightly less than half) and that of the average public-sector worker rose by 8.5 per cent.

According to the CCPA study reported by RDI, by 11:41 a.m. on January 2, 2015, these top CEOs had earned what most Canadians make in a year! Even if we concede that these men work very, very hard and we acknowledge their contribution, how could that be squared with earning an average Canadian worker's annual salary in less than 36 hours after New Year's? And the Couillard government's economic trio is working tirelessly to further reduce their contribution to the community. It's an incredible mockery.

The CCPA has set up a pay clock on its web site, comparing in real time how much Canadians are earning, on average, in relation to CEOs. You can check the site regularly here for up-to-the-minute developments in how much CEOs are making over the year.

The CCPA report is full of interesting facts. The Royal Bank CEO earns 322 times the salary of a teller. (Before the end of New Year's Day, he had already made what a Royal Bank teller earns in a year.) The Loblaws CEO (who has been locking out his workers at his stores in Abitibi-Témiscamingue for more than two years now) earns 422 times the salary of a Loblaws cashier. By suppertime on January 1, the Loblaws CEO had already earned the annual salary of his employees who operate the tills to pay his salary!

It is also interesting to note that 43 per cent of CEOs, who can afford to pay for their retirement without other contributions, have set up defined benefits pension plans that will provide them $1.9 million every year from the time they turn 65.

Less than 11 per cent of the general population has a defined benefits pension plan, in stark contrast with a full 43 per cent of the wealthiest in our society. But the Couillard government is doing absolutely nothing to improve the lot of the 89 per cent who are excluded; on the contrary, it is attacking the 11 per cent who still have a defined benefits plan and is enhancing the situation of the most affluent.

While Couillard and Harper find the "courage" to attack workers, starting with those in the public sector, they are completely silent when it comes to the growing social and economic inequalities. Worse still, they are working actively to heighten those inequalities!

In our video message over the holidays, I indicated that we hoped this would be a time to think about better ways of sharing our immense wealth. I still think it is the basic mandate of any government to see to it that inequalities are not intensified, and indeed are reduced. And in the public eye, the current levels of inequality are far from acceptable.

The population as a whole, including unionized workers, must show leadership if we want our government to change course. The government is ignoring experts' advice that it's heading in the wrong direction, and is forging ahead with policies that will directly lead to greater inequalities.

For those who like a major challenge, 2015 will offer us one of the biggest we've faced since the 1950s. It's time to roll up our sleeves and take up the challenge!

Here's to the New Year in 2015!


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