The annual retreat of senior managers of the federal Department of Finance took place in Cornwall, Ontario this year on the theme of Social Policy in the New Economy. AIMS President Brian Lee Crowley was a member of a panel of four policy thinkers from across the country who were asked to come and set the stage for the group’s deliberations. Here is an extract from his remarks:
“So we have created a new set of cultural values in which work at the bottom end of the social scale is undervalued, and indeed denigrated, whether through creating conditions in which it pays better not to work than it does to work, or through the notion that there are many kinds of low-paying work that are beneath people’s dignity, and that it is preferable to remain on welfare than to take these jobs – even though they represent exactly the kind of investment in the future that I am arguing is the chief escape route from poverty.
“In fact, we have created the conditions in which low-income people who actually work, who make sacrifices, who save, who believe in the dignity of work, are chumps. As you know, the interaction of the tax system and the total edifice of social welfare programmes in Canada is such that the highest marginal tax rates in the country are paid by people earning roughly $13,000 to $20,000 a year – precisely the people trying to move from low-income to better economic opportunities.”

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