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Today the CCPA published a great blog post on the land wealth inequality. Using publicly available data from Stats Canada and the Canadian Revenue Authority, Alex Hemingway documents how the rich get richer. This is a BC based analysis of how the boom times have enriched the top 20%, or the top 5% even more.

The concentration of wealth in relatively few hands is difficult to swallow in an allegedly 'democratic', egalitarian country.  The top 20% by net worth own 62% by value of all the real estate designated principal residences; and 80% of all the other real estate (presumably rental, commercial, and industrial). 

On the flip side, the 60% with lowest incomes own only own only 13% of the value in principle residences.

When property values escalate it is clear who gains.  In 2016, Hemingway notes, Vancouver single family properties jumped $47B in market value, roughly equal to the entire provincial budget in that year.  We can estimate that 62% of that or $29B went to the wealthiest 20% of households - and most of it 'tax free'. (@$6B went to the bottom 60% of households!)

The post notes that this inequality is the result of tax treatment, and Hemingway endorses the new speculation tax and new school tax that will require higher value landowners to pay more.  He suggests implementation of a progressive property tax.  Yes, these are good measures, but we should also place a cap on the capital gains tax exemption for principal residences.

The existing tax regime benefits the wealthy because they pay attention and lobby.  Ordinary people have to push for a fairer system.  It is possible to get this tax question on the table for the next Federal election.  It did come up last year

This item from policynote.ca is a call to action for those of us who want to challenge the status quo.  The Provincial government has done the right things so far, but there is more to do. 

 

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Which welfare model should we trial or adopt in BC? How are other countries addressing the welfare needs of their citizens? Here are a few recent announcements:   

  • Finland announced that it is stopping their trial of the Universal Basic Income (UBI) program at the end of 2018.  They are looking into alternative welfare schemes including the Universal Credit model.  
  • Read how the current Universal Basic Income trials are falling short of holding society-changing potential. Is Basic Income being setup to fail? 
  • The United Kingdom introduced a Universal Credit program in 2013,  However, a recent article in the Economist suggests that the roll-out is not going well.  

  What do you think we should be doing in BC?  Add Your Comments...

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Make good on housing commitment!   

The federal Liberal government needs to make good on its promise to declare housing a "fundamental human right" under Canadian law as part of its forthcoming national housing strategy.  Sign the open letter to the Prime Minister calling for a legislated right to housing in Canada.  

Today, over 1.7 million Canadian households are living in unsafe, unsuitable or unaffordable housing without better options available to them.   Widespread homelessness and lack of access to adequate housing, in so affluent a country as Canada is a critical human rights issue facing all levels of government.  Did you know that  Canada made a commitment under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to eliminate homelessness by 2030?  Also, what we heard from the federal government's consultation process over the past few months indicates consensus that legislation must explicitly recognize the right to housing. Draft legislation has been developed by civil society and experts outlining key points for the legislation.  This is the first time that legislation implementing the right to housing has been contemplated in Canada and it is critical that it be done right.  Let us know what you think. Please comment.  Read more.

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Wealth inequality is growing in Canada and in the US.  But our political parties seem not to notice, are they on the take?

Last week the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives published a great analysis of the wealth concentration in Canada.  In BORN TO WIN,  David Macdonald reviews the census data to clearly show how our tax system, public investment strategies, and regulatory efforts serve the rich very well.  He note in the introduction that over the 17 year period ending in 2016 the 87 wealthiest families in Canada saw their wealth grow by 37%, more than twice the rate at which was experienced for middle class families.

American academic Karen Petrou is raising the same issues south of the border, this interview in Bloomberg is great, laying the groundwork for her new book to be published early next year.  She is a harsh critic of both the way banks have been regulated and monetary policies - to the disadvantage of the many.

Both of these arguments clearly outline a problem that is bigger than 'windfalls' that benefit some home owners.  Housing affordability and precarious employment are a consequence of public policy decisions, that systemically favour the wealthy.  As Macdonald states, "... in general Canada’s tax system is set up to encourage concentration of wealth at the very top." 

 

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Check out this video from the Tyee as they explain the three proportional representation voting systems proposed by Attorney General David Eby. This fall in the electoral reform referendum, British Columbians will be asked whether they wish to switch from first-past-the-post to an electoral system of proportional representation. They will then be asked to rank three different proportional representation systems:

  • Mixed-member proportional
  • Rural-urban proportional
  • dual-member proportional.

If this referendum moves forward, the ballots will be mail-in.

An informed vote will require a comprehensive understanding of our current system in addition to the proposed alternatives. Be sure to follow The Tyee as they explore the issues.

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So much clamor about taxing those who don't want to pay tax, even though they have won a big prize in our BC Real Estate Lottery.  Indeed, the added tax on higher valued homes is fair and the best way to fund schools and social services. Two excellent pieces appear in the Vancouver Sun this past week.  One by two UBC academics is concise and on point.  Another by Alex Hemingway of the CCPA is also great.

The federal government is government is parading the idea of HOUSING AS A HUMAN RIGHT.  Their consultation has been extended to close June 8th. You can contribute your thoughts.  While the text of their appeal seems heavy on rhetoric and light on action, those of us with a voice should chip in.  Unfortunately, the much hyped National Housing Strategy promises no more federal funds for community housing.  Funding is frozen at the level it has been for almost two decades (@$2B).  Meanwhile, CMHC is extracting fees from middle income Canadians and paying a 'dividend' to government of some two or three times that much.  They boast, "In 2017, we also declared dividends totalling $4.7 billion to our shareholder, the Government of Canada. An additional dividend of $1 billion was approved by CMHC’s Board of Directors on March 22, 2018."

 

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Our 'housing crisis' is not a local issue, it is the result of global capital flows and the rich pursuing their interests.  That is the argument outlined in The Tyee; William Rees puts the case forward - referencing economics and ecological logic. This is a very good analysis.

Rees also also builds links to the growing foreign investment in agricultural land all around the world. The free flow of capital alters local markets and undermines local communities; putting democratic institutions at risk.

 

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Meet CCEC Member Tani Tupechka

Accessing good food during illness and the leg hold trap of poverty is the hardest thing I’ve ever faced.  In 2009, I was forced off work and onto disability because of a chronic muscle illness. Food took on a whole new meaning for me.

At the recent Vancouver Food Summit, a Coast Salish elder said, “food is life.” So true.  And food is also love and fueled by communities working together.

Each of us has an important role to play in food security - including community organizations like CCEC. I’ve done a good deal of food activism at the community level; in gardens, kitchens and educational initiatives.  I saw how access to good, affordable food is a huge barrier for many people – as it was for me.  NGOs and organizations need to receive the support to put even more energy and resources towards this key issue.

Accessing local food programs became key for my survival.  I had support from people in my community, but if it wasn’t for the financial help that CCEC provided, I would have gone hungry many times.  On top of that, in the spirit of community, the workers at CCEC always treated me with respect when I needed help, especially Atilio Alvarez.  He never once treated me like I was poor or untrustworthy, instead he was always kind, supportive and caring.  I am super grateful to him and the many people in our communities that helped me when I needed it most. 

Recently, I’ve been able to return to the community work I love and my own struggles have focused my energies on food justice.  Food security is at the heart of social and environmental justice. It ensures that people not only survive, but begin to thrive.  

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  Recently, Matt Hern has had a book published, it is called What a City Is For; the Politics of Displacement. The author is attached to SFU and well-known in East Vancouver as an activist. The book is excellent exposé on how our property ownership system works to the advantage of some while squeezing out many.

This week there is a great overview of the book published in the Georgia Straight, Charlie Smith provides a good description of the essential arguments put forward in the book. Those of us who live in East Vancouver should pay attention. The current approach to real estate has divorced our city from our residents. Increasingly real estate is seen as an investment, it is not seen primarily as a residential resource.The home ownership markets tend to chase lower income people out, enabling gentrification.

Those interested affordable housing should review the both the case studies from other cities and the proposals that Matt Horne brings forward. They will appear radical. They challenge the status quo. But our fascination with home ownership, in particular, is at the heart of the problem.  We need to reconsider both our cultural assumptions relative to home ownership and our way of taxing real estate holdings.  A good case is made for non-market housing, and removing the incentives to speculate on this resource.

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Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein's newest book is called NO IS NOT ENOUGH, and it is a call out to communities, thinking people, and progressive politicians. She sat down with Charlie Demers at a Writers Festival event on June 24th and laid out the essential arguments for constructive change - environmentally, socially, and economically. 

At the core, she emphasizes that resistance, saying no and protesting, is not going to be enough.  She contends that 'reacting' to a rapacious agenda the degrades the planet and consigns millions of people to poverty, or worse, is only a first step.  She sees the need for progressives to fashion a strong, fresh, and vital agenda that can contest the field in democracies, especially the USA. And also, she sees the need for communities, municipalities, and local governments to pick up the bigger challenges - and not wait for 'big government' to take action. 

The book largely pivots on the new directions, statements, and behavior of the new leader of the free world.  She entertainingly and succinctly lays out the 'brand management' tactics of the new president.  There are echoes of her previous books No Logo, and This Changes Everything. But she also includes observations on the recent BC election and the UK election.  In those cases she was heartened by the championing of truly progressive and exciting policies, broadening the discussion of what can be done by government. She noted that these visions were supported by voters.

The argument goes further than electoral politics, however. Ordinary people and community-based initiatives are also needed - both to effect action and to hold governments accountable.  Naomi Klein was referencing the Women's March and other events that are prompting people to get involved and take greater responsibility for a whole host of issues; immigration and refugees, housing, health services, education, transportation... In this context, CCEC and the many community groups we bring together are primary examples.

The challenge to the hundreds in the audience that evening was simple, 'It is up to you, us, to develop a vigorous, positive plan for the future; and put it in place.'

 

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