Canada’s natural resources boom has been the key factor in narrowing the growing gap between the rich and the poor, BC economists told an Ottawa conference
The resources sector is the “elephant in the room” when it comes to the equality debate, said University of BC economist Thomas Lemieux during a joint presentation with colleague Nicole Fortin.
They argued that while education and tax reform have roles to play in moderating the income inequality trend, energy and mining projects have had a more profound impact.
Lemieux and Fortin noted that high school graduates and dropouts in the red-hot economies of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland have wages much closer to those of college and university graduates than those elsewhere in Canada.
“The resources boom appears to have lifted all boats, including the less educated and women, and contributed to a small decline in inequality” in the provinces enjoying a surge in exports of energy and minerals, they said.
The comments came the same day both the Liberals and New Democratic Party hammered the government over the stress felt by the allegedly squeezed middle class, signalling once again that this will be a key issue in the 2015 election.
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau told Liberals at a weekend party gathering in Montreal that a greater emphasis should be put on post-secondary education.
However, several presentations at the conference indicated that greater investment in education can sometimes exacerbate inequality, since those in higher-income brackets are more likely to send their children to university and take advantage of pro-education tax policies.
Click here to view the Power Point presentation that Lemieux and Fortin assembled on this topic.