In Canada, the top 100 CEOs are paid almost $100,000 a day, twice as much as the average person earns in a year. They cannot do a year’s work in a half day, so why do they get paid so much more? And where does that money come from?

Well, in Canada, the extraction industries:

  • sell trees, oil, gas or minerals that are owned by all Canadians
  • use roads, rail, safety systems, worker safety and health systems paid for by all Canadians
  • use government-supported trade systems and processes paid for by all Canadians

Let’s look at non-extraction industries like, say, banks. Have you added up your banking and borrowing fees lately? Doesn’t seem like much until you look at bank profits: Canada’s five biggest banks raked in a combined $9.89 billion in profits during the third quarter of last year.

Wake up, folks. Our political and social system is rigged to make rich people richer, and to keep the rest of us in debt and working far too hard. Big business spends a lot of money on media stories trying to convince you that we’re all on the same side, and that your financial problems come from …..(pick one: immigrants, Muslims, criminals, unions, high wages, unemployed and sick people receiving public benefits, the magical and unexplainable trend of economics that is beyond their control — except that they actually do control it). Your financial problems cannot possibly arise from the fact that the super-rich syphon wealth out of our country (including your bank account and our environment) to accumulate property for themselves.

It is the job of government to protect our country from exploitation. So it rankles that our current Prime Minister just returned from vacationing on a private island in the Caribbean owned by Prince Aga Khan. And the Harper government was worse, believing religiously that what was good for corporations was good for citizens despite the fact that “trickle-down” economic theory had failed all over the world. The Liberals and Conservatives both fail to protect our interests.

Meanwhile, many Canadians are two paycheques or less away from losing our homes. Some of us are putting the grocery and heat bills on credit cards (talk about bank profits!). It’s going to get worse as robots replace jobs. Big corporations started using robots instead of workers in Detroit decades ago, and we know what happened there. Grocery stores have replaced tellers with automation, and so have fast food companies. In a few years, oils sands  and fast food jobs will be done by robots. Even a portion of your annual health checkup will be done by robotic sensors. In 20 years, a third of jobs will be done by robots.

What then? Can we honestly say that the unemployed are just lazy? Can we honestly expect young people to spend tens of thousands of dollars on an education when there is such a high risk that they’ll never pay it back? And how can small and medium-sized businesses compete with companies that have the capital to invest in robots that never need a sick day or benefits? Will we finally stand up to corporations?

We cannot “tweak” our way out of these problems. Our economic system, and the public policies that regulate it, need a total overhaul. It’s time to restructure our economy to benefit all Canadians. That conversation has to happen in every household and every coffee shop, because we cannot leave our future up to the super rich or their political friends.

Nora Abercrombie
CEO, Green Party of Canada for Battle River – Crowfoot