Canadians are feeling the pinch. Families are earning less and inflation is increasing the cost of everyday essentials. Students are grappling with rising tuition rates and have fewer opportunities for employment when they graduate. Youth unemployment is at a historic high and student employment is at record lows.
As Canadians adjust to these economic realities, our debt-to-income ratio has grown to 152%, much higher than the United States, and entire generations of Canadians have little or no savings.
Most of us recognize that income inequality is a growing issue that is at the heart of these challenges. That is why the Liberal Party held a debate in Parliament on addressing income inequality and put forward several practical steps we can take immediately to reduce it. Specifically, we are calling on the government to:
-- Roll back their recent Employment Insurance Premium hike;
-- End their punitive new claw-back of Employment Insurance benefits;
-- Make tax credits refundable so that low-income Canadians are not excluded;
-- Adapt the Registered Disability Savings Plan for sufferers of chronic diseases, such as Multiple Sclerosis; and
-- Remove federal interest charges from student loans.
What we are asking the government to do is to first of all recognize that this is a problem, not continue to dismiss it.
Income inequality is a key issue for Canada. We cannot assume that prosperity will be fairly shared and we cannot take prosperity itself for granted. We have to avoid the mistakes of the extreme right and the extreme left and we have to come up with practical proposals that will make a difference to ordinary people and ensure that our prosperity is fairly, deeply and widely shared.
Shared prosperity is what we strive for as a country and ensuring equality of opportunity for all Canadians is at the core of what it means to be a Liberal.