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Middle Class Canadians Pulled Ahead of Americans, But Are Still Debating

  • Blog Post by: Lee Schafer
  • April 25, 2014 - 11:16 AM

News earlier this week that the Canadian middle class has moved ahead of the American middle class in income was not exactly welcome to everyone north of the border. 

As reported by The New York Times, median income rose about 20 percent in Canada between 2000 and 2010, to the equivalent of $18,700. In the United States over the same period, the median income was virtually flat, and gains since 2010 likely mean the Canadians have pulled ahead.

It seems that Canadians, much like Americans, have been debating income inequality and the economic status of middle-class people. Opponents to the party in power, the Conservatives, have been trying to make it an issue.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s employment minister saw the political value and promptly jumped on the news. If the Liberal Party’s leader “is interested in evidence-based policy on the middle class,” then he only needs to read the newspaper, the minister said. The Conservatives also promptly sent out a fundraising letter.

But the data may not show as much of a clear-cut economic success story as the Conservatives would hope.

The national collector of data on all things Canadian, Statistics Canada, reported that during the 2000s, there have been gains in all Canadian income demographics.

The income of the poorest grew by 1.7 per cent per year from 2000 to 2010, and the income of the richest grew by 1.52 per cent per year, but the income of the middle class grew by only 1.29 per cent per year.  

In a spirited conversation on the CBC news program “Power & Politics,” a left-leaning think tank policy director named Trish Hennessy said what seems to me to be the most depressing thing of the whole Canadian debate: Measuring the success of the Canadian middle class against the Americans, she said, "it's cold comfort, because it's like comparing ourselves to a sinking stone.”

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