Volume 94, Issue 95

Wednesday, March 21, 2001


Student Code may see major changes

Saugeen residents on notice

Gap between rich and poor increasing

SSSC paychecks go through the ringer

Northern universities looking for students

City council troubled by welfare testing


Gap between rich and poor increasing

By Erin Conway-Smith
Gazette Staff

A widening gap between rich and poor Canadians has emerged over the last 15 years, a recent study has revealed.

The Survey of Financial Security, released last week by Statistics Canada, provides a detailed account of wealth distribution among Canadian families, based upon their assets and debts in 1999, according to Donald Dubreuil, a spokesperson for Statistics Canada.

The study, the first of its kind since 1984, reported 10 per cent of family units held 53 per cent of all personal wealth in Canada in 1999. The 10 per cent of families at the lowest end of the net wealth scale owed more money than they had in savings, he said.

Lorne Nystrom, finance critic for the New Democratic Party, attributed the growing gap between the rich and the poor to social funding cutbacks.

"The main reason for the increased gap is the cutbacks in social service programs," Nystron said, adding he thinks the current tax system also contributes to the wealth divide.

Jean-Michel Catta, media relations officer for the Ministry of Finance, said the recent federal budget included key investments in areas targeted to help middle and low income Canadians.

"The federal budget includes a very significant package designed to help bridge the gap. It will have a major impact on the amount of money that lower and middle-end Canadians have in their pockets," he said.

Lower tax rates for all income levels, including a one per cent reduction on the lowest tax rate and a two per cent reduction on the middle tax rate, were incorporated into the 2000 federal budget, Catta said.

An $11.5 billion increase in Canada Health and Social Transfer payments was also announced, to help provinces fund health care and other social services, he added.

"We are seeing a polarization of two Canadas – one doing very well, and one not doing well at all," said John Anderson, senior researcher for the Centre of Social Justice, an advocacy group aimed at aiding the disadvantaged.

Jacquie Ackerly, president of the National Anti-Poverty Organization, said the widening of the gap could be attributed to the elimination of low-income housing and cutbacks in social programs. "The federal government has abandoned low income Canadians," she said.

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