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Framing the new inequality: The politics of income redistribution in Canada

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Income inequality: The Canadian story, Part 3: The role of policy
Banting, Keith & Myles, John
Book / booklet
Publication Date: 
11 May 2016



This chapter analyzes the politics of framing the new inequality. Canada is currently engaged in a struggle to define or “frame” the changes occurring in the distribution of income and the social stresses they are bringing about. What is happening? Why is it happening? Is it a policy problem? There are multiple answers to these questions, and the result is flux in our policy debates.

We examine three frames that contend for attention: an historic antipoverty frame, a more recent top-1-percent frame, and a still contentious middle-class frame. All three call for significant income redistribution, although in different forms. Nonetheless, a move to stronger income redistribution would confront serious constraints in the form of established policy norms and the unequal representation of economic interests in our political system. Only electoral politics can generate the momentum needed to challenge these established norms and interests. The prospects for such momentum hinge on whether middle-class voters see their interests aligned with those of high-income groups or low-income groups.