Third Age Learning, Burlington
Series 16: Fall 2019

Prosperity and Equity: “Finding Common Ground”
Sept. 12 - Oct.31

This series of eight lectures focuses on two areas of economic challenges: how we can foster growth in average living standards, and how we can address income inequality. Many specific topics are considered - such as: the facts on income inequality, the particular challenges facing women and indigenous Canadians, the effectiveness of alternative government initiatives, and how globalization and caring for the environment affect those policy choices.

Part A - Sept. 12 and 19
Growth in Average Living Standards: the Challenges

Part B - Sept. 26, Oct. 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31
Addressing Income Inequality: the Challenges

Art Gallery of Burlington     (Map)

Series #16: Schedule

Note: Please respect fragrance sensitivities and refrain from wearing perfume. Thank you.
Third Age Learning Burlington reserves the right to substitute speakers as necessary.
Date Details
September 12th
Economic Growth: Prerequisites, Limits, Benefits and Costs
Presented by:
Dr. Bill Scarth

Professor Emeritus, McMaster University

One of the reasons for growing populist sentiment is the fact that many households have been struggling on the economic front for several decades. Those who favour limited government argue against attempts to redistribute from rich to poor as a response to this concern. They argue that the main effect of these attempts is to limit the incentive for businesses to create jobs and to produce the goods that people need and want - leaving rich and poor to fight over a smaller total amount of material welfare. The recommendation from this school of thought is that we should simply pursue faster economic growth. The presumption is that all households - including poorer ones - will benefit. This talk evaluates this view - examining what leads to growth, how the benefits and costs are distributed, and whether further growth is even feasible - given the limits on our non-renewable resources. This talk sets the stage for the following one that focuses on how tax reform and our environmental concerns fit into the growth picture, and for the later lectures that consider a number of government policies that attempt to address inequality directly.

View Bio
September 19th
Addressing Climate Change While Preserving Economic Prosperity.
Presented by:
Dr. Chris Ragan

Associate Professor, Dept. of Economics, McGill University. Director Max Bell School of Public Policy, McGill.

This talk discusses the basic sources of climate change, and it explains why the reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions is such a difficult challenge - economically, technologically, and politically. The analysis outlines why carbon pricing policies can offer the approach that is best for the economy. But carbon pricing is not as simple as it sounds - dealing with the impact on low-income households and addressing the impact on business competitiveness are probably the two most complicated and least understood parts of the policy approach. Finally the speaker explains the state of carbon pricing in Canada, both provincially and federally.

View Bio
September 26th
Reflections on the One Percent
Presented by:
Dr. Mike Veall

McMaster University

It is now eight years since "Occupy Toronto" and 9 years since the Toronto G7 protest. Each was linked to a perception by some that there was a fundamental unfairness in the economic system with the result that the top "One Per Cent" were doing increasingly well at the expense of those in the "Bottom 99".  Was this perception consistent with the evidence for Canada at the time?  What has happened since?  What have been the consequences of the recent increases in personal provincial and federal income tax rates for high-income Canadians?  The presentation will address these questions and use them as examples to discuss more broadly top-end income redistribution policy and its linkages to social policy and to economic growth

View Bio
October 3rd
A Basic Income Guarantee in Canada: Challenges and Possibilities
Presented by:
Dr. Katherine Cuff

McMaster: Professor of Economics. Canadian Research Chair in Public Economics

There is renewed public interest in introducing a guaranteed basic income for Canadians.  The interest is partly driven by the inability of current redistribution policies to reduce growing income inequality and eliminate poverty, and by increasing concerns about the economic impact of globalization and workplace automation. Basic income guarantees can take different forms - from a universal income payment to all persons to a more targeted income payment that ensures no one falls below a given income level. Each form has its own challenges, and all will require government financing, and could introduce negative work incentives. Providing a basic income in Canada also poses a particular challenge given the overlapping responsibilities of the provincial and federal governments in providing income support to individuals. Current public support for a basic income is also not without opposition, and debate about basic income is indeed not new to Canada. This lecture reviews the various issues, and discusses potential ways forward, in providing a basic income guarantee in Canada.

View Bio
October 10th
Financing Redistribution Policies
Presented by:
Dr. Bill Scarth

Professor Emeritus in the Economics Department, McMaster University

Most government initiatives for addressing inequality require that the government has revenue - to fund the initiative. Whether or not the program delivers its intended effects can very much depend on whether the direct benefits of the policy are bigger or smaller than the indirect costs that are imposed on the intended beneficiaries as a result of the associated taxes. This lecture focuses on how this indirect cost can be minimized. This is a big challenge in the modern world due to globalization. Capitalists can shift the location of their capital so that it is employed in low-tax countries, while unskilled workers cannot relocate across international borders. This fact makes it is very difficult for governments to tax the rich (the owners of most of the capital). How can governments help the unskilled if the only group that the government can tax is unskilled labour? Anti-globalization protesters have focused on this challenge for some years now and they have reached two (quite different) conclusions - first, that governments should erect international barriers to reverse the international mobility of capital, and second, that governments should focus on policy initiatives that do not require any tax revenue - such as increasing the minimum wage law. This lecture explores both the globalization challenge and the effectiveness of increases in the minimum wage.

View Bio
October 17th
Designing Policy to Support the Careers of Women
Presented by:
Dr. Tammy Schirle

Professor of Economics: Wilfrid Laurier University.

In Canada, we can find a wide range of policies whose objective is to support people in the labour market, helping them form an attachment to jobs and build a career. However, these policies are typically designed to exclude married women from eligibility despite their representing such a large portion of the potential labour force. Arguably, despite the dramatic increases in women’s employment over the past several decades, married women continue to be viewed primarily as wives and mothers rather than as individuals whose paid employment is a fundamental part of the economy. This talk discusses the need for policy to recognize the individual needs of married women when building their careers, which may not be fully appreciated in the family decision-making process. The focus is on the importance of viewing individuals as the tax unit, as well as the relevant unit for determining eligibility for labour market supports. Relevant labour market supports discussed include wage subsidies, child care, and training opportunities.

View Bio
October 24th
Wampum Diplomacy in the Early and Middle Encounter Period
Presented by:
Dr. Douglas Sanderson

Member of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation. Associate Professor Faculty of Law: University of Toronto

Our sense of history frequently fails to align with the facts of history, and nowhere is this more prevalent than in the shared history of Indigenous-Settler relations. In this talk I will draw out the formal structure of treaty relations, known as the covenant chain, and conducted entirely according to Indigenous International law protocols.  This relationship of mutual respect and relative equality was neither short term nor a campaign of deceit. This relationship of mutual respect lasted almost to the date of confederation in 1867. In other words, the facts of history demonstrate an Indigenous-Settler relationship of mutual respect that lasted for more than three hundred years, and stands in sharp contrast to the racist and oppressive relationship post-Confederation. I draw lessons from the historical relationship in order to provide teachings about the current relationship.


View Bio
October 31st
Alternative Approaches to Addressing Poverty
Presented by:
Dr. Bill Scarth

Professor Emeritus, Department of Economics: McMaster University

This lecture highlights the importance of lowering structural unemployment as a key dimension of government approaches to inequality. Some programs, such as Employment Insurance, are conditional on individuals being without work. On the other hand, other initiatives, such as the Working Income Tax Benefit (recently re-named the Canada Worker Benefit), are conditional on individuals having a job. Yet other policies, such as a guaranteed annual income, are independent of an individual’s labour force status. This lecture focuses on these key differences, exploring the different effects on the level of unemployment, and explaining how - by taking this focus - we can appreciate a particularly exciting possibility. The analysis identifies an approach to inequality that can provide a “free lunch” - an outcome that many economists argue is encountered very infrequently. This lecture shows that we may be able to help unskilled individuals - without there being any cost on other members of society.

View Bio