Zanny Minton Beddoes, Economics Editor, The EconomistMiles Corak, Professor, University of OttawaRon Haskins, Senior Fellow, Brookings InstitutionCarolyn Acker, C.M., Founder, Pathways to Education

The Canada We Want in 2020 Speaker Series: Equality of opportunity – a Canadian dream?

February 26, 2013

The idea that all citizens should have an equal chance to succeed in life, regardless of where they start, is fundamental to liberal societies and emblematic of the American – and Canadian – dream.

In our second panel on income inequality we explored the idea of economic mobility, looking at why it is important, what its determinants are, and how it relates to equality of opportunity and outcome.

Tuesday February 26, 2013
5:00 pm, Château Laurier Hotel, Ottawa

As inequality increases in Canada, our panel focused on the most effective public policy levers for preserving mobility and advancing equality of opportunity.

In so doing, we examined Canada in an international context, looking at why and how our response to inequality differs from that in the US and other countries, and asking what we can learn from others.

Watch panelist interviews:

Scan our Issue Deck to catch up on the questions we are asking.

And read our new report Public policies for equality and social mobility in Canada by panelist Miles Corak.

Featured Participants

Zanny Minton Beddoes

The Economist Panelist

Carolyn Acker, C.M.

Founder, Pathways to Education Panelist

Diana Carney

Canada 2020 Advisory Board Bio

Miles Corak

University of Ottawa Bio

Ron Haskins

Brookings Institute Panelist

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Event Summary: Panelists get to grips with the Canadian dream

Over 350 people came out to the Château Laurier Hotel on February 26 where they were treated to a lively, progressive and sometimes contentious debate about the various options for governmental action to help ensure continued economic mobility in Canada.

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  1. Within Canada, the income inequality persists regionally and no clear remedies are proposed. Will there be discussion on the income disparity between regions as well?

    The national unity of “One Canada” for all is replaced with have and have-nots provinces and the insistence on mobilizing the regional workforce towards the economic boom towns.

    Education should be the focus of this regional inequality and I’m looking forward to hearing recommendations by the panel!

    • All good points Georgina. Miles Corak, one of the leading experts on trans-generational inequality, will be presenting some data and possible policy prescriptions that are along these lines. Hope to see you out.

  2. really frustrated – not a clue on how to get to the streaming of the event – have spent lots of time

    very impatient – raced home from where I wanted to stay for nothing!!

    my stupidity – have been going round in circles.


    • Hello Elizabeth – our apologies – the event system we work with should have emailed a link but it appears that didn’t happen this time. Sorry for your inconvenience, that is incredibly frustrating.

  3. …A good comment is what you think of 15 minutes later….

    I was struck by the discussion around, “finish school, get a job, don’t be a pregnant teenager.”

    This implies that people are in lower income because they make bad choices — both in terms of the outcomes for them and from a somewhat moralizing perspective.

    But you know, the basic assumption in economics is that people tend to make rational choices, based on the context they live in. So if they’re making these bad choices, maybe it’s because they have incomplete or incorrect information, don’t see the full menu of choices that others (living outside their context) might, and therefore are making rational choices from a restricted list of options.

    If we want to improve these outcomes, then, it’s not enough to scold people for making bad decisions: we need to understand what it is about their context that makes these decisions seem like the best ones available (e.g., discounting future income potential, as suggested by Professor Corak), and give a better sense of the broader menu possible.

    • Thank you for responding, Michael.
      I agree that there is a lot more to be said around the issue of personal responsibility vs. responding rationally to a bad set of circumstances. I thought the panelists began to talk about this last week, but we always run out of time. Carolyn Acker was interesting as she brought real life examples, suggesting that you can’t – or you would find it hard to – make the ‘right’ decisions when you have no role models, no support, no options (as you suggest).
      We will reflect on this issue as we move forward with our work. THank you.

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