Preserving the status quo on economic globalization has been politically safe throughout Canada’s barely six-week election campaign. Neglecting hard truths to win office, however, could be the first domino in a cascade of Canadians voting farther right than ever before, joining the ranks of their beleaguered allies.
Canada’s middle class is in no different a position than middle-income earners in the United States and Britain. Each country’s middle class has shrunk as a percentage of the population between the 1980s and mid-2010s, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. And many Canadians, like residents in both of the other countries, have become poorer. Canadians who have managed to keep their middle-class jobs have largely done so by forgoing wage increases; research I conducted for the nonpartisan Centre for International Governance Innovation shows that real incomes of the middle slice of Canadian households haven’t grown in decades.
A big chunk of these middle-class job losses have occurred in the manufacturing sector. About half a million production jobs in Canada have vanished since the start of 2000, according to Statistics Canada, while about 4 million jobs were lost in the United States over the same time period, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Automation is often blamed for these loses, but Canadians who are out of work point to another culprit. Their wages were too costly to fit into today’s global supply chains, which is built largely on cheap labor.