Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Recession leads to steep decline in quality of life in Canada

The Canadian Well-being index shows that since the onset of the recession between 2008 and 2010, the quality of life deteroriated by 24%. Canada's GDP, in contrast, declined by only 8.3% during the same period.
The Canadian Well-being Index compilation is led by researchers at the University of Waterloo, Roy Romanow, former NDP premier of Saskatchewan, co-chairs the advisory group to the researchers.
Between 1994 and 2010 the Canadian GDP rose 29% but the Well-being Index grew only 5.7% during the same period. Romanow said:
"When Canada's economy was thriving, Canadians only saw modest improvements in their overall quality of life.But when the economy faltered, our well-being took a disproportionate step backward."
The report itself noted:
"Despite years of prosperity, our economic growth has not translated into similar significant gains in our overall quality of life,.Even more concerning is the considerable backslide Canadians have experienced since 2008."
Economists often measure economic progress simply in terms of increases in GDP. However, Romanow and his co-chair, Monique Begin, say in the introduction to their report:
"GDP tells us nothing about our people, our environment, our democracy, or other aspects of life that matter to Canadians."
Among the worrying trends are a long term decline in environmental quality, and less leisure time. As well, there was a sudden drop in living standards when the recession hit. However, violent crime and property crime are at their lowest levels since 1994.
Canada has one of the largest ecological footprints in the world per person. However, Peter Kent, the Canadian Environment minister, argues that emissions are starting to fall even as the economy is growing.
The standard of living has been declining considerably since the recession began. The report notes that during the last two years:
"The deterioration experienced by so many Canadians speaks to the growing unease felt across Canada and must be taken into consideration as our governments make decisions on how to steer us forward, particularly given predictions of an extended period of weak economic growth."
Romanow argues:"What we have to do as a nation and society is to develop a consciousness, develop public policies which address this." Harper argues that provinces rather than the federal government are better able to develop social policies to deal with regional variations. However, having national standards such as are associated with the Canada Health Act, would ensure that all Canadians have a certain level of services across the nation Perhaps next year, the group could measure the changes in quality of llife for the one per cent!

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