Citizen Wealth in Ottawa

Citizen Wealth Financial Justice

P1010009 Ottawa The Public Service Association of Canada building was drenched in a downpour as we started our discussion of Citizen Wealth, but it wasn’t long before the room was warm with good conversation and insightful dialogue.  We had a great mix of Ottawa ACORN leaders, community activists, labor veterans, and academics, so it was clear I was going to learn some things.

There was huge interest in experiences with living wage campaigns from the States because Ottawa ACORN and its allies have launched a campaign for a $13.50 rate for city contracted employees in Ottawa.  The measure is being pushed to the “poverty reduction” committee of the city where we have high hopes, but we need another half dozen or more votes and the Mayor has weighed in negatively creating another obstacle.  Many questions and comments from the group indicated that an “area wide” measure might find enthusiasm in the future here.

Asset and wealth building strategies attracted a lot of attention.  The obsession with home ownership in the United States is not shared in Canada, and it didn’t take long to find out why.  The problem discussed at length in Citizen Wealth about redirecting the tax breaks for all but the low income for mortgage based interest deductions so that such tax resources could be used to really build citizen wealth is not an issue here.  In Canada there is no mortgage interest deduction on federal taxes, eliminating a huge incentive for home ownership.  Additionally, there is no capital gains advantage or problem on home sales.  We had a lively conversation then on rental units and coops.

The coops led us to cooperatives and why this practical formation had not continued to be explored and developed in so many areas.  Several thought the rise of unions had inadvertently led to a decrease in cooperatives as a wealth strategy.  This bears more thought and discussion, and I couldn’t tell where Canadian history may have been at center stage here versus the general theory and practice.

When we walked out into the dark night the streets were still drenched and an occasional drop was still falling, but our heads were spinning and the chatter was steady in the van as we dropped members off at their homes.