Joe Biden is Building Back Better - what Canada can learn from the Biden Administration

Joe Biden’s first speech to congress as President has provided a blueprint for how Canadian progressives can achieve their goals and what building back better in Canada could look like. His blue-collar style progressive populism has proved effective and popular. Biden highlighted four policy areas that are also relevant to Canada - building back a prosperous manufacturing industry, investing in education, taxing the rich and protecting the rights of workers.

(Picture of "Joe Biden" by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

 

By: Leif Sutton-Williams 

 

Joe Biden’s first 100 days have been without a doubt a resounding success. 220 million vaccines distributed, a 1.9 trillion dollar economic stimulus plan passed, 150 million relief cheques put directly in the hands of struggling middle and working class families.

Many progressives were worried that the Joe Biden administration would be disappointing in terms of policy but it has so far only gone from strength to strength. Even Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, a progressive critic of the centrist wing of the Democratic Party has said that Biden has ‘exceeded progressive expectations’. This has not only been a progressive administration but a popular one too. Almost 60% of Americans say Biden has kept his campaign promises and 66% approve of his handling of the pandemic. In this age of heightened political polarisation and partisanship, these are extraordinary numbers for a left leaning administration to have. 

Joe Biden’s first speech to congress as President has provided a blueprint for how Canadian progressives can achieve their goals and what building back better in Canada could look like. His blue-collar style progressive populism has proved effective and popular. Biden highlighted four policy areas that are also relevant to Canada - building back a prosperous manufacturing industry, investing in education, taxing the rich and protecting the rights of workers. 

 

“There's no reason wind turbine blades can’t be built in Pittsburgh instead of Beijing”


Building a stronger Canadian economy requires building back our manufacturing base - for decades, too many working class communities have lost well paid manufacturing jobs due to globalisation while the economy has changed at an alarming rate. The pandemic has further highlighted how globalisation brought downsides as well as benefits - benefits that were often unfairly distributed.

Our rapidly changing economy has been frightening and threatening to many working class families. If we carry on as we are, this will only get worse. As Biden noted, we’re going to see more technological change over the next 10 years than we’ve seen in the last 50. This means we need to ensure that from now on the benefits of globalisation go to everyday, ordinary people rather than just the wealthy and well-connected.

Take the disastrous actions of Brian Mulroney selling off Connaught Laboratories which has proven to be such a terrible mistake - especially in the context of Covid-19. Privatisation of a once world leading vaccine producer has once again shown the limits of trickle down economics and the so called ‘free market’. Think how much better Canada could have fared during the pandemic if we had kept such a valuable publicly owned institution? Instead Canada has had one of the worst vaccine rollouts among the G20 nations. 

It was refreshing to see an American president actually speak in support of union organising, a far cry from the days of Reaganomics. The treatment of essential frontline workers has put a spotlight on how much Canadians need strong unions to protect their rights. That’s why we need more quality, high paying union jobs. It’s not that complicated - workers want higher wages, affordable housing and good quality jobs. It's about getting back to basics. 

“Any country that can out educate us is going to outcompete us”

 

As China becomes more powerful and economically dominant with their growing middle class, we are going to need to compete and level up those communities who have lost out to globalisation. We can’t afford not to. Investing in education is key to ensuring Canada remains globally competitive and prosperous.

That's why we need to invest in truly universal child care  - while the Liberals new plan is a step in the right direction, it’s a national not a universal plan - this means it could end up being a patchwork of means tested programs that vary in quality rather than providing quality affordable childcare for everyone. 

Biden is proposing free community college for every american for two years - a far more progressive plan than we have here in Canada. Young people shouldnt be crushed with a mountain load of debt on their shoulders before they even enter the workforce.The NDP proposal to wipe away 20,000 dollars of student debt for every Canadian is a great start. 

 

“No tax increases on the working and middle classes - it’s time for the ultra wealthy and corporate Canada to pay their fair share.”

 

One disappointing feature of Trudeau's budget was the lack of tax rises on the ultra wealthy. While families have seen their wages stagnant and their bills go up,  billionaires like Jeff Bezos have increased their fortunes to monstrous levels at the expense of Canadian workers. You have the grotesque situation of Bezos expanding his wealth by almost 70 billion dollars since August 2020, yet his employees are forced to urinate in bottles due to corporate exploitation and lack of rights. 

Working and middle class families already pay enough in tax which is why Biden highlighted why the rich need to pay their fair share. It’s easy for the wealthy to hire expensive accountants to escape paying income taxes and hide their wealth in offshore tax havens - that's why there needs to be more emphasis on closing tax loopholes that only benefit the rich and making sure we tax high value assets. 

 

“Trickle down economics has never worked - it’s time to grow the economy from the bottom and the middle out”

 

Biden’s plans for building back better, are the most ambitious set of progressive reforms America has seen in generations. He’s shown how progressives can win back working class communities who have flirted with far-right populism.

Issues of social justice are important, but when you can’t pay your bills or afford to put food on the table it’s the economy and jobs that many voters want to hear about. Social justice and reigniting the economy need to go hand in hand. 

To build a better Canada, progressive politicians must get back to basics. Doing nothing is not an option. The only way we can beat far-right populism is by crafting our own progressive economic new deal that speaks to all of these communities' concerns directly.

That’s how we can build a progressive and prosperous Canada that works for the many, not just the few. 

 

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