Transcript: Fixing a Broken Economic System | Nov 23, 2020

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a gray suit, lilac shirt, and purple tie.

A caption on screen reads "Fixing a broken economic system."

Steve says BEYOND THE OBVIOUS PROBLEMS WITH ECONOMIC INEQUALITY FOR PEOPLE TRYING TO MAKE ENDS MEET, SUCH GAPS CAN ALSO SEED SERIOUS POLITICAL PROBLEMS... EVEN, AS SOME RECENT POLLING INDICATES, UNDERMINE CONFIDENCE IN BOTH DEMOCRACY AND CAPITALISM. WITH US NOW TO EXPLORE THAT AND LOOK FOR SOME SOLUTIONS: WE WELCOME, IN DUNDAS, ONTARIO: MICHAEL VEALL, PROFESSOR OF ECONOMICS AT McMASTER UNIVERSITY...

Michael is in his fifties, clean-shaven, with short brown hair. He's wearing glasses, a white shirt and a striped black tie.

Steve continues AND IN ONTARIO'S CAPITAL CITY: IN SEATON VILLAGE: SHANNON LEE SIMMONS, FINANCIAL PLANNER, AT THE NEW SCHOOL OF FINANCE...

Shannon is in her thirties, with shoulder-length wavy brown hair. She's wearing a black shirt.

Steve continues AND IN THE WYCHWOOD NEIGHBOURHOOD IN MIDTOWN: BRIAN MILNER, FREELANCE BUSINESS AND ECONOMICS WRITER...

Brian is in his sixties, clean-shaven, with short curly white hair. He's wearing glasses, a black suit and a checkered shirt.

Steve continues IT'S GREAT TO HAVE YOU THREE ON OUR PROGRAM TONIGHT, FOLLOWING UP ON THE CONVERSATION WE JUST HAD WITH ROGER MARTIN. AND PERHAPS THAT'S A GOOD SPOT TO START. I WONDER IF I COULD GET EACH OF YOU JUST TO PLUCK ONE THING OUT OF THAT INTERVIEW THAT YOU EITHER WANT TO REFER TO, AGREE WITH, DISAGREE WITH, AMPLIFY... LET'S START RIGHT THERE. SHANNON LEE SIMMONS, GET US STARTED, IF YOU WOULD?

The caption changes to "Shannon Lee Simmons. New School of Finance."

Shannon says I LOVED IT. I THOUGHT IT WAS REALLY REFRESHING TO HEAR SOMEBODY SAY THAT THE ECONOMY IS A LIVING ORGANISM AND NOT A MACHINE AND WE NEED TO STOP TREATING IT IN SUCH WAYS AND THAT BOTTOM-LINE PROFITS FOR SHAREHOLDERS IS NOT HEALTHY FOR THE GREATER ECONOMY AND THE AVERAGE PERSON AND DEFINITELY ERODING THE MIDDLE CLASS. IT'S REALLY REFRESHING TO HEAR SOMEONE SAY THAT.

Steve says BRIAN MILNER, YOUR TAKE?

The caption changes to "Brian Milner. Business Journalist."

Brian says WELL, I ALWAYS LOVE A GOOD CRITIQUE OF NEO CLASSICAL ECONOMICS AND ROGER DOES IT AS WELL AS ANYBODY, AND THE FACT IS THAT ALL THESE MODELS WHICH POLITICIANS AND OTHERS HAVE RELIED ON DON'T REALLY WORK, AND HE GIVES A GOOD EXPLANATION OF WHY, AND THAT'S BECAUSE THE ECONOMY IS NOT A MACHINE. AND I THOUGHT THAT WAS THE KEY POINT IN HIS BOOK AND ALSO IN YOUR CONVERSATION.

Steve says I'M LEAVING THE... I'M LEAVING THE ECONOMIST WHO IS INFLUENCING THE MINDS OF THE YOUNG ECONOMISTS AND BUSINESSPEOPLE OF THE FUTURE TO THE END HERE. MICHAEL, ARE YOU PART OF THE SOLUTION OR PART OF THE PROBLEM HERE?

The caption changes to "Michael Veall. McMaster University."

Michael says OH, PROBABLY A LITTLE BIT OF BOTH. I THINK IN TERMS OF WHAT PROFESSOR MARTIN SAID, I DID HAVE TO TAKE EXCEPTION TO WHEN HE WAS ARGUING THAT COSTCO NOT PAYING LOW WAGES WAS THOUGHT OF AS INEFFICIENT. NO ONE WOULD THINK OF IT AS INEFFICIENT. IT'S EFFICIENT BECAUSE OF COURSE THEY'RE GETTING VERY PRODUCTIVE WORKERS IN RETURN. ECONOMISTS DON'T ARGUE THAT LOW WAGES BY THEMSELVES ARE INEFFICIENT. THAT'S JUST NOT TRUE. BUT MORE BROADLY, WHAT I TOOK AWAY, AND I ACTUALLY HAD THE BENEFIT OF READING THE BOOK AS WELL, IS THAT THERE IS A VERY AMERICAN PART OF THIS BOOK AND THAT CANADA IS DIFFERENT IN IMPORTANT WAYS. SO IN THE INTERVIEW, FOR EXAMPLE, HE TOOK THE BANK ACT OF CANADA AS AN EXAMPLE OF SOMETHING THAT CANADA IS DOING RIGHT. THERE'S LOTS OF OTHER EXAMPLES FROM THE HIGHER RATE OF VOTER REGISTRATION TO EVEN THE SHOUT-OUT TO THE TEACHER BETH ROSSO IN HAMILTON, ONTARIO, ABOUT HOW WELL SHE IS DOING. LOTS OF GREAT EXAMPLES OF CANADA. THAT'S IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER, WE'RE NOT THE SAME AS THE UNITED STATES.

Steve says FULL DISCLOSURE, SINCE YOU MENTION BETH, SHE IS MY SISTER-IN-LAW. I DIDN'T KNOW SHE WAS GOING TO BE PART OF THAT BOOK UNTIL I READ IT MYSELF. THERE YOU GO. SURPRISE, SURPRISE. SHE COMES OFF VERY NICELY IN THIS BOOK AS SOMEONE WHO DOES WHAT SHE DOES DISTINCTLY AND VERY, VERY WELL. BUT YOU'VE ANTICIPATED NICELY WHERE I WANTED TO GO NEXT AND, BRIAN, I'LL PUT THAT TO YOU, WHICH IS AMERICA IS IN THE TITLE OF THE BOOK AND I NEED TO KNOW FROM YOU WHETHER OR NOT THE PROBLEMS THAT HE'S IDENTIFIED IN THIS BOOK ARE AS PROBLEMATIC IN CANADA AS THEY ARE DOWN SOUTH?

The caption changes to "Brian Milner, @bmilnerglobe."

Brian says WELL, I DON'T THINK THEY ARE BECAUSE, FOR ONE THING, THE INCOME GAP IN CANADA HAS NEVER BEEN AS WIDE AS IT'S BEEN IN THE STATES GOING BACK MORE THAN 100 YEARS. I ALSO THINK THAT BECAUSE WE DO HAVE A NATIONAL HEALTH CARE SYSTEM, IT SORT OF PROTECTS PEOPLE AT THE BOTTOM IN A MUCH BETTER WAY THAN THE U.S. DOES, AND I ALSO HAVE TO SAY THAT IN TERMS OF DEMOCRATIC CAPITALISM, THERE ARE OTHER MODELS THAT WORK BETTER THAN WHAT ROGER IS DESCRIBING, AND I THINK OF SCANDINAVIA AS AN EXAMPLE WHERE, YOU KNOW, THEY HAVE A DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST MODEL, BUT THEY'RE STILL CAPITALIST COUNTRIES. THE FACT IS, IF YOU LIVE IN SWEDEN, IT'S EASIER FOR YOU TO BECOME WEALTHY THAN IT IS IN THE UNITED STATES, AND THOSE ARE POINTS OF COURSE THAT HE DOESN'T GET TO IN THE BOOK BECAUSE THE FOCUS IS REALLY ON THE U.S.

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

Steve says SO THERE'S A LOT MORE FINANCIAL MOBILITY IN SCANDINAVIA THAN THERE IS OVER IN NORTH AMERICA; IS THAT THE POINT?

Brian says CONSIDERABLE MORE FINANCIAL MOBILITY AND EVEN MORE SOCIAL MOBILITY THAT BLOWS UP THAT MYTH THAT THE U.S. HAS ALWAYS LIVED ON THAT THEY HAVE THE BEST MOBILITY AND THE EASIEST PATH FOR EVERY CITIZEN TO BECOME WEALTHY. THAT HASN'T BEEN TRUE FOR A LONG TIME.

Steve says MICHAEL, YOU WANTED TO FOLLOW UP?

Michael says WELL, I THINK THAT'S A GOOD POINT BRIAN MAKES ABOUT INTERGENERATIONAL MOBILITY. IN FACT, IT'S SIGNIFICANTLY HIGHER IN CANADA THAN THE UNITED STATES AS WELL.

The caption changes to "Disenchanted with democracy?"

Steve says I'M GOING TO ASK OUR DIRECTOR HERE, SHELDON OSMOND, TO PUT UP A GRAPH. SHANNON, I'LL GET YOU TO SPEAK TO IT FIRST.

A slate appears on screen, with the title "Globally, younger generations have become increasingly dissatisfied with democracy, but not older ones."

A chart containing four lines of different colours shows that Millennials and Generation X have become more dissatisfied as they have aged, particularly Millennials, whereas Baby Boomers and Interwar generation have not.

Steve continues THIS IS ESSENTIALLY... IT'S TWEETED OUT BY THE FINANCIAL TIMES BACK ON NOVEMBER 17TH, AND ESSENTIALLY... AGAIN, I'M GOING TO DESCRIBE THIS A BIT FOR PEOPLE WHO CAN'T SEE IT AND WHO ARE LISTENING ON PODCAST. IT SEEMS THAT THE OLDER YOU ARE, THE MORE YOU ARE SATISFIED WITH DEMOCRACY. SO IF WE GO TO THE TOP RIGHT CORNER OF THIS GRAPH, YOU SEE A BLUE SQUIGGLY LINE THERE, THE INTERWAR GENERATION, 1918 TO 1943, HIGH LEVELS OF SATISFACTION, BABY BOOMERS ARE THE NEXT ONE DOWN, 1944-64, AGAIN RECENT DECENT LEVEL OF SATISFACTION WITH THE WAY DEMOCRACY WORKS. WE GET INTO GENERATION X, 1965 TO 1980, LESS AND LESS SATISFACTION. AND THE MILLENNIALS, BORN 1981 TO 1996, CONSIDERABLE DISSATISFACTION WITH THE WAY SOCIETY WORKS. SHANNON, I GUESS I WANT TO KNOW FROM YOU: DO YOU BELIEVE, BASED ON YOUR INTERACTIONS WITH THIS GENERATION, THAT THEY... YOU KNOW, IT'S LEGITIMATE FOR THEM TO FEEL THAT WAY?

The caption changes to "Shannon Lee Simmons, @shanleesimmons."

Shannon says IT'S A GREAT QUESTION. I THINK EVERYONE LOVES THE IDEA OF CRITICAL THOUGHT IN A DEMOCRACY, BUT I THINK SPECIFICALLY TO DEMOCRATIC CAPITALISM, THIS IS EVEN MENTIONED IN THE INTERVIEW, THAT SOMETHING IS NOT WORKING. SO PEOPLE ARE BEING LEFT BEHIND AND THE YOUNGER GENERATION IS FEELING THAT POLARIZATION OF THE WEALTHY GETTING WEALTHY AND THE MONOPOLIES THAT HAVE BEEN CREATED WITH BIG, HUGE, MASSIVE CORPORATIONS, AND THEY'RE FEELING LIKE THEY DON'T HAVE THE SAME HOPE. THEY'RE NOT GOING TO DO BETTER THAN THEIR PARENTS' GENERATION, WHICH IS THIS MASSIVE... THAT'S HAPPENED. I DO AGREE THE YOUNGER GENERATIONS AND EVEN INTO GEN-X AND THE CONVERSATIONS I'M HAVING ON THE FRONT LINE WITH FINANCIAL PLANNING, THERE IS DISILLUSIONMENT WITH THE CURRENT SYSTEM. TO THE INTERVIEW'S POINT, WHEN THINGS ARE POLARIZED, PEOPLE WANT TO TRY NEW THINGS. AND I AGREE WITH THAT AND I HEAR IT OFTEN, ALL THE TIME, AND PEOPLE ARE NERVOUS ABOUT THE FUTURE.

Steve says CAN I DO A FOLLOW-UP WITH YOU ON THAT. AMONG YOUR YOUNGER CLIENTELE, THE PANDEMIC AND THE ECONOMIC IMPACT IT'S HAD ON THEM, WHAT ARE YOU SEEING?

Shannon says POLARIZING AS WELL. SO THERE ARE THE HAVES AND THE HAVE-NOTS. I HAVE OVER 350 MEETINGS SINCE LOCKDOWN ON MARCH 12TH, AND THE PEOPLE WHO WERE ABLE TO JUST SWITCH REMOTELY, WORK RIGHT AWAY AND NOT HAVE THEIR INCOME DISRUPTED, SO TYPICALLY PROFESSIONAL JOBS, PEOPLE WHO ALREADY MAYBE HAD STABLE INCOMES, VERSUS PEOPLE WHO WERE ALREADY IN THE GIG ECONOMY OR WORKING IN RETAIL AND THEIR JOBS WERE COMPLETELY CHANGED OVERNIGHT. AND SOME OF THESE INDUSTRIES WERE TAKEN OFF THE TABLE ALTOGETHER. WE ALL KNOW THAT YOUR BEST ASSET IS YOUR FUTURE INCOME AND I WOULD SAY HALF MY CLIENTS RIGHT NOW DON'T KNOW WHAT THEIR FUTURE INCOME LOOKS LIKE. THAT IS ALL KINDS OF INSTABILITY. HOW CAN YOU MAKE A PLAN THREE DAYS FROM NOW, LET ALONE THREE YEARS FROM NOW? AGAIN, IT'S THAT POLARIZING NATURE OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE IT AND PEOPLE WHO DON'T. AND I'M SEEING, EVEN OVER THE 12 YEARS I'VE BEEN ON THE FRONT LINES OF FINANCIAL PLANNING, THAT DIVIDE IS GETTING GREATER AND GREATER, ESPECIALLY WITH GENERATIONAL WEALTH.

Steve says BRIAN, CAN I GET YOU TO REACT TO THAT TWEET WE PUT UP A WHILE AGO THAT THE OLDER YOU ARE THE MORE SATISFIED YOU ARE WITH THE WAY DEMOCRACY WORKS, THE YOUNGER YOU ARE, THE LESS SATISFIED YOU ARE. HOW CONCERNED SHOULD WE ALL BE ABOUT THOSE NUMBERS?

Brian says WELL, I THINK THAT THE NUMBERS ARE ACCURATE. I THINK IF YOU TALK TO ANYBODY THESE DAYS IN THEIR 20s, ESPECIALLY IF THEY'VE JUST COME OUT OF UNIVERSITY IN THE MIDDLE OF THIS PANDEMIC, THEY HAVE REAL CONCERNS ABOUT HOW THEY'RE GOING TO MANAGE AND THEIR INCOMES ARE UNCERTAIN, THEIR JOB PROSPECTS ARE REALLY UNCERTAIN THESE DAYS, AND THEY ARE DISILLUSIONED BECAUSE THEY WERE PROMISED SOMETHING BETTER MANY YEARS AGO. BUT I THINK IT'S ALSO TRUE THAT OLDER PEOPLE WHO ARE HAPPIER WITH DEMOCRATIC CAPITALISM, OLDER PEOPLE WHO ARE PRETTY WELL-OFF. IF YOU GO TO OLDER POOR PEOPLE, THEY'RE JUST AS MISERABLE AS EVERYBODY IN THE YOUNGER SET. SO I DON'T THINK IT'S WIDELY TRUE.

Steve says MICHAEL, WHAT'S YOUR REACTION TO ALL OF THAT?

The caption changes to "Michael Veall, @CDNproductivity."

Michael says I THINK BRIAN AND SHANNON BOTH MAKE GREAT POINTS. NOT ONLY ARE THE YOUNGER GENERATION COMING TO A TIME WITH POORER JOB PROSPECTS, EVEN HARDER TO FIND A GOOD JOB, BUT IT'S HARDER AND HARDER FOR THEM TO GET A HOUSE AND WE'RE SADDLING THEM WITH THE DEBT THAT IS PAYING OFF THE COSTS OF THE COVID CRISIS. IT'S NOT SURPRISING THEY'RE DISAFFECTED.

Steve says SINCE WE HAVE A GOOD ECONOMIST/PROFESSOR HERE WHO TEACHES THIS STUFF, LET'S DO SOME ECONOMICS 101, AND MICHAEL I'M GOING TO PUT YOU TO WORK HERE. I DON'T WANT TO ASSUME THAT EVERYBODY WHO IS WATCHING THIS RIGHT NOW UNDERSTANDS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF CENTRAL BANKS AND WHAT THEY DO, WHAT THEIR ROLE IS IN OUR ECONOMY. SO LET'S DO TWO THINGS HERE: NUMBER ONE, TELL US WHAT IT IS, AND THEN, NUMBER TWO, TELL US WHETHER YOU THINK THAT THE POLICIES THAT THEY HAVE PURSUED, NAMELY VERY CHEAP MONEY. IF YOU WANT TO BORROW MONEY, IT'S NEVER BEEN CHEAPER IN OUR LIFETIMES THAN TO DO IT RIGHT NOW. IT'S GREAT IF YOU'VE GOT MONEY. IT'S GREAT IF YOU CAN PLAY THE MARKETS. IT'S GREAT IF YOU WANT TO BUY A HOUSE. BUT FOR A LOT OF PEOPLE, IT'S LEAVING PEOPLE BEHIND. THAT'S YOUR ASSIGNMENT. GO!

The caption changes to "Monetary policy."

Michael says ALL RIGHT. SO THE FIRST PART ABOUT THAT IS WHAT THE BANK OF CANADA DOES, AND OF COURSE THEY RESPONDED TO THIS CRISIS, IT'S ALWAYS THE CASE IN AN ECONOMIC RECESSION, BY CUTTING INTEREST RATES. I THINK IT CAN BE OVERESTIMATED HOW MUCH IT'S WHAT THEY DID AND THE MARKET WOULD HAVE DONE SOME OF THIS ON ITS OWN BECAUSE EVERY TIME THE ECONOMY GOES INTO RECESSION, INTEREST RATES ARE GOING TO FALL. THEY'VE GONE VERY LOW AND THAT'S SUPPORTED A LOT OF ECONOMIC ACTIVITY. THE BANK OF CANADA, ITS MANDATE IS TO TRY TO KEEP THE INFLATION RATE AT 2 percent, SO A STABLE RATE OF INFLATION. WE'RE NOW BELOW THAT. THEY'RE GOING TO PURSUE EXPANSIONARY POLICY BECAUSE THAT HIGHER RATE OF INFLATION WILL BE PART OF AN ECONOMY THAT'S MOVING A LITTLE BETTER THAN THE ECONOMY IS MOVING RIGHT NOW. THE OTHER THING THAT YOU MENTIONED... I MEAN, THERE'S A LOT THERE... BUT THINK ABOUT THE HOUSING MARKET. HAVE WE REALLY MADE IT EASIER FOR PEOPLE TO BUY HOUSES? WHAT'S HAPPENED, OF COURSE, IS INTEREST RATES ARE LOWER, AND THAT HELPS, BUT HOUSING PRICES, IF ANYTHING, HAVE GONE UP. AND ONE OF THE THINGS THAT THE LOW INTEREST RATE POLICY OVER THE LAST SEVERAL YEARS IS IT'S BEEN FUELLING A HOUSING PRICE BOOM. SO IT'S NOT ALWAYS THE CASE THAT LOW INTEREST RATES HELP PEOPLE GET INTO THE HOUSING MARKET.

Steve says YEAH, BRIAN, CAN YOU FOLLOW UP ON THAT? IT HAS BEEN ONE OF THE PER INVESTIGATIONS OF LOW INTEREST RATES, THAT RATHER THAN MAKING IT EASIER FOR YOUNGER PEOPLE TO GET INTO THE HOUSING MARKET AND GET THAT FIRST HOME, IT'S JUST SENT THE PRICE OF HOUSES THROUGH THE ROOF IN MANY LOCATIONS IN ONTARIO AND IT'S MADE IT EVEN TOUGHER FOR YOUNG PEOPLE TO GET IN.

Brian says IT IS TRUE IT'S BEEN VERY TOUGH FOR FIRST-TIME BUYERS BUT IT'S BEEN TOUGH IN THE PAST WHEN INTEREST RATES WERE VERY HIGH AND YOUNG PEOPLE HAD TROUBLE SCRAPING TOGETHER DOWN PAYMENTS, AND HISTORICALLY THEY'VE HAD TO RELY ON PARENTS OR OTHER PEOPLE HELPING. THERE WAS A BIG SECOND MORTGAGE MARKET THAT'S STILL OUT THERE. BUT FOR PEOPLE WHO ALREADY ARE IN THE HOUSING MARKET, LOW INTEREST RATES ARE HELPING THEM MOVE UP, AND ALSO THEY'RE MOVING OUT. THEY'RE LEAVING PLACES THAT ARE VERY HIGH COST, LIKE TORONTO AND VANCOUVER, AND LATELY, AS THE GLOBE HAS REPORTED, THERE'S BEEN A FLOOD OF PEOPLE MOVING INTO THE MARITIMES, NOT MARITIMERS BUT PEOPLE FROM ONTARIO WHO SAY, WAIT A MINUTE. FOR HALF A MILLION DOLLARS, I CAN GET A REALLY GREAT HOUSE IN NEW BRUNSWICK, AND THAT WILL COST ME FOUR TIMES AS MUCH IN TORONTO.

Steve says SHANNON, AGAIN, FOR YOUR YOUNGER CLIENTS WHO ARE FINDING IT NEXT TO IMPOSSIBLE TO GET INTO THE HOUSING MARKET, HOW MUCH DOES THAT CONTRIBUTE TO THEIR SENSE OF, I DON'T KNOW, ECONOMIC UNTETHERING THAT THEY'RE NO DOUBT FEELING RIGHT NOW?

The caption changes to "Subscribe to The Agenda Podcast: tvo.org/theagenda."

Shannon says I THINK IT'S HUGE. THE HOUSING PIECE IS ALWAYS A BIG ONE. AND WHEN YOU'RE YOUNGER AND RENTING, IT'S ONE THING TO SAY, WELL, ONE DAY I'LL OWN A HOUSE. THEN AS YOU GET OLDER AND OLDER AND THAT FEELS LIKE IT'S AN IMPOSSIBLE GOAL, PEOPLE BECOME REALLY FRUSTRATED ABOUT THAT BECAUSE WE'VE SEEN THE HOUSING MARKET BOOM AND SO IF YOU'RE NOT BEING A PART OF THAT ECONOMIC BOOM FOR YOURSELF, THEN YOU FEEL EVEN MORE LEFT OUT OF WHAT IS POTENTIALLY ECONOMIC GROWTH. AND A LOT OF TIMES MILLENNIALS BELIEVE THAT OWNING A HOME IS THE BEST WAY TO BUILD WEALTH OVER A LIFETIME VERSUS, YOU KNOW, MAYBE INVESTING IN THE STOCK MARKET AND ALL THOSE THINGS THAT YOU CAN STILL DO WHILE RENTING, THE HOUSING MARKET HAS THIS LUSTRE. YOU CAN ALSO LIVE THERE. THERE'S HOME STABILITY AND YOU KNOW YOU'RE NOT GOING TO GET EVICTED AT ANY TIME SOON. I DEFINITELY THINK THAT THE FIRST-TIME HOME BUYER PIECE IS SUCH A TOUGH ONE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE, AND THE AMOUNT OF PARENTAL HELP AND FAMILY GIFTING THAT I'VE SEEN OVER THE YEARS HAS... I MEAN, IT'S ALWAYS BEEN THERE, BUT IT'S BECOMING MORE AND MORE NECESSARY FOR PEOPLE WHO WANT TO BUY.

Steve says BUT IF THAT'S THE CASE, THEN CAN WE SAY THAT... I'M NOT DOUBTING WHAT YOU'RE SAYING, BUT I DO WANT TO FOLLOW UP, INASMUCH AS AS...

Shannon says YEAH.

Steve says IF THE OLDER GENERATION IS HELPING THE YOUNGER GENERATION GET INTO THE HOUSING MARKET, THEN MAYBE THIS ISSUE OF ECONOMIC UNTETHERING ISN'T AS SIGNIFICANT AS WE THINK? I DON'T KNOW. YOU TELL ME.

Shannon says ONLY SOME PEOPLE HAVE PARENTS WHO CAN HELP.

Steve says SURE.

Shannon says THINK ABOUT ALL THE PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT BENEFITING FROM THAT GENERATIONAL WEALTH. THIS IS A CLASS ISSUE, THIS IS A RACE ISSUE. THERE'S SO MANY THINGS THAT ARE FRAUGHT WITH THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE IT, KEEPING IT, AND GIVING IT TO THEIR CHILDREN, AND A WHOLE SLEW OF OTHER PEOPLE WHO ARE LEFT BEHIND AND LEFT OUT.

Steve says MICHAEL, I WANT TO... WE TOUCHED ON THIS A BIT EARLIER BUT I'D LIKE TO COME BACK TO IT AND MAYBE GET INTO MORE DEPTH HERE, THE ISSUE OF SOCIAL MOBILITY. WE'VE ESTABLISHED THE FACT THAT CANADA MAY BE BETTER THAN THE UNITED STATES ON THIS, BUT THE SCANDINAVIAN COUNTRIES MAY BE BETTER THAN WE ARE AT IT. AS YOU LOOK AROUND THE WORLD, WHO IS DOING SOCIAL MOBILITY WELL NOW, IF ANYBODY?

Michael says WELL, ACTUALLY, CANADA DID, IN MY VIEW, VERY WELL. BUT IT'S PROBABLY DETERIORATING NOW. AND THE REASON IT'S DETERIORATING IS THAT SOME OF THE ISSUES THAT HAVE JUST BEEN MENTIONED, THAT MORE AND MORE IT DEPENDS ON WHETHER YOU GREW UP IN A FAMILY OF MEANS OR WHETHER YOU DID NOT, BECAUSE THAT GIVES YOU ACCESS TO THE HOUSING MARKET, THAT GIVES YOU ACCESS TO CERTAIN SORTS OF EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES AND JOB OPPORTUNITIES. SO I WORRY THAT THIS IS WHAT'S FRAYING IN THE CANADIAN FABRIC, THAT THE PROBLEM OF SOCIAL MOBILITY IS ONE THAT I THINK THAT WE'RE IN A PRETTY GOOD PLACE, BUT I'M NOT SURE GOING FORWARD WE CAN STAY THERE.

Steve says BRIAN, DOES ANY SOCIAL MOBILITY HAPPEN AT ALL DURING A PANDEMIC? IN OTHER WORDS, HAS IT BASICALLY BEEN STATUS QUO FOR THE LAST 9 MONTHS?

Brian says WELL, I THINK THAT'S ONE OF THE BIG ISSUES. FOR ONE THING, IF PEOPLE CAN'T MOVE AROUND, AND FOR ANOTHER, THE JOB MARKET HAS BECOME SO UNCERTAIN ACROSS THE COUNTRY. SO WHEN YOU HAVE A CASE OF A REALLY STRUGGLING HAVE-NOT AREA, PEOPLE CAN MOVE. PEOPLE MOVE FROM THE MARITIMES TO TORONTO ORIGINALLY, MANY YEARS AGO, AND THEN THEY STARTED MOVING WEST WHEN THE OIL BOOM HIT IN ALBERTA. THOSE OPPORTUNITIES HAVE PRETTY MUCH DRIED UP AND A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO HAD MOVED ARE NOW MOVING BACK AND THEY DON'T HAVE GREAT JOB PROSPECTS EVEN GOING BACK HOME. SO I THINK IT IS A MAJOR FACTOR.

Steve says ONE OF THE... ONE OF THE CRITICISMS I OCCASIONALLY GET IN HOSTING THIS PROGRAM IS, SOME PEOPLE DO SAY TO ME FROM TIME TO TIME, BOY, YOU SPEND A LOT OF TIME IDENTIFYING PROBLEMS AND REALLY, YOU KNOW, GOING INTO DEPTH ABOUT WHAT THE PROBLEMS ARE, BUT YOU DON'T SPEND ENOUGH TIME TELLING US HOW WE'RE GOING TO GET OUT OF THESE DIFFICULTIES. SO TO THOSE PEOPLE WHO HAVE THIS CRITICISM, THIS IS YOUR MOMENT, BECAUSE WE ARE GOING TO SPEND THE NEXT 15 MINUTES TALKING ABOUT, IF IN FACT WE'VE IDENTIFIED THE PROBLEM CORRECTLY, AS IT SEEMS WE HAVE, HOW WE'RE GOING TO GET OUT OF THIS MESS. YOU'VE HEARD ROGER MARTIN EARLIER IN THE PROGRAM TALK ABOUT ALL THE DIFFERENT STAKEHOLDERS INVOLVED AND WHAT ROLE EACH OF THEM HAS TO PLAY IN GETTING US TO A BETTER PLACE. SO LET'S START THERE. WHAT PROSPECTS... AND, SHANNON LEE SIMMONS, WHY DON'T I GO TO YOU FIRST ON THIS. WHAT DO YOU SEE AS BEING ACHIEVABLE OF THE SOLUTIONS THAT ROGER MENTIONED EARLIER IN THE PROGRAM?

The caption changes to "Solutions."

Shannon says I LOVE WHEN HE BROUGHT IN BUSINESS EXECUTIVES AND WHAT THEY CAN DO WITHOUT CHASING SHAREHOLDER PROFIT AT THE BOTTOM LINE AND HOW THAT DOESN'T REALLY WORK. SO I WOULD LOVE TO SEE EMPLOYERS TAKING OWNERSHIP OF THEIR EMPLOYEES MORE... YOU KNOW, TAKING FINANCIAL PLANNING AND FINANCIAL WELLNESS SERIOUSLY, DO MORE EMPLOYER PLANS. THAT'S BEEN PROVEN TO BE ONE OF THE BEST WAYS TO DRIVING SAVINGS AND WEALTH IS WHEN IT HAPPENS AT SOURCE THROUGH YOUR EMPLOYER. SO SEEING THAT ACROSS THE BOARD, MUCH MORE OF THAT, TO HELP PEOPLE SAVE. I WOULD ALSO LIKE TO SEE WAGES GO UP AND NOT THAT EFFICIENCY AT ALL COSTS. SO PAYING FAIR WAGES. HAVING BENEFIT PROGRAMS FOR PEOPLE. I THINK THERE'S SO MUCH THAT CAN HAPPEN AT THE EMPLOYER LEVEL, IF WE'RE NOT JUST ALWAYS TRYING TO CATER TO THE SHAREHOLDER AT THE END OF THE DAY.

Steve says CAN I DO A QUICK FOLLOW-UP WITH YOU ON THAT INASMUCH AS, WHY WOULD AN EMPLOYEE NOT SAY TO AN EMPLOYER, WHO WAS GENUINELY TRYING TO HELP WITH SOME FINANCIAL PLANNING AND SO ON, WOULD WHY THEY NOT SAY, MIND YOUR OWN DAMN BUSINESS.

Shannon says I THINK IF AN EMPLOYER IS OFFERING A COMPANY SHARE PLAN WHERE THEY DO SOME SORT OF MATCHING OR AUTOMATIC DEDUCTIONS AND AN EMPLOYEE WANTS TO OPT OUT OF IT, IT'S A FREE WORLD, SO DO YOUR THING. BUT IT HAS BEEN PROVEN OVER AND OVER AGAIN THAT THOSE WHO ENROL IN EMPLOYEE DEDUCTION PROGRAMS END UP SAVING MORE BECAUSE IT HAPPENS BEFORE THE MONEY EVEN HITS YOUR CHEQUING ACCOUNT AND IT'S AUTOMATIC AND IT'S HAPPENING BEHIND THE SCENES. IF THERE'S EMPLOYER MATCHING THAT GOES ALONG WITH THAT AS WELL AS A BENEFIT PROGRAM, YOU'RE SETTING SOMEONE UP FOR SUCCESS IN A WAY THAT WITHOUT THAT THEY HAVE TO DO IT ALL BY THEMSELVES AND THE WAGES ARE STAGNATING AND IT'S REALLY HARD. SO I THINK THAT AUTOMATED AND AUTOMATIC SAVINGS HAPPENING AT THE EMPLOYER LEVEL WOULD REALLY MAKE A HUGE DIFFERENCE.

Steve says AND IN YOUR EXPERIENCE, EMPLOYEES ARE OPEN TO THAT KIND OF ADVICE?

Shannon says OH, YEAH.

Steve says THEY ARE.

Shannon says YEAH. I MEAN, MOST PEOPLE BRAG ABOUT IT. IT'S SOMETHING AT DINNER PARTIES, WELL, I'VE GOT A BENEFIT PLAN. DO YOU? I'M NOT KIDDING. BECAUSE I THINK THAT BACK IN THE '70s AND '80s, WE HAD... YOU COULD GET THE COMPANY PENSION PLAN, YOU WERE ON THE TRACK, AND YOU COULD BE A COMPANY PERSON. YOU JUST HAD TO SHOW UP. TO THE INTERVIEW AS WELL, WE'RE TIED TO ECONOMIC GROWTH, AND THE AVERAGE MEDIAN WAGE. WELL, THAT'S NOT THE CASE ANYMORE. SO I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHY PEOPLE ARE ALWAYS VOTING WHEN IT'S LIKE ECONOMIC GROWTH. WELL, DOES ECONOMIC GROWTH SERVE YOU? LET'S THINK ABOUT THAT BEFORE WE VOTE AND LET'S THINK ABOUT THAT WHEN YOU'RE CHOOSING AN EMPLOYER. THE PROBLEM TOO IS I FIND THE JOB MARKET IS TIGHTER AND TIGHTER, AND SO PEOPLE ARE MORE AND MORE DESPERATE TO TAKE WHATEVER JOB THEY CAN SO THE EMPLOYERS ARE GETTING MORE AND MORE POWER.

Steve says YOU MENTIONED TWO WORDS. I DON'T KNOW WHAT THESE ARE ANYMORE. DINNER PARTY. WHAT'S THAT?

Shannon says THEY'RE ON ZOOM NOW.

Steve says THAT I GET. THAT I UNDERSTAND. LET'S GO TO MICHAEL VEALL ON THIS ONE. FROM THE PRESCRIPTIONS THAT YOU HEARD FROM ROGER MARTIN, WHAT DO YOU THINK IS ACHIEVABLE?

Michael says OH, THERE'S A LOT. HIS BOOK IS VERY COMPLEX AND IT GOES IN LOTS OF DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS. I SOMETIMES WORRY A LITTLE THAT WHAT MIGHT BE ACHIEVABLE FOR SOME OF THE FIRMS HE CHOOSES AS EXAMPLES THAT HAVE DONE VERY, VERY WELL BY PURSUING THESE HIGH WAGE, HIGH PRODUCTIVITY POLICIES, WHETHER THAT COULD BE GENERALIZED TO THE ECONOMY AS A WHOLE. BUT I DO THINK THERE IS SOMETHING THERE. I DO THINK THAT ONE OF THE THINGS THAT HE REALLY EMPHASIZES IN ALL HIS WORK IS THAT THE VALUE OF BUSINESSES BEING OPERATED BY SOUND BUSINESS PRINCIPLES, TRYING TO PRODUCE BETTER PRODUCTS THAT BETTER SATISFY CUSTOMERS AND NOT WORRYING SO MUCH ABOUT THE INFORMATIONAL SIDE. I REMEMBER, FOR EXAMPLE, A REVIEW OF ONE OF HIS EARLIER BOOKS BY ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, THAT WE'VE GONE FROM AN ECONOMY OF MAKING THINGS FROM AN ECONOMY OF MAKING THINGS UP; THAT IS, THAT BUSINESS LEADERS DECEIVE AND THAT LEADS TO SERIOUS PROBLEMS WITH THE WAY BOTH THE ECONOMY HANDLED THE PREVIOUS RECESSIONS IN 2008 AND AS WE GO FORWARD, WHERE THERE NEEDS TO BE MORE TRUST BETWEEN WORKERS AND FIRMS.

Steve says BRIAN, IN YOUR VIEW, WHAT'S ACHIEVABLE?

Brian says WELL, I THINK ALMOST EVERYTHING HE PROPOSES IS ACHIEVABLE, AND AS HE POINTS OUT IN THE BOOK, ALL OF IT HAS BEEN TRIED SOME PLACE AT SOME POINT, AND SOME OF IT IS BEING IMPLEMENTED NOW SUCCESSFULLY. WHAT I REALLY LIKED IS THE FACT THAT HE'S NOT PROPOSING WIDE, SWEEPING CHANGES THAT WOULD BE POLITICALLY IMPOSSIBLE ANYWAY AND WHICH BUSINESS WOULD LIKELY REJECT, HE'S PROPOSING INCREMENTAL THINGS AND HE'S PROPOSING SOME THINGS THAT ARE LONG OVERDUE, LIKE, FOR INSTANCE, THE EMPHASIS... HIS EMPHASIS ON ANTITRUST TOUGHNESS WHICH HAS SORT OF GONE BY THE WAYSIDE. AND IN CANADA, OF COURSE IT'S THE COMPETITION TRIBUNAL THAT DEALS WITH THAT STUFF AND THE FACT IT'S ALLOWED MONOPOLISTIC-TYPE PRACTICES THAT HAS REALLY CAUSED A LOT OF DAMAGE IN BOTH OUR COUNTRIES.

Steve says I ASK THE QUESTION, BRIAN, BECAUSE HE DID SAY AT THE END OF THE INTERVIEW IT'S GOING TO TAKE A DECADE TO CHANGE THE WAY PEOPLE THINK ABOUT THIS ISSUE. IF IT'S GOING TO TAKE A DECADE, THAT DOESN'T SOUND TO ME LIKE THIS IS READILY ACHIEVABLE, UNLESS I'M MISSING THE MARK HERE. WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Brian says HE USES THE ROTMAN SCHOOL WHERE HE WAS A DEAN FOR SO MANY YEARS AS AN EXAMPLE. IT TOOK 15 YEARS, BUT BY THE TIME HE FINISHED THERE, THE CHANGES WERE SO INCREMENTAL THAT A LOT OF PEOPLE DIDN'T EVEN NOTICE, AND THEY KEPT APPROVING IT ALL THE WAY. HAD HE TRIED TO BRING IN DRASTIC MEASURES TO CHANGE THE WAY YOU WERE TEACHING BUSINESS, HE WOULD HAVE RUN INTO INCREDIBLE OPPOSITION, AND HE MANAGED TO AVOID THAT WITH THE METHODS HE WAS EMPLOYING.

Steve says ALL RIGHT. LET'S TRY... AGAIN, I'M GOING TO HIT ON THIS AGAIN, THIS NOTION THAT THIS MAY TAKE A DECADE TO DO BECAUSE... I THINK WE'VE ALL LEARNED ALONG THE WAY THAT MONOPOLIES ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE BEST THING FOR DYNAMIC, DEMOCRATIC CAPITALISM, AND YET AMAZON, FACEBOOK, GOOGLE... I MEAN, THEY'RE NOT TECHNICALLY MONOPOLIES BUT THEY'RE VIRTUAL MONOPOLIES IN THE SPACE IN WHICH THEY INHABIT. AND I GUESS... MICHAEL, I'LL GO TO YOU ON THIS... HOW HAVE THEY BEEN ALLOWED TO HAPPEN? HOW IS THAT CONSISTENT WITH DEMOCRATIC CAPITALISM?

Michael says WELL, IT IS A CHALLENGE, AND I DO THINK THAT EVEN AS WE THINK ABOUT A 10-YEAR HORIZON, WE SHOULDN'T LET SHORT TERMISM, THE VERY SHORT-TERMISM WE CRITICIZE CORPORATE LEADERS FOR, WE SHOULDN'T LET THAT GOVERN OUR POLITICAL PROCESS EITHER. WE DO HAVE TO THINK IN TERMS OF TEN YEARS OR MORE. I PROBABLY AM LESS CONCERNED ABOUT THOSE MONOPOLIES. I DO THINK THAT THERE NEEDS TO BE MORE ROLES FOR GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION IN SOME CASES, BUT THE REASON OF COURSE WE HAVE A GOOGLE MONOPOLY IS IT MAKES SENSE FOR US TO HAVE ONE PLACE WHERE THIS INFORMATION IS GATHERED. HE WOULD ARGUE PERHAPS, I THINK, THIS IS PROFESSOR MARTIN, THAT THAT MAKES OUR SYSTEM LESS RESILIENT. BUT THERE ARE COMPETITORS IN THE BACKGROUND. IF GOOGLE FALTERS, THERE WILL BE ANOTHER ONE THERE.

Steve says SHANNON, I WANT TO REVISIT THAT ISSUE YOU RAISED A MOMENT AGO ABOUT THE ROLE OF COMPANIES IN HELPING THEIR EMPLOYEES DO THEIR FINANCIAL PLANNING AND BE ON MORE SOLID FINANCIAL FOOTING. CAN YOU TELL... I GET WHY THAT'S A GOOD IDEA FOR EMPLOYEES TO AVAIL THEMSELVES OF, IF THEY FEEL THEY NEED IT. WHAT'S IN IT FOR THE COMPANIES TO DO THAT, IN YOUR VIEW?

Shannon says I THINK IT WOULD BE COMPANY... LIKE, EMPLOYEE RETENTION. YOU WOULD GET A HIGHER CALIBRE... SIMILAR TO THE COSTCO STORY. YOU GET A HIGHER CALIBRE OF EMPLOYEE, LESS TURNOVER, AND THOSE ARE ALL EFFICIENCIES THAT CAN BE CREATED WITHIN YOUR COMPANY THAT ALSO HELP THE GREATER PICTURE BECAUSE YOU DON'T ALWAYS WANT THAT RACE TO THE BOTTOM WITH EMPLOYEES AND TURNOVER, WHICH IS REALLY DISRUPTIVE. SO I THINK THAT THAT WOULD BE MAYBE THE ENTICING THING TO A BUSINESS OWNER TO IMPLEMENT THOSE THINGS TO ATTRACT BETTER TALENT.

Steve says DO YOU SEE A NEED FOR LEGISLATION IN THIS AREA?

Shannon says THAT'S INTERESTING. I THINK THAT WOULD BE HARD TO DO UNLESS IT WAS INCREMENTAL AND OVER TIME, OVER THE NEXT 10 YEARS. I WOULD LOVE TO SEE IT. I WOULD ALSO... THIS IS MAYBE CONTROVERSIAL... I WOULD LOVE TO SEE, YOU KNOW, A SUPER, SUPER, SUPER WEALTH TAX FOR BILLIONAIRES TEN TIMES OVER, THOSE, YOU KNOW, PEOPLE WHO OWN MONOPOLIES AND I THINK THAT THERE'S A GREATER RESOURCE-SHARING THAT CAN ALSO HAPPEN THERE IN THE GREATER SCHEME OF THINGS TOO. SO I THINK THERE IS A ROLE OF GOVERNMENT HERE TO KIND OF SLOW DOWN THIS HAVE AND HAVE-NOT DIVIDE THAT'S HAPPENING AND I THINK IF WE LOOK LONG TERM AND WE SEE THAT COMING, WE CAN MAKE THOSE SMALL, MEANINGFUL INCREMENTAL CHANGES NOW SO THAT IT DOESN'T SHOCK PEOPLE BUT IT'S STILL MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION, BECAUSE I THINK WHERE WE'RE GOING IS UN... IS SCARY FOR MANY PEOPLE.

Steve says THAT LEADS ME TO REVISIT THE POINT THAT JEFF RUBIN WAS MAKING IN HIS BOOK THAT I REFERENCED EARLIER "THE EXPENDABLES" IS THE NAME OF HIS BOOK, HE WAS ON THIS PROGRAM TALKING ABOUT IT, AND HIS POINT IS HE DOESN'T REALLY BLAME THE TRADE DEALS AND GLOBALIZATION FOR THE WAY THE WORLD IS RIGHT NOW, HE BLAMES GOVERNMENTS, HE BLAMES POLITICIANS FOR THE FACT THAT THEY HAVE NOT IMPLEMENTED THE KIND OF TAX POLICY REQUIRED IN ORDER TO LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD MORE EQUITABLY. SO, MICHAEL, I'LL START WITH YOU ON THIS ONE: DO WE NEED AN INHERITANCE TAX? DO WE NEED TO BE TAXING THE HELL OUT OF BILLIONAIRES? WHAT'S YOUR VIEW ON THESE ISSUES?

Michael says SO I DO THINK... I WAS EARLIER SAYING THAT CANADA IS DIFFERENT FROM THE UNITED STATES, BUT WE DO HAVE THIS SAME ISSUE, AND THAT IF YOU LOOK OVER THE LAST 40 YEARS, MEDIAN INCOME WENT UP, SAY, 10 percent, AND THE INCOME OF PEOPLE IN THE TOP 0.01 percent, ONE IN 10,000, THEIR INCOME WENT UP BY A FACTOR OF 200 percent. SO I DO THINK THAT THIS IS SOMETHING WE NEED TO THINK ABOUT. UNFORTUNATELY, MY OWN WORK SEEMS TO SUGGEST THAT IF YOU INCREASE TAXES AT THE TOP END, YOU'RE NOT ACTUALLY GOING TO GET A LOT MORE REVENUE. NOT QUITE YET BUT WE'RE PRETTY CLOSE TO MAXED OUT WHAT WE CAN GET FROM TAXING AT THE TOP END. I WISH IT WERE NOT SO, BUT WE HAVE TO REALIZE WE LIVE IN A WORLD WHERE PEOPLE CAN MOVE THEIR MONEY OR THEMSELVES TO OTHER LOCATIONS AND I THINK THAT'S PART OF THE PROBLEM.

Steve says SO IT'S POINTLESS TO TRY?

Michael says NO. I DO THINK... I DO THINK THAT WE SHOULD BE INCHING IN THAT DIRECTION, PARTICULARLY AT THIS TIME. THE GOVERNMENTS HAVE BORROWED A LOT OF MONEY, WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING ON THE REVENUE SIDE, BUT I THINK VERY MUCH INCREMENTAL AND NOT DO ANYTHING RADICAL.

Steve says BRIAN, I HAVE THIS LITTLE FACTOID HERE I WANT TO SHARE WITH YOU AS I SET UP THE NEXT QUESTION: THE WEALTHIEST AMERICAN, THE WEALTHIEST AMERICAN, IS 10 MILLION TIMES RICHER THAN THE MEDIAN AMERICAN. 10 MILLION TIMES RICHER. WHAT DOES THAT SUGGEST IN TERMS OF TAXATION POLICY?

Brian says WELL, OBVIOUSLY PROGRESSIVE TAXATION POLICY IS ONE KEY TO REMEDYING THAT HUGE GAP. FOR ME, THE FACT THAT 1 percent OF AMERICANS CONTROL MORE THAN 30 percent OF THE WEALTH OF THEIR COUNTRY... AND IN CANADA IT'S A LITTLE BIT BETTER BUT IT'S STILL ABOUT 25 percent... THERE'S JUST NO WAY TO CLOSE THE WIDENING INCOME GAP AS LONG AS THAT EXISTS. THE REAL PROBLEM WITH IMPLEMENTING EFFECTIVE TAX POLICY IS GETTING RID OF THOUSANDS OF LOOPHOLES THAT ENABLE PEOPLE TO MOVE THEIR MONEY AROUND SO EASILY, AND ONE REASON THAT ESPECIALLY AND WHY POLITICIANS HAVE LET IT HAPPEN IS THAT MILLIONS AND MILLIONS OF DOLLARS ARE BEING POURED INTO LOBBY GROUPS, ESPECIALLY IN THE STATES BUT ALSO HERE, FIGHTING FOR ALL THESE GAINS. IF YOU'RE A POLITICIAN AND YOU'RE RELYING ON HUGE AMOUNTS OF MONEY LIKE THAT, IT'S GOING TO AFFECT YOUR DECISION-MAKING. AND THEY HAVE TO TRY TO MOVE SOME OF THAT MONEY OUT OF THE POLITICAL SYSTEM. THAT'S REALLY THE ONLY WAY TO FIX THIS.

Steve says YEAH, BUT THE REALITY IS THAT LOBBYISTS ARE GOING TO BE ABLE TO HAVE AT POLITICIANS MORE EASILY THAN MR. AND MRS. EVERYDAY ONTARIO IS GOING TO BE ABLE TO HAVE ACCESS TO THEM, AND CERTAINLY IF YOU'RE MAKING A FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTION TO A POLITICIAN, YOU'RE GOING TO BE LISTENED TO EVEN MORE. WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT THIS?

Brian says THAT'S TRUE, BUT YOU COULD REDUCE THE AMOUNT OF MONEY THAT POURS INTO ELECTIONS, FOR INSTANCE. YOU COULD RESTRICT WHAT DONORS CAN DO, AND YOU COULD CERTAINLY RESTRICT HOW LOBBYISTS OPERATE. ONE OF THE EXAMPLES THAT I LIKE IS THE FACT THAT JUST THIS MONTH IN CALIFORNIA THERE WAS A PROPOSITION PUT ON THE BALLOT TO REALLY STRIP ALL KINDS OF RIGHTS... LABOUR RIGHTS AWAY FROM PEOPLE WORKING IN THE GIG ECONOMY. WELL, THAT PROPOSITION WAS FINANCED BY 200 MILLION dollars WORTH OF INVESTMENT FROM MAJOR COMPANIES LIKE IN THE HIGH-TECH SECTOR AND UBER, AND THEY DIDN'T LIKE THE FACT THAT CALIFORNIA WAS TRYING TO IMPOSE FAIRLY STRICT RULES TO MAKE LIFE EASIER FOR EMPLOYEES. WHEN YOU CAN THROW THAT KIND OF MONEY INTO POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS AS EASILY AS THEY DO, IT REALLY DOES AFFECT THE OUTCOME.

Steve says YEAH, MICHAEL, PRESUMABLY YOU'D HAVE TO HAVE, LIKE, EVERY RICH COUNTRY IN THE WORLD, QUOTE, UNQUOTE, IN ON THIS, RIGHT? OTHERWISE, IF NOT... IF EVERYBODY IS NOT GOING TO PLAY ON THE SAME HYMN SHEET HERE, IF I CAN MIX MY METAPHORS, THEN IF ONE GOVERNMENT BRINGS IN TAXATION POLICY THAT A RICH PERSONS FINDS ABHORRENT, THEY'LL TAKE THEIR MONEY SOMEWHERE ELSE, RIGHT?

Michael says THE TAXATION PROBLEM IS A TOUGH ONE AND WE JUST TALKED ABOUT HOW DIFFICULT IT IS TO DEAL WITH SUCH COMPLEX ISSUES FOR GOVERNMENTS. AND SO THAT'S PART OF THE CONSTRAINT. BUT I DO SHARE THE PROBLEM... THERE IS A PROBLEM WITH MONEY IN POLITICS AND HOW THAT CAN AFFECT DEMOCRACY. IT'S JUST UNFORTUNATELY... THERE'S NO EASY ANSWERS.

Steve says OKAY. LET'S, IN OUR LAST FEW MINUTES HERE, DO ONE MORE THING, AND THAT IS CRAIG ALEXANDER WAS ON THIS PROGRAM NOT TOO LONG AGO, HE OF DELOITTE, AN ECONOMIST THERE, AND WAS TALKING ABOUT THERE BEING A SILVER LINING DURING THE COURSE OF THIS PANDEMIC INASMUCH AS... WELL, WHAT'S THE OLD EXPRESSION? YOU NEVER LET A GOOD CRISIS GO TO WASTE? LET'S SEE WHAT HE HAS TO SAY. SHELDON, IF YOU WOULD?

A clip plays on screen with the caption "November 9, 2020."
In the clip, Craig Alexander speaks on screen. He's in his forties, clean-shaven and bald.

He says ONTARIO AND CANADA WAS NOT ON THE ROAD TO PROSPERITY PRE-COVID. WE WERE HAVING SLOWING TREND RATES OF ECONOMIC GROWTH THAT WERE GOING TO MEAN THAT STANDARDS OF LIVING WEREN'T GOING TO RISE MORE THAN 1 percent A YEAR. AND THAT MEANS ONTARIANS WOULDN'T FEEL LIKE THEY'RE GETTING AHEAD. AND THIS IS HOW YOU GET POLITICAL OUTCOMES YOU DON'T WANT, LIKE BREXIT AND TRUMP. SO, YOU KNOW, WE REALLY NEED TO CHANGE THE TRAJECTORY. AND THE GREAT THING ABOUT... YOU KNOW, THE SILVER LINING OF THE PANDEMIC IS THAT IT'S CREATING THE OPPORTUNITY TO HAVE A REALLY CONSTRUCTIVE CONVERSATION AROUND CHANGE. HOW DO WE BUILD A MORE PROSPEROUS FUTURE? HOW DO WE BREAK DOWN BARRIERS FACING OUR PEOPLE? HOW DO WE ATTRACT MORE INVESTMENT? HOW DO WE GET MORE CAPITAL SPENDING? HOW DO WE BOOST ECONOMIC GROWTH?

The clip ends.

Steve says SHANNON, ALL GOOD QUESTIONS. ARE THE RIGHT PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT ANSWERS TO THOSE QUESTIONS RIGHT NOW?

Shannon says I DON'T KNOW. I'M... I THINK THAT, YOU KNOW, THE ENDLESS PURSUIT OF ECONOMIC GROWTH AND ASSUMING THAT THAT IS GOING TO HELP THE MIDDLE CLASS AND THE AVERAGE PERSON IS NOT ACCURATE. I AGREE WITH THAT. SO WHENEVER I HEAR SOMEONE SAYING THIS IS FOR, YOU KNOW, ECONOMIC GROWTH AND IT'S TO HELP THE AVERAGE ONTARIAN, IT'S LIKE, IS IT? IS THIS CURRENTLY HELPING THE AVERAGE ONTARIAN? I DON'T KNOW. SOMETIMES I WONDER IF IT'S JUST THE RICH GETTING RICHER. AND SO I THINK WE JUST NEED TO SEPARATE THAT OUT, THE ECONOMIC GROWTH, WHAT GDP IS DOING IS NOT NECESSARILY GOING TO AFFECT YOUR RAZOR YOUR BONUS OR ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY. IF IT DOES, GREAT. LET'S MAKE SURE THE OWNERSHIP TAKES SOME ACCOUNTABILITY FOR THEIR ELECTED POLITICIANS AND SAY WHO IS ACTUALLY GOING TO HELP ME AT MY KITCHEN TABLE AT THE END OF THE DAY AND NOT NECESSARILY WHAT THE ECONOMIC FORECASTS ARE. I HAD MY DEGREE IN ECONOMICS. I UNDERSTAND IT. BUT AT THE END OF THE DAY I'M MUCH MORE ABOUT THAT MICRO PICTURE AND HOW THAT'S IMPACTING US ON A DAILY BASIS.

The caption changes to "Producer: Meredith Martin."

Steve says SHANNON LEE SIMMONS GETS THE LAST WORD, SHE FROM THE PLANNING SCHOOL OF FINANCE. THANKS TO BRIAN MILNER THE ECONOMICS WRITER AND COLUMNIST FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL, AND MICHAEL VEALL PROFESSOR AND ACADEMIC DIRECTOR AT STATS CAN RESEARCH CENTRE McMASTER IN WHAT THEY USED TO CALL DUNDAS BUT IT'S NOW PART OF THE BEAUTIFUL CITY OF HAMILTON, ONTARIO, CANADA. THANKS TO THE THREE OF YOU FOR BEING ON "THE AGENDA" TONIGHT. IT'S GREAT TO SEE YOU ALL.

Watch: Fixing a Broken Economic System