By some accounts, the Canadian economy is performing quite well. But national prosperity is more than just the exchange of dollars. The gross domestic product (GDP) – our national bottom line – is a measure of money changing hands without regard to whether we are reducing social inequalities, advancing sustainability, or safeguarding our natural capital of primary resources such as wild fish populations, natural forests, and fertile soils. Oil spills and clean-up costs actually increase local GDP, as Kinder-Morgan’s submission to the National Energy Board boasted in an ill-conceived appeal to silver linings in the event of disaster. Most economists agree that GDP is a poor measure of economic well-being or quality of life, yet our government continues to use it as the basis for its most important taxation and policy decisions.
The Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) is a new and innovative accounting method that embraces a more systematic and comprehensive definition of well-being. Literacy, health and fitness, housework, family time, public infrastructure, cultural institutions, community volunteerism, water and air quality, forests, farmland, wetlands, and employment are all measured by the GPI. Other countries, led by France following a ground-breaking study by Nobel award winners in economics Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen, are working to broaden measurements of prosperity beyond the GDP. Canada needs to catch up.
Green Party Members of Parliament (MPs) will:
Introduce legislation to establish a national GPI, such as the Canadian Index of Well-being developed by the Institute of Well-being, to provide the government with better information so it can do a better job of taxation and revenue-sharing with the other levels of government;
Modify Canada’s existing system of national accounts so that annual changes in the depletion and addition to Canada’s principal natural resources are measured as an integral part of Canada’s worth.
“Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things.... The (GDP) counts air pollution and cigarette advertising and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage... Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”
Senator Robert F. Kennedy, 1968