2019 Conference

Group of 78 Annual Policy Conference
University of Ottawa, Desmarais Building
55 Laurier Ave, Ottawa, September 27-28, 2019

  Program    Chair Statement

  Credit Card Registration     Register by Cheque/Email Transfer


 The focus of Conference 2019 is rising inequality, the pre-eminent threat to economic and social justice, and to democracy, in the 21st century. The conference will aim at deepening our understanding of the international economic forces that propel deepening inequality, particularly global financial markets and neoliberal policies, and will consider international and domestic policies aimed at reversing these trends.

Possible questions to be addressed:

  1. How can national economic policies and democratic forces be strengthened against the corrosive forces of global markets?
  2. (How) can international capital markets be constrained from engaging in destabilizing behaviour? Are there any prospects for introducing capital controls and more stringent financial sector regulations?
  3. What role can fiscal policy (taxation and expenditures) play in combating rising inequality, in the face of international tax competition and tax havens?
  4. (How) can labour market policy be reformed and labour unions strengthened to resist the drift toward growing income disparities and precarious jobs, and to increase wages?
  5. What does a progressive trade agenda (one that will help reduce inequality) look like, particularly for a country like Canada heavily dependent on trade?
  6. Does Canada differ from other countries in its experience with inequality? Are there circumstances or policies that help or constrain Canada from addressing inequality?


5:00 p.m. FRIDAY, Sept. 27, 2019 registration opens

5:30 p.m. Keynote Address by Robert Kuttner: Saving Democracy From Globalization:

Moderator: Roy Culpeper, Chair, Group of 78

Introductory Remarks: Ed Broadbent

Keynote speaker: Robert Kuttner, Heller School for Social Policy and Management,

Brandeis University.

 7:30 p.m. Dinner and Discussion: Q & A

Moderator: Roy Culpeper, Chair, Group of 78
Discussants: Manfred Bienefeld, Professor, School of Policy and Public Administration
Robert Kuttner, Heller School for Social Policy and Management,

Brandeis University.

 8:15 a.m. SATURDAY, Sept 28, 2019 Registration Opens

9:00 a.m. Panel 1: Global and macroeconomic policies that drive increasing inequality and challenge democracy:

Moderator: Peter Venton , Former senior economist in Ontario Government


  1. Mario Seccareccia, Professor Emeritus of Economics, University of


  1. John Myles, Professor Emeritus of sociology and Senior Research

Fellow, Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, University of


 10:30 a.m.  Coffee/Health Break

11:00 a.m. Panel 2: National, microeconomic, social and labour market policies leading to wage stagnation, precarity, the gig economy, growing income disparities:

Moderator: Gordon Betcherman, Professor, School of International Development and

Global Studies, University of Ottawa


  1. Leilani Farha, TBC, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing;

                     Executive Director, Canada without Poverty

  1. Katherine Scott, Senior Economist, CCPA, gender equality and public


  1. Armine Yalnizyan, Former senior economist, Canadian Centre for

                    Policy Alternatives; Fellow at the Atkinson Foundation

12:30 p.m. Lunch

1:30 p.m. Keynote Address by Julie Delahanty: Public Good or Private Wealth?
Moderator: Roy Culpeper, Chair, Group of 78
Keynote speaker: Julie Delahanty, Executive Director, Oxfam Canada

2:30 p.m. Coffee/Health Break

2:45 p.m.  Panel 3: Restoring policy space and national capacity to reverse growing inequality and strengthen democracy.

Moderator: Manfred Bienefeld, Professor, School of Policy and Public Administration


  1. Lars Osberg, Professor of Economics, Dalhousie University
  2. Toby Sanger, Executive Director, Canadians for Tax Fairness
  3. Angella MacEwen, Chief Economist, Canadian Union of Public


4:20 p.m. Conference Conclusion and Closing Remarks

4:50 p.m. Conference Adjourns

5:15 p.m. Group of 78 Annual Meeting to follow immediately

Statement of Conference Chair: Manfred Beinefeld

 Democracies around the world are being eroded and destabilized by a tsunami of social challenges all ultimately linked to an explosive growth in inequality and economic insecurity. But although this fact is now all but universally acknowledged there is confusion and disagreement about the forces that have led to these totally unexpected outcomes. Well, unexpected to those old enough to remember a time when the almost everyone believed in the idea of progress and the dream of a leisure society?” So how are we to understand the reasons why those dreams have now been all but forgotten, especially since the hoped for technological progress that was to make that leisure society possible, did actually materialize? Or to put this another way, why did that technological progress occur in a form that is not only failing to usher in a leisure society, but that is actually further accelerating  the scourges of inequality and economic insecurity.

At heart this conference will focus on a critical examination of the proposition that despite the complexity of the issues, and the diversity of the consequences, the roots of this nightmare can be traced back to three fundamental – and interrelated – causes: the rise of a global financial system that can no longer be regulated in the public interest; the rise of an international trading system that has dramatically undercut the ability of labour to share in productivity gains; and the enshrinement of a deeply individualistic ideology that has greatly increased the power of corporate capital to act with virtual impunity – witness the US pharmaceutical industry’s pricing policies – while reducing the scope for effective collective action in the public interest, either by governments, regulatory agencies, trade unions or civil society organizations.

Attempts to resist – let alone reverse – these trends face formidable challenges, in part because the underlying issues are so international in scope, and in part because their complexity allows powerful interests to poison the efforts to deal with these problems rationally – and democratically – which is to say, on the basis of an informed and free public debate. But that does not mean that such efforts are doomed to fail and, at this conference, we will seek to explore the most promising avenues for resistance always remembering that what progress was made at certain times in the past, was made in the teeth of fierce resistance and vitriolic denunciation. If success does not seem imminent, it is increasingly clear that business as usual is surely a recipe for a future that almost no one would willingly choose if presented with its true dimensions and characteristics. After all, none of the political parties promoting the neoliberal reforms that brought us to the current impasse, advised voters that they were voting for increased income equality and greater economic insecurity, which should serve as a reminder that democracy can function as it should – and must – only when voters are making choices based on an open and well informed debate.