The history of humanity is, in many ways, the story of our struggle to entrench and uphold individual human rights. And yet, it’s incredible that we’ve never established an economic charter of rights.
Deep down, most people crave economic freedom. In Canada, economic freedom means accumulating enough money after having worked for 30 years or more to own a mortgage-free home and have enough savings to live off the interest.
At that point, you would be free to do whatever your heart desired. You would be economically free.
But it’s becoming increasingly harder for Canadians to achieve this freedom. Business is partly to blame because it has failed to make employees partners in productivity and profits. If workers don’t feel that they’re getting a fair share of the profits they help produce, they’ll only do the bare minimum they need to keep from getting fired.
What’s more, if Canadian workers can’t achieve financial independence, they will feel compelled to support government wealth redistribution policies, continuing the country’s slide toward socialism.
An economic charter of rights and responsibilities, however, would give millions of hardworking Canadians the opportunity to accumulate wealth by requiring companies with more than 300 employees to share a portion of their annual profits with employees.
People who create wealth should get a fair share of that wealth. In practical terms, that means that employees of large corporations have a moral right to a share of the profits they help produce through their labour and ingenuity.
At the same time, government is also to blame for making economic freedom an impossible dream for many Canadians. That’s because Canadians have to fork over a bigger and bigger chunk of their paycheck to the government in the form of increased taxes to fund out-of-control government spending.
An economic charter of rights and responsibilities would enshrine a permanent check on the spending power of government by imposing specific responsibilities to manage public expenditures, including balancing the budget and paying down the national debt. Furthermore, it would reduce government overhead and simplify our convoluted tax system which favours the rich and special interests.
Humans have an innate desire to be the very best in whatever they choose to do. Young Canadians growing up in small towns all over Canada dream of one day being the next Wayne Gretzky or Connor McDavid. Or perhaps they dream of becoming a successful entrepreneur. Most people want to do better, go further, achieve more, earn more and be successful.
That’s why it’s so important to recognize that any society that tries to tamp down people in the pursuit of productivity, creativity and ingenuity is a decaying society.
Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and the engine that drives most of the new job growth and product innovation in our country. An economic charter of rights could unshackle our entrepreneurs and small businesses by eliminating income tax on any small business with fewer than 300 employees.
Ultimately, the wellbeing of any society depends on the strength of its economic fabric, which is why free enterprise has been used throughout history to generate the greatest amount of wealth possible.
If the people working within society do not have specific economic rights and freedoms, it will be much more difficult to maintain a strong and vibrant economy that works for the benefit of everyone instead of just the benefit of a few.
The right to share profits would be a cornerstone element in the economic charter that I’ve proposed. So too would the right of entrepreneurs to grow their business without the burden of corporate income tax payments and filings. Rounding out the charter would be a number of specific economic responsibilities that would oblige the government to keep its fiscal house in order.
The time has come for us to adopt an economic charter of rights. Years from now, when economic rights are part of the constitutions of many countries, people will wonder: what took so long?
Frank Stronach is the founder of Magna International Inc., one of Canada’s largest global companies, and an inductee in the Automotive Hall of Fame.