The ranks of the working poor have swelled as minimum wages fail to keep pace with rising costs and social assistance levels drop.
"The economy took a hit and then is coming back up," TD's Mr. Clark said. "But what Canada's economy will look like coming out of this is different than when we were coming in to it. The result of the shift in world economic conditions ... all means that the skill sets you need are shifting. Globalization is good for the world as a whole, but its benefits are not equally distributed."
Shifting economy, beleaguered workforce
Tony Masciotra is diversifying himself.
The Argentine-Canadian father of two went back to school immediately after being laid off from his tool and die job at Ford Motor Co. in Windsor three years ago.
"I have records of over 100 jobs I have applied for," he said. "I have looked really hard. ... But I haven't been able to get a job yet.
"Windsor," he noted, "has been a really tough market for trying to secure a job."
Thanks to his wife's part-time income as a cashier at Shoppers Drug Mart, they're doing okay. At 11 and nine, he said, children Julia and Dante - "yeah, like Alighieri" - are old enough to know not to ask for extras. But "the hardest part, for me, is telling the kids 'No' sometimes.
"We haven't missed a day. The bills are paid, we have food and shelter. But we haven't made any gains. We haven't improved in any way," he said.
"This is not sustainable, the way we're living. ... We definitely need to secure a job. Now."
Mr. Masciotra is part of a growing group of skilled labourers on the brink. The métiers in which they've worked for years are no longer economically viable: Many well-paying blue-collar jobs are being replaced by minimum-wage, service-sector ones. And that's causing significant shifts on both sides of the border, notes MIT economist David Autor.
It gets more complicated, and more economically detrimental, if the people who've lost jobs aren't the ones being hired to new ones.
They enter what Robin Somerville of the Centre for Spatial Economics calls "structural unemployment." And if they leave the workforce entirely, they fall off the radar of unemployment stats: The numbers look better precisely because they're worse.
That's what's happening now. While unemployment is dropping, the proportion of the population with jobs hasn't risen.
The drop is even more significant because more Canadians are putting off retirement. That should mean more people in the workforce. But it doesn't: So many younger workers are dropping out entirely that they outweigh the older ones sticking around longer.
Mr. Somerville predicts it will take a decade, "or perhaps much, much longer," to regain that 2 per cent. In the meantime, factor in hits to productivity, GDP and consumer spending.
"If you're losing opportunities in some areas, and you're not replacing them with opportunities of equal or greater value, then the overall level of income in the economy is reduced. And the ability of people to go out and buy goods and services is reduced."
The ripple effects: How homelessness hurts your bottom line
From TransAlta CEO Stephen Snyder's office in a gentrifying downtown Calgary neighbourhood, you can look out and see the trendy Hotel Arts and Saint Germain restaurant - and, kitty-corner, a cluster of under-resourced and overflowing emergency shelters and drop-in programs.
Boomtown Calgary, which for years led Canadian cities in economic growth, also had the dubious distinction of having the country's fastest-growing homeless population - a 30-per-cent increase in two years.
Homelessness costs taxpayers money - in both foregone wealth and social service spending. As evidence of the social and financial costs of inequality mounts, a growing body of research indicates paying to get people out of poverty can be an economic boon.
Calgary's business community crunched the numbers: It costs four times more to pay for a year's worth of emergency shelter, emergency-room medical care and law-enforcement for one homeless person than it costs to fund that person's supportive housing for a year.