But money can’t buy me love…

By PAT WATSON

The extent to which most of us care about money has come to strongly define us as individuals, as a culture and in our politics. Our national obsession with it withers our soul and interferes with our health. It keeps some of us awake at night, for closely tied to our national and personal obsession with money is the fear of not having enough of that which comforts us, acquired through money.

Here is a life lesson: When money is a person’s worry, then money is in effect that person’s master. And that is indeed a poor state of affairs. For, anyone who has had someone die recently who was close to his/her heart can attest to the fact that there are hosts of factors in life that must take priority over money worries. Do we need to be reminded of this?

But, our shelter depends on it; our ability to eat properly depends on it; whether we will be able to purchase the right fitting pair of shoes, or get the necessary medical treatment or medication. Add to that increased costs related to the newest tax configuration, the harmonized sales tax (HST), and the recent increase in the rate of electricity. All connect directly to how much money we have, or have access to.

A recent poll found that Canadians believe governments at all levels spend at least 50 per cent of our tax dollars wastefully. That’s not a lot of faith. So we can see where things are headed. The problem with too much focus on one aspect of our affairs is that we then tend to lose perspective.

This is why the campaign by one Toronto mayoral candidate in particular has stayed with people in these recessionary times. Yet, the promises now being made about future management of the city’s budget will not have one iota of an effect on the price of bread or gas, the cost to heat your home or your ability to purchase that much need medication. Moreover, if you are a person living, let’s say struggling, on a low income, then there is very little in the way of municipal tax payments, plus or minus, that will have an impact on your day-to-day existence.

But once all those promised budget lowering tactics go into effect, then we here in the megacity of Toronto can anticipate hearing all about what we will no longer have because they are too expensive. We have already had to fight to keep some swimming pools running in schools. Closing recreational facilities for communities, and especially children, is never a healthy move.

So, the mayoral candidate being touted as leading in the polls plans to cut spending by up to $1 billion in part by hiring fewer workers when those currently on the payroll retire. The plan is that only one person will be hired for every three that retires. That means cutting costs by giving one person three times the work. This will cut wages, it will cut employment, and it will cut an employee’s health. It will also cut efficiency, which is really the bigger issue that needs to be addressed. The kind of person who would consider this staff-cutting tactic a feasible plan is the kind of person who thinks it is a complement to state on the record that ‘Orientals work like dogs’.

What this city needs is someone with a vision for a better city not a city that is run from a little cloth bag with a string pulled tight. So, missing from the public debate is a plan for fundamentally shifting the system of managing this city in order to take into account the vast expanse of the city as it is now configured. Also missing from campaign rhetoric is the scope for other municipal responsibilities such as planning new community developments and enhancing existing neighbourhoods, public health, child care, parks and recreation, arts and culture, long term care and senior housing, airports, social services, social housing.

A note on switching streams…

Before Michael Jordan, the Chicago Bulls were a so-so NBA basketball team. But back in the early 90s after he had taken the Bulls to three NBA championship titles, Jordan decided he wanted to follow his dream of playing baseball and he became a right fielder, playing for the minor-league Birmingham Barons. He was far from spectacular.

Another Michael, federal Liberal leader Ignatieff, a former academic star, may wish to take note.

 

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