How insensitive it is of organizations like the business-oriented, right wing think tank, the Fraser Institute, to spin out statistics that unashamedly contradict the everyday reality of people living on a downward economic slide. This kind of insult is along the same lines as those who behave in a manner that can only be described as blatantly racist yet reflexively deny it.
At the same time that middle class neighbourhoods in Toronto are shrinking and lower income neighbourhoods are increasing, the Fraser Institute wants us to believe that rising economic inequality here is more fiction than fact.
But playing with numbers to create a particular narrative is a common practice. It is as easy as making equity seem credible by stating, for example, that the average wage of two men is $50, while not stating that one man earns $99 while the other earns $1. Stating averages blurs the hard reality, especially when we are averaging the income of millions of workers.
What point will we as a nation have to reach before something concrete and sustained is done to address the growing needs of an increasing number of people at the lowest rungs of the economic ladder?
The United Way recently issued yet another report on the dilemma of increasing income inequality, titled Vertical Poverty. The report tells us that, in economic terms, Toronto is now home to a ring of poverty in the form of the 1,000 or so aging and poorly serviced high-rise buildings that stand around the outer edge of the city, a condition that in generations past did not exist to the extent that it presents itself today.
Anyone familiar with the layout of Paris, which is a tourist mecca, knows that the grand ‘City of Lights’, for all its charm and distinct art and architecture, is surrounded by high-rise apartment buildings where many immigrants and children of immigrants languish in difficult economic conditions. It was within such an environment that parts of Paris were faced with civil unrest in 2005 and again in 2007 when frustrated youth set fires in protest and rioting persisted for many days.
We like to think such actions only occur in faraway places, but we need not flatter ourselves with the illusion that it could not happen here. How long will it take before people struggling on low incomes are seen as more than a group to be either disdained or pitied?
There is no shortage of capable, intelligent people in this city who contribute in their own way to its everyday workings but, for far too many, their contributions do not earn them the means to have an equitable life. Yet, their needs are no less than any other person who would earn a higher income. These needs – let’s say, these creature comforts – must be respected as vital to all, and not just for purchase by those who can easily afford it.