The federal gov’t has done little for the poor

By Pat Watson Wednesday October 16 2013 in Opinion
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What does it mean that the highest rates of diabetes in this city occur in the east in the area bordered by Highway 401, Markham Rd. and Finch and in the west in the area bordered by Albion Rd., Hwy 401 W. and Martin Grove Rd.? What does it mean that zones with significantly high numbers of people living with diabetes also have high densities of people living with poverty and significantly high densities of people who, for want of a better term, are identified as visible minorities? That includes you, Eglinton Ave. W. and Scarlett Rd.


What does it mean that close to four out of every 10 residents in this city spend more than a third of their income on shelter costs. What does it mean that there are actually programs in this city that provide grants for people who cannot pay their utility costs and loans for people who cannot come up with enough money to pay their rent?


What does all this mean when the first news that the Harper Conservatives chose to leak about the latest federal budget was their intention to get cable companies to unpack program bundles so that television viewers can select the channels they want to watch?


It is the politics of distraction.


What does it mean that we, the people who can cast a vote in Canada, are now being labeled “consumers” by the Harper Conservatives? Yes, ‘folks’, we are “taxpayers” in Toronto to our inarticulate mayor. But, as the 2015 federal election deadline grows closer, the Harper Conservatives in trying to energize those who are not a part of their base have decided we are no longer merely taxpayers, we are also valued “consumers”.


Yet, for the retired lady living on a fixed pension who is about to give up her cable service because it is too expensive, being able to choose add-on specialty channels is moot.


Nearing 10 years of Harper Conservative leadership at the federal level, it has been a boom time for the rich and the very rich; for the other ‘99 per cent’, not so much. The federal government has done little of significance for the mass of people in this country that are falling further and further behind relative to other countries within the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on health, housing and income equity.


Where is the national housing strategy that will speak to the nine out of 10 people with annual incomes less than $10,000, the eight out of 10 with incomes below $20,000 and the six out of 10 with incomes below $30,000 who struggle to maintain shelter, as it demands most of their income? What is the understanding among government higher-ups about what affordability means to people who face financial terror every day of their lives. What do the Harper Conservatives understand about what it means to be one of the working poor?


Trickle-down economics still has sway with the current federal government’s approach to national policies. Moreover, it’s not only the street huckster who plays shell games.


Recently, finance minister Jim Flaherty had a good time with his family friend Rob Ford, joining into the game of ‘let’s play for votes using the subways, subways, subways strategy’.


This subway pipe dream that politicians mine to effect is a piece of manipulation that feeds on the desperation of people who just want the means to get on with having decent lives. In a nice stroke of divide and conquer, in Toronto, it also literally plays both ends against the middle, with downtowners also screaming for transit relief.


While all of this is taking place, individuals who, ideally, are tasked with fostering an environment that looks out for the most vulnerable as well as those whose wealth can create opportunities for others have leaned far too much toward the latter, with almost no regard for the former.


There’s a saying that we get the government we deserve. This is very cynical, but if the tired, the impoverished and the most vulnerable do not put up a fight for the government they really want, then the bad news is that in days to come, especially for the poor, there will only be more of the same.

A note on a fiscal horror show…


Whatever promises the federal government has made in this budget, the fact is the reins controlling the pace of Canada’s economic health rests south of the border and, at the moment, the political masters in Washington DC look like they’re due for intensive group therapy.


Pat Watson is the author of the recently published ebook, In Through A Coloured Lens.

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