Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ed Broadbent is on the Right Track, But Solutions Need To Go Further

I'm talking about Ed Broadbent's article in the Globe and Mail regarding child poverty here in Canada. It was supposed to be eliminated by 2000, but of course this never happened. According to Broadbent, one of the main reasons for this is 

"mostly it is the product of governments that have neither shared nor cared. As a Unicef report last Friday pointed out, Canadian politicians have failed our children. During the 1990s, the federal government abandoned a leadership role for Canada's poor. It unilaterally cancelled the Canada Assistance Plan with the provinces, eliminated all low-cost housing programs, ceased to set the pattern for minimum wages and failed to bring in a national child-care program. Perhaps most serious and unbelievable of all, it exacerbated the inequality that was emerging in the marketplace by changing the income-tax system to the advantage of the richest Canadians."

His solution? To start taxing the rich. Obviously, a no brainer.

"For more than a decade, it is upper-income Canadians – not the poor or middle class – who have disproportionately benefited from globalization and deregulation. Therefore, I say that increasing their share of income taxes would be based on neither greed nor class envy. It should be called justice."

This Blogging Tory, of course disagrees with taxing the rich because: 

"Taxing the rich will just make them get more tax breaks in other ways, currently most people who are extremely rich do not pay an adequate amount of tax comparably to lower and middle incomes because of all the tax alleviations for them."

I agree with that statement, so instead of just leaving them alone, we need to go further: let's start plugging all those legal tax loopholes that the rich and the corporations rely on. 

More needs to be invested in job training so the unemployed can either gain or upgrade skills particularly if their trades are considered now obsolete due to the changes in technology and trends.

Countries like Finland, Denmark and Sweden have managed to almost eliminate child poverty. Countries under Socialist regimes (more or less, anyway), where taxes are much higher.  A lot of folks would balk at this but the fact is those countries tend to enjoy a higher standard of living. Norway was rated #1 in the world recently by the United Nations.

I also strongly believe that attitudes need to change. We are following the greedy self-centered, self justifying ways of the U.S. We need to stop relying on stereotypes that help us sleep easily at night like, 'oh, they're only welfare folks, siphoning off the tax payers' or finding some way to blame the poor families themselves.

The G & M article points out that most of these parents of  poor kids are workers. More often, than not, a two income family. The days of the luxuries of a stay at home parent is as obsolete as the typewriter, unless one parent is lucky enough to be able to work at home and even then, it is often at even less money. Fact is that salary increases as a whole don't seem to catch up with the rise of the cost of living.

Attitudes like those of folks like Kathy Shiddle, who admits to hating the poor and nothing should be done to help them, need to change. She is certainly not alone.

It is even worse when a politician comes out with the same attitude. Yesterday, Gerald Keddy told The Chronicle Herald  exactly what he thought of the unemployed of Halifax: 

"Nova Scotians won’t do it — all those no-good bastards sitting on the sidewalk in Halifax that can’t get work."

He has offered a rather hollow apology for that statement. We knew that he means it, because it's attitudes like that that contribute to child poverty. 

The fact is, most would like to work and would not be all that difficult. The problem is with a lot of employers, particularly in difficult times because they know they have their pick of the lot and yes, they do discriminate. That's what the selection process is all about. 

I'm saying, for example, the person who took a few years off work either voluntarily and involuntarily; like staying home to raise kids and then all of a sudden losing their spouse (and their income), the ex-convict (yes, it is a vicious circle for them: don't have to hire them in a bank or anything like that, but how would sweeping floors or washing dishes or even low level office work hurt anything?) or the person who was on welfare for a few years for whatever reason (be it for medical reasons or other). An employer sees a gap in the CV, they tend to discard it.

I have also heard of and experienced this myself while looking for work. As an administrative worker by trade, I had noticed that looks and youth were and still are as or even more important than qualifications. Particularly for a receptionist: they are viewed upon as more window dressing than anything else in a lot of industries. More evidence of society becoming more and more shallow.

Instead of calling the jobless lazy or "no good bastards", perhaps try giving a chance to an unemployed person and hire them. They just may surprise you.

The poor do need help of some kind in order to get out of their situation; not just by charity but also someone who is willing to help them help themselves.

Sidenote: Here is a great program that helps provide breakfasts, hot lunches and snacks to poor school children if you wish to make a donation if you're from Montreal. The Generations Foundation. For those outside of Montreal, I'm sure they're must be similar organizations that help poor children and their families, please either volunteer or make a donation.

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