To the Editor:
As much as we might like to believe the Americans when they say, “All men [and women] are created equal,” it just ain’t true or, if it is, they don’t stay equal for very long.
There’s really just one issue in this Canadian election (or in any modern neoliberal democracy), and that’s inequality. From health to housing to an overheated planet, it’s those on the short end of the income stick that suffer the effects, and those on the long end who are contributing to the problems.
Consider the pandemic. We know now that COVID takes its highest toll on those at the bottom of the economic ladder – the precariously employed, Blacks, Indigenous people, newcomers. One of the reasons for this is that its these folks are on the front lines of disease – nurses, orderlies, grocery clerks, PSWs – all the people politicians and CEOs call heroes one day and stiff them on wages the next.
We also know now that money doesn’t trickle down to workers from the corporate titans further up the ladder. But air pollution, tainted water and chemical contamination do. Just ask the people in Grassy Narrows First Nation, or folks from the now razed Africville, or the people who used to live in Lytton BC, or the children of the global south who feel the full force of the climate crisis.
Wealth inequality is the end game of our modern, neoliberal democracies. By neoliberal I mean a world view that prizes profit, privileges individual liberty over social responsibility, values global trade as a way of driving economies, and sees the environment only by what can be extracted. This is how nations such as Canada become rich as if the only measures of ‘wealth’ is an ever-increasing GDP and a relatively low debt-to-GDP ratio. It’s also how we have driven climate change into a four-alarm emergency.
It’s what Pope Francis calls ‘corporatism.’ And it’s the main Operating System of Democrats and Republicans, of Liberals and Conservatives.
We know now, from the copious research that’s been done on inequality, just how toxic it is for societies, for families and for individuals. If we bother to look, we can see some of its effects in Bruce Grey Owen Sound –in our decaying housing stock, our high rates of obesity and hypertension, in the number of ER visits for accidents, in precarious employment, in our rates of addictions, and in Owen Sound’s refusal to address climate change locally.
Yes, economic recovery after COVID is important. But of what use is that if people are still stuck in poverty-wage jobs, or if we continue filling the skies with CO2 and methane, or if our neighbours don’t have access to physicians or can’t afford their medications or die in what we like to call long term care ‘homes.’
Earning enough to live on, taming the climate crisis and guaranteeing access to good health care are the major issues in this election. But they are all linked, all connected – so close in fact, that I’m not sure you can successfully deal with one by ignoring the others. This election, look for the Party that addresses all three matters in its platform. It might not be enough, but it’s a start.
I have included below, several references that may be of interest to the discerning reader.
Three Years After Greta Thunberg’s Strike, Adults Are Failing Children on a Global Scale https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/19/opinion/climate-un-report-greta-thunberg.html
The way we live now – Wilkinson & Pickett’s study on the effects of economic inequality https://www.theguardian.com/books/2009/mar/13/the-spirit-level https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Spirit_Level_(book)
Grey Bruce Peace & Justice Report on Precarious Work http://tiffanyweb.bmts.com/~gbpeace/FinalReportPrecWrkGrP&J-Append.pdf
Social Determinants of Health: The Canadian Facts https://thecanadianfacts.org/
All Hollowed Out The lonely poverty of America’s white working class https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/01/white-working-class-poverty/424341/
CA: tax breaks for the rich put $ in pockets of rich ($103B, 59 of 64 breaks, 39% of $ returned) CCPA: https://www.policyalternatives.ca/loopholes (see Fig 5 – how much rich benefit)
US: Wages the same for bottom 25% for 35yrs. Top 1%’s up by 200%: debt fueled booms & busts redistribute money upward. http://evonomics.com/getting-radical-inequality-adair-turner-lynn-parramore/
Corporations Making Record Profits in the Pandemic (Federal COVID relief adds to bottom line) https://www.taxfairness.ca/en/press_release/2020-12/media-release-dozens-large-corporations-rake-record-profits-during-pandemic
More equitable taxation would add over $90 billion for economic recovery https://www.taxfairness.ca/en/news/platform-tax-fairness-2021