Monday, 3 October 2011


I've always wanted to work for and raise awareness of the challenge of poverty here in our Canada. When I first lived in Kingston, I remember biking downtown to stand at City Hall with The Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul who to this day continue to host a silent vigil at City Hall to remind us this is something we need to be aware of. I remember starting to hear about a number of programs that are run to feed children before they go to school, and to provide food and support after school. I am conscious of the number of people that continue to feel afraid and embarrassed to ask for help because we've created, you and I, we have created space that makes it hard to ask for help. We have set tiers in this society that places value on status and wealth and we have forgotten that we should be investing in human capital, especially the young.

I walk the streets of this city and meet people like Ron and Andre who because of some hard times, a couple bad decisions and the loss of jobs find themselves calling the streets home. I share conversation with them, a good breakfast meal and hear of some of the other places they have called home. I hear them tell me about jobs they have had, where they have gone to school, the families they miss and hope to reconnect with, and the fact that they are ashamed. I hear a lot of families talk about how they are one paycheck away from being homeless or unable to buy food.

As we anticipate the upcoming election I am struck with the fact that there are so many important issues relating to poverty that we are not talking about. Moreover, these are issues that we have rarely heard our candidates talk about. In doing some research for my city, I found a briefing paper published on Feb 1, 2011 from the Kingston Community Roundtable on Poverty Reduction

In the section on Job Security and Economic Recovery there are some really eye-opening facts that we need to be aware of. We know that part-time employment is on the rise, and in fact growing more quickly that full time work. This information we find in the latest Labour Survey results from Statistics Canada. We also know that "An unemployment rate that rose from 6.5% to 8.1% from early 2010, coupled with an alarming, and ongoing, trend toward part time and temporary work, dictates that the 2011 budget should focus on job creation. We need to be able to provide secure full time employment for Ontarians"

Ontario already has a highly competitive corporate tax system. We do not need to reduce Corporate Income Tax. We will already collect less from corporate profits due to the recession. Government investment and spending on physical infrastructure, an educated workforce and quality programs such as health care have a stronger economic impact than tax cuts. Also, our corporate tax rates are already competitive. The 2010 Competitive Alternatives study by KPMG showed that Canada has lower overall corporate taxes than any of our key competitors except Mexico.

We also know that the income gap between the top and bottom 10% of Ontario has been steadily widening over the past three decades. The top 10% now enjoys incomes 75 times higher than the bottom 10%. The current provincial income tax system, with a maximum rate at less than $75,000 in annual income, aggravates rather than alleviates the growing inequity. Introducing levels of taxation for annual incomes of $100,000, $150,000 and $250,000 respectively would generate new tax revenue in the order of a billion dollars a year. This would mean an honest shift towards reducing the ever widening income gap. summary: take from the rich and share with the poor.

My hope is in my writing to draw attention and not condemnation. My hope is to challenge us to ask ourselves what we are working for in our society. My hope is that maybe asking questions that make you defensive, might give pause for some reflection on this issue. My hope is that this becomes a conversation about how each of us has a responsibility as citizens to care for those around us. My hope as well is that if you feel this conversation is stupid and nothing that you should give your time to, that somehow it will be something that you reflect and consider as you go about your days, even as you walk by some of those lovely, talented people who just need us to fight for them.

there is no conclusion to this post. I wish there could be, but for now, I hope that it may raise awareness and cause us to consider what matters to us as we get ready to vote this week.

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