Twinned with Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for a shared heritage of steel making, the Canadian city of Hamilton, Ontario also grapples with the kinds of changes many cities in North America are facing. In the piece linked below, a Hamilton blogger and transit acitivist relates the issues of suburban change and decline to his city of just over 500,000 people at the western end of Lake Ontario. It’ll be interesting to compare how post-industrial Hamilton evolves in comparison to Toronto, the sprawling super-suburbanized mega city to the east. Whatever path Hamilton follows will be instructive to the whole region, both sides of the border.
We may be on the edge of an epochal migration Raise The Hammer
Descriptions of where suburbia is at call forth questions about its future. Some of the predictions of where it’s all going for suburbia are dire indeed. In a world of capital and energy problems the growth of suburbia is safely described as over. Does that mean we are looking at decay and contraction or adaptation? Is it possible that we’ll see an element of scrapping, reclaiming and recycling of the very fabric of suburbia? Maybe. There’s hundreds of thousands of tons, nay millions of tons, of everything from wood to asphalt to aluminium and copper out there. If it is deployed in a built environment that increasingly is either unsustainable or simply doesn’t meet human needs what will happen to it? Humans are inventive critters so we’ll probably see all three: adaptation, contraction and physical reclamation of useful materials.
With that in mind we’d like you to meet two guys already at it. Kenny Chumsky of New Jersey and a Canadian in southern Ontario named Jack-the-Scrapper. These dudes troll the suburbs garbage picking and scrapping. They live off the consumer insanity of suburbia but could easily have their way with the very bones and flesh of it without much difficulty we imagine. Kenny has a charming New Jersey accent and looks a little worse for wear, he doesn’t even don work gloves as he demolishes everything from TV sets to swing sets. Jack is younger and could easily be a comedian with his own reality show. He’s almost as funny as the Chief Publisher here at suburban-poverty.com. Jack doesn’t look half as rough as Kenny, …must be all that socialist public health care forced on him by his vile government. Either way, these two men are out there on the edge, testing the future one discarded cast aluminium barbecue at a time.
How to scrap metal from a TV: for copper, wire and aluminum Caution: awesome!
How to scrap a flat TV for cash $$$$ “I’m gonna hit that TV with this axe!”
If you live in a suburban area in North America you probably have noticed a serious rise in scrapping and garbage picking. Such things were staples of the economic life of developing countries and their visibility here probably speaks volumes. Copper wire is currently worth about $3.00 a pound and that is why the cords disappear from the toasters and video tape players that go out on garbage day. Pop cans and scrap aluminium is worth less than a dollar a pound. Other times scrappers repair or reuse objects and the internet abounds with tales of perfectly good stuff hauled out of the garbage. Outside the suburban-poverty.com office the first wave of scrappers in vans and pickups, often with trailers, rolls by mid-afternoon garbage day. There’s another wave around dinner time. Sometimes one around 20:00 and another at 23:00. Individual pickers and scrappers can cruise by at any time on garbage day. There’s a man nearby here who scraps on foot with a specially adapted baby buggy. Not something really anticipated when this grand, sprawling suburban creature was birthed officially in 1974.
A lot of the coverage of the last Canadian federal budget focussed on government layoffs and cuts to the CBC. Less attention has gone to the axing of what is called the National Council of Welfare. This is a small government advisory body that concerns itself with “any matter relating to social development.” With a broad, progressive mandate like that you know you are dealing with something created before the present age of neoconservative ignorance. Since 1969 the council has communicated with ministers about:
- income security programs
- child benefits
- the tax system
- income adequacy
- employment programs
- the justice system
- social services, such as child care and child welfare
- the cost of poverty
- specific populations such as children, lone-parent families and seniors
You’d have to wonder why such a focus is so offensive to the present government that they’d ditch an agency that provided them with insight into these areas. Can we assume that the Harper Tories, therefore, don’t care much about these things?
The second last item on the list above should be a bit of an eye catcher: the cost of poverty. NCW has published findings that show spending to reduce poverty would be expensive but would save Canada money because of the costs associated with poverty. This includes everything from crime to healthcare for mental illnesses caused by poverty. Duh! The neoconservatives project this image of being sensible, businesslike, no-nonsense types. If there were any truth in such imagery they would be all over NCW’s findings and doing everything they can to reinforce the council, not shut it down.
The dollars and sense of solving poverty
With poverty, the fun just never stops. Now, the automobile in North American popular culture is viewed as a great cultural leveller and class unifier. Montreal’s Department of Public Health just spent four years looking at motor vehicle accidents and guess what they came up with? The poorer your neighbourhood the more vehicular, pedestrian and cycling accidents take place and the more serious the nature of them.
“Gentlemen, start your engines!”
Wealth and traffic accidents: study shows poorer people many times more likely to be hurt
It’s quite heartening to see Ed Broadbent reemerging into Canada’s public realm through the creation of an institute with a major focus on economic inequality. Even those adhering to neo-conservative thought must surely find it refreshing to come across perspectives other than their own. Of course, that may be asking too much but Mr. Broadbent appears intent on backing up his take on inequality, and the harm it does, with strong arguments, research and statistical evidence. Not just the right has a tradition of vehemence, argumentativeness and truthfulness don’t you know!
At suburban-poverty.com we have high hopes that Mr. Broadbent will be successful getting the word out. A reversal of the brain-washing, the opinions-disguised-as-the-truth, the elistist contmept and laissez-faire social policy that have been so much a part of the national life for the last three decades is long overdue. Indeed, we remember in our teens some three decades ago, that in Canada Scandinavia-style social democracy was viewed as a perfectly rational option for the nation by a great many people. Things turned out rather differently it would seem. The inequality we have here now and, above all, the way it is viewed as inevitable by so many tells us that.
But efforts like that of economicinequality.ca and now Mr. Broadbent, however, show us that perhaps Canada is not a complete write off yet? “Ready, aye ready …already!”
Look at this stupid thing! They call that a fighter plane? For starters, it looks like a toy carved from a dirty bar of soap with a set of bus wheels stuck underneath. Naming this glorified laptop after the American P-38 Lightning of the Second World War shows just how desperate the military industrial complex has become. The cost overruns are not even really the problem, they are apparently quite normal where this type of project is concerned. The lack of competitive bidding is also secondary to suburban-poverty.com. There will even be jobs if the purchase goes through, always a good thing, and Canada needs defence gear in a dangerous, resource-hungry world. What pisses us off, besides how lame looking this thing is when put up against the diversity of flying machines the world has come up with over the last hundred years, is the relationship between this weapon system and poverty and inequality. How can we have the money for this and precious little else? If we have Yankee wars, Yankee ghettos and Yankee justice then we might as well have Yankee fighter planes screaming through the skies protecting the glory of it all, yah, is that it?
Linda McQuaig mentioned the F-35s today in her column in the Toronto Star. She seems dead against them across the board and she mentioned how the $10bn in cost overruns (so far!) have left the Tories blubbering despite their projection of an image of fiscal sensibility. The latter is a ticket Tories and Reformers and Republicans have been cashing at election time for decades now. We’ll forever wonder why.
Ms McQuaig, a lefty, also mentioned the Tories’ recent demolition of a modest program of financial support to a partly volunteer-run initiative that maintains internet access in public libraries. This was done in the name of austerity and financial sensibility.
Not only were the Super Hornet, SAAB and Eurofighter products left out of consideration but their planes are totally hot looking and some of them have two engines!! The latter is somewhat important when you are flying over the second largest country in the world. The toy above only has one. What happens when you are thousands of kilometers from a runway and you lose an engine? Goodbye zillion dollar killing machine, that’s what. Certainly, suburban-poverty.com finds itself mostly in agreement with Ms. McQuaig, who established herself as a package of intelligence, wit and truthfulness in our books some time ago.
Reaching even further back in time was an article on the very same page of the same newspaper, Canada’s largest, from Ed Broadbent. We remember our childhood when Mr. Broadbent was leader of the opposition and our working class Scottish parents would nod approvingly whenever he was on the news and would vote for him. He never got to be PM, perhaps back then the people felt they were still going somewhere and didn’t really need him. Either way, Mr. Broadbent came out swinging at economic inequality in Canada. His take is backed up by public opinion research. It seems inequality has begun to worry Canadians on a number of levels. It seems they are sober about realizing they have to remain willing to pay taxes to preserve fairness and the quality of life. Like Ms McQuaig’s piece it makes for interesting reading. Does it take a genius, or a Toronto Star editor, to place inequality and F-35 Lightnings on the same page?
Yesterday’s Toronto Star had an item about newcomers to Canada. A study indicates many new immigrants land directly in suburban poverty. They’ve been doing so for decades, truth be told.
New immigrants are the “hidden homeless”
Economic Inequality held another public forum yesterday at Metropolitan United Church. Three speakers weighed in on the matter, Jim Stanford, an economist with the Canadian Auto Workers was first with an early highlight in which he referred to FOX-style business “journalist” Kevin O’Leary as an asshole. John Ralston Saul, president of PEN International and author made being a serious, history-minded public intellectual look so easy that even we are thinking of applying for such a position.
Tanya Zakrison, a surgeon from Doctors for Fair Taxation also weighed in on the realities of inequality. Her phrase, “trauma is a political disease” will remain with us among our impressions of the two hour event. John Sewell and Liz Rykoff were there to act as hosts and are from the organzation’s steering committee. Mike Ford handled the music.
Suburban-poverty.com attended the last forum, in Etobicoke. Monday’s forum involved a larger crowd and there was less audience participation. We found it educational and were heartened by the brain power on display and by the calibre of the arguments made against the aging bromides of neo-conservatism. John Ralston Saul’s sense of Canadian history and the value he places on the relationship between democracy and the intelligence of the people is so nice to hear.
Metropolitan United Church was a good choice of venue. Its community services efforts in the basement include a drop-in and meal program. Open that day, it fed the homeless, provided referrals and other services to those in deep social difficulty, facing low income, personal problems, social exclusion …the very effects of inequality.
Doctors for Fair Taxation
nb: expired links 🙁
image: Metropolitan Methodist Church, (United), Toronto, 1896
LAMP has been a social services presence in Etobicoke for some time now and so it makes sense that they would help bring an Economic Inequality forum to Toronto’s west end. The forum, one of three so far, is designed to get dialogue and action going in regard to the way societies like this one have just become giant machines for making the rich richer. This is the considered, brainy, indoors, post-Occupy response I think a lot of us have been looking forward to seeing for a while now. The suburban character of poverty, everything from aging highrises to the need for public transit spending, was fully acknowledged. Kay Blair, John Sewell and David Hulchanski spoke on behalf of the need to develop a broad popular agenda in favour of changing inequality. The event was quite audience friendly and the reasonable array of ideas, the well-considered social awareness in evidence was a lovely contrast to the kind of reactive nonsense we hear from right wing critters in public office and in the media too often.
We told them so on their Facebook page! They gave out some literature about inequality, gathered suggestions and the Etobicoke Guardian covered the event. Hopefully this is going somewhere.
The next related event is at Metropolitan United Church on March 26.
Economic Inequality home page
Economic Inequality Facebook
Last fall, The Economist published a piece that put Canada on a list, with a few other smaller countries, of those eligible for a significant correction of real estate prices. Hasn’t quite happened yet. The country gains a quarter million immigrants a year and is set to become even more of a petro state in the future. Both things keep traditional ideas and indicators of growth cooking along. A number of large resource extraction projects are also on the books and these will likely bring in the cash, too. Thing is, if real estate prices remain jacked up it makes things tough for the working poor. It’s a mixed blessing for the beleagured middle classes, too. Home equity makes a lot of them feel richer and smarter than they really are. A real estate wipe-out would hurt, but we can already see there’s pain in this long boom, it just depends who you are. For the suburban poor, high prices for real estate mean the rents are jacked higher than wages and for the middle class homes remain overpriced. Hard to say what will happen. We heard on the radio today that, according to the governor of the Bank of Canada, the bad economy in the United States costs Canada as much as $30bn a year in lost export trade. Wow! Will we crash the way the Americans have, just a bit later, or will we skate through this era of debt and disaster to whatever era arrives afterward?
Economist bubble piece
Bank of Canada comments Huffington Post Canada
Bubble case studies: Ireland & Canada Automatic Earth, 2010
Photo credit: Marceltheshell via Wikimedia Commons