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
Canadians count themselves a fortunate people. Perhaps that’s why they are such squanderers as well?
Case in point, the vast suburban project directly west of Toronto. Mississauga enjoyed a true golden age of property development, a California-esque era of low taxes, easy services, smugness, and growth, growth, growth. The cornfields went down. The houses went up. The money changed hands. Now, it looks like the party is over in the city whose official tag line is the frighteningly vacuous “Leading today for tomorrow.” If the private and public economy alike can’t be kept up by a massive flow of development-based revenue then what will happen? Nobody seems to know but denial isn’t really an option any more. This year, the city that bragged about never laying off staff and not needing tax increases levied a whopping 7.4% increase on its property tax payers. Imagine the pain in a true blue Tory place that kind of thing brings on!
Architecture and urban affairs columnist Christopher Hume pulls punches in the item linked below. Even if you hate the kind of sprawling megasuburb Mississauga is you can’t read a demolition job like this without a fearful feeling of apocalypse to come.
Hume: Mississauga waking up to a new reality Toronto Star
Between Lake Simcoe and the northern border of Toronto lies York Region. It has just a shade over one million people and has been the venue of some very high intensity real estate development since the 1980s. It would appear to represent the pinnacle of fast growth and high-profit, up-to-the-minute suburban mega-success. Guess what? They have poverty and homeless people. The proof is available from the York Region Alliance to End Homelessness. Still photos and voiceovers tell the story overlooked amidst all the commercial activity, monster homes, and cars, cars, cars. You know, they probably should have just kept growing corn up there…
Hidden In Plain Site
This weekend in the mass media in Canada there will be tons of worthless human interest bullshit about those whacky, maxxed out Americans going nuts, getting pepper sprayed and trampled to death storming strip malls for Black Friday bargoons. Getting less attention will be fresh Statistics Canada data showing the failure of wages in Canada to keep up with inflation. Considering wages have been sliding in real terms in this country since the 1970s we have to ask who the idiots really are. Happy Thanksgiving America!
Wages not keeping up with cost of living Halifax Chronicle Herald
It’s okay, don’t worry. Everybody go back to sleep, …just another report on child poverty in Canada. Everything’s fine.
Ottawa lacks plan to fight child poverty, coalition says Toronto Star
When Arianna Huffington sold her news aggregation site to Yahoo! we were concerned about what looked like another sell out of a smaller, interesting, independent entity to a mass media conglomerate. The jury is still out on that one but we think we all agree that socially conscious reportage certainly doesn’t hurt anybody’s image. Mind the Gap is a new ongoing feature on HuffPost’s Canada page. Among other poverty-enhancing things, it turns out that the increase in income inequality has jacked up the cost of housing for all income groups.
Mind the Gap Huffington Post
We don’t know if there are a million towers out there but certainly the reinforced concrete high rise apartment or condominium building is one of the most readily encountered artefacts of humanity and home to many, many people. An example of one was used as the banner image for this blog. The Toronto area alone is said to have about 2,000 large residential towers. Although it is remarkably easy to come up with critiques of such buildings and their effect on human communities it is kinda tough to find anyone doing anything really meaningful to imagine better for them and their residents. The documentary linked below, from Canada’s National Film Board, steps into the gap and asks a small group of high rise residents to imagine better. You’d have to be one hard hearted human being not to feel something while watching this six minute documentary.
Also see (61) Flemo!
A major guarantor of future suburban poverty (and of every other kind of poverty) is contemporary student debt. It must be getting pretty bad because during the last provincial election the Ontario Public Service Employees Union put up a bright red website all about it with the catchy name How Screwed Are You? This was downright feisty and the media are still taking notice of some of the harrowing stories of serfdom-at-twenty-five. With the Tories ascendant federally it only makes sense that Canadian politics and labour relations get amped up a bit. In the past Canadians were known as nice people who were ‘happy for no apparent reason.’ Think that’ll last another generation? Think there’s enough money in the tar sands to fix this one?
Students! Find out how screwed you really are