It certainly is a mighty thing, Niagara Falls. All that water, the honeymoons, the things to see and do, the casinos, the hydro electric power that made both sides of the border into industrial societies. We can also see social difficulty on the Canadian side of the river has been a concern for some time. The number of people in Niagara Region living below the Low Income Cut Off (LICO) is higher there than the average for all of Canada, according to the Niagara Community Observatory at Brock University in St. Catharines. The Community Observatory recently issued a policy brief on poverty in the Niagara region. The LICO is the generally accepted rough equivalent in Canada to the poverty line in the United States. It would seem that despite its hydro power, industrial heritage and good agricultural land the Niagara frontier is coming to have things in common with the rust belts of Britain and America. Hopefully that can be turned around. Niagara needn’t be below the Canadian average. A community forum regarding poverty will be held in St Catharines tomorrow. It deserves to be well attended.
Are the consequences of poverty holding Niagara back?
Poverty creating storm clouds on horizon St Catharines Herald
photo: P. Bica via Wikimedia Commons
In the Toronto area earlier this month there was a small demonstration to protest federal policy in regard to prison construction and an emerging, American-style, tough-on-crime policy. The event went by mainstream media and the public despite the merits of the ideas being put forward. Why are we getting new, large prisons and harsher sentences when crime rates have been going down in Canada? Why dump socially excluded people in jails and cut back on social programs? Why are we even having this conversation?
Protestors target prison building architecture conference
Aids Action Now
Two union-related items from Canada, where the unions have been declining for decades. The first is local to suburban-poverty.com. A big, fancy, French-owned hotel has been found by the Ontario Labour Relations board to have undertaken illegal actions to discourage unionization. Thusly making unionization essentially automatic. Hotel work is low-paying and the industry has tended to be anti-union making this a victory for working people in Mississauga.
Accor Novotel Watch
The second item is national. By unanimous vote the Canadian Auto Workers and the Chemical, Energy and Paper Workers unions are merging. The result will be the largest non-governmental union in the country with over 300,000 workers in several sectors of the economy.
CAW votes to merge with CEP Globe & Mail
There is no bad time to take a good look at poverty. Unless, of course, you are living in it daily. Then you’d probably prefer to look at just about fuc&ing anything else. The rest of us, as voters, taxpayers and citizens of conscience, can’t really be excused for our distractedness on this. Ontario has experienced a fairly steady erosion in its social services and safety net throughout much of the neo-conservative era. Going forward, the industrial economy is looking shaky. Ontario was a surprisingly powerful manufacturer for a long time. It has been twenty years since there was a major review of social assistance here in suburban-poverty.com’s home province. High time!
Commission for the review of social assistance in Ontario
It’s time to build dignity into Ontario social assistance Toronto Star
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Canadian Thanksgiving weekend comes upon us and we do find plenty to be thankful for. The country remains blessed and peaceful. All the more reason to question the kind of poverty found even where the banks are apparently sensible and the tar sands melt into money. There is always a flip side to a resources boom, always. Vibrant Communities Calgary, a non-profit agency addressing poverty, details the nature of the problem in a blog and through other resources and intiatives in areas from wages to free transit on election days.
Supporting municipal policies in poverty reduction
T is for Toronto
T is for ten dollars and twenty-five cents an hour
T is for “totally sucks”
…which it does when you try and get by on that, the minimum wage, there. The fact Canada is a lucky country in many ways is all very nice but that should not be used to dismiss the need to improve wages, reduce inequality, crack down on slum landlords and build better public transit in Toronto.
Metcalf Foundation study: working poor numbers way up in Toronto
photo: alexindigo via Wikimedia Commons
We found it convenient to ignore most of the editorial content that surfaced in the media early this month in connection to Labour Day. Too much of it was pious and nostalgic. We’ll make a belated exception for this piece from Sid Ryan, a fixture in Canada’s labour circles for decades. Mr Ryan calls attention to what a joke it is here for many working people. We may be better off than workers elsewhere, particularly in America, but this is scant relief to those in low wage service sector jobs where security and benefits appear to be evaporating. Case-in-point, the treatment of Zellers workers after the takeover of the chain by American retailer Target. To this picture Mr. Ryan reminds us to add a new federal program for fast-tracking temporary foreign workers who can be paid up to fifteen percent lower wages. Just what we need in Ontario as the condo/real estate boom begins to stutter. Soon, there will hardly be a job left for anyone in this province. One of our editorial interns asked us to point out that in decades of working dead end jobs no union ever came anywhere near them.
Labour Day: spare a thought for Canada’s new underclass
Ontario Federation of Labour
Labour Day long weekend is upon us and most of the population of the province of Ontario will pile onto the 400-series highways. A crush of motor vehicles bookends the final days of summer for those with access to lakes, cottages, boating and so forth. Such privileges are meant to be enjoyed and Ontario, especially its densely populated southern parts, has been a busy province these past six or so decades. The economic statistics for Canada’s largest province are staggering, 12.8 million people crank it out to the tune of over 600 billion dollars a year. A shade more GDP than Sweden. That makes Ontario the 25th largest economic unit by GDP in the world and the source of 40% of the Canadian economy. All the more depressing then to come across another negative report about poverty and inequality and threats to the standard of living in Ontario. A place that built 2.1 million automobiles in 2011, many for export all over the world.
A couple of days ago Ontario Common Front (see their Facebook page) released a report placing Ontario at the bottom of the list for social program spending, access to programs and support for public services. Education, health care and the affordability of housing are also examined and found problematic. We can’t think of anything directly related to the standard of living and quality of life of the population here that has been left out. Something like 100 labour groups are part of this organization and the report is dense with worrisome statistics. In turn, we fear it will get too little media attention as Ontarians enjoy their last weekend of the summer, and begin to think about sending children back to school. Nonetheless, an election is coming. One in which a reasonable centrist government will come under attack by eager neo-conservative/neo-liberal forces. Perhaps this report will be a wake up call to all concerned? National news outlets and most provincial newspapers with an online presence have picked it up.
Falling Behind: Ontario’s Backslide Into Widening Inequality, Growing Poverty and Cuts to Social Programs weareontario.ca
image: Wikimedia Commons
This post introuduces the Progressive Economic Forum to suburban-poverty.com’s readers with an item confirming the relationship between income levels and health in Canada. PEF cites a new Canadian Medical Association report. It seems that Canadians remain fortunate people in terms of health and wellness but a gap has opened up based on income. If you are poorer you die sooner and have more problems over the years. The author of this piece supports the view that beating up on the poor for bad lifestyle choices is too often used as an easy out for explaining the social determinants of health. An item on the same CMA report on the CBC website got just over 800 comments in a short time. Clearly this is an important issue, one Canadians know to feel strongly about.
To address health inequalities, look beyond the role of individual responsibility PEF
‘Wealth equals health,’ Canadian doctors say: lower-income groups report poorer health CBC.ca
CMA poll finds “worrisome” gap in income-related health status CMA.ca
One of the editorial interns at suburban-poverty.com came across a fantastic resource today: The Atlas of Suburbanisms from Waterloo University. Just getting to say a word like suburbanisms brings a joy to our hearts, …let alone the content!
The content is, of course, what’s important and as a tool for literacy in Canadian suburbia this site is powerful stuff. The focus is Canada’s three largest urban-suburban agglomerations: Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver. Other communities are also examined. The information is timely, well presented. The more we read, the more we look at the maps and tables and analysis the more impressed we are with this site. Part of the problem of understanding suburban life lies in the difficulty of agreeing to the language to apply to it. The Atlas of Suburbanisms takes us beyond this initial confusion, shows us what is there, …shows us ourselves!
Atlas of Suburbanisms