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
Crossing the pond to the United Kingdom from Canada we find at least two things much the same. The first is a public health care system. The second is that despite the latter the richer the person the more likely they are to be in good health and live longer. At least, that is the finding of a think tank called the King’s Fund. They have taken a longer term look at diet, smoking, exercise, and drinking. Not exactly a pretty picture, the influence of these things on the cost and provision of health care.
Class divide in health widens says think tank Guardian
Clustering of unhealthy behaviours over time: implications for policy and practice King’s Fund site
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
Money doesn’t grow on trees but it sure doesn’t mind having them around. That’s what some recent research into the relationship between tree cover and income has determined. The relationship appears to be reliable and is demonstrable numerically: the richer you are the more tree cover around you. This is visible from space, people.
Income inequality can be seen from space boingboing.net
photo: Wikimedia Commons
Canada’s largest freshwater turtle: the Snapping Turtle. Watch out kids! Tory the Turtle is none too fast but he’ll take that hand clean off if he gets the chance.
We came across this item, the article not the turtle, in the National Pest the other day. It won’t be a shocker to any of suburban-poverty.com’s loyal readers to know that inequality and poverty is damaging to the general functioning of the economy and therefore harmful to the business interests and the political system that would appear to foster said poverty and inequality at every turn. That the piece was written by a mainstream political actor associated with the federal Liberal party is not that striking either. What we noticed were the snarky, unsophisticated comments from the general readership of The Pest. Of course, not all the comments are simplified neoconservative maxims delivered with spite. Nonetheless, we’ve seen such reactions all over the internet whenever economics is the topic at hand. It bothers us and worries us that so many of our fellow citizens are so cranky and touchy and childish in their ideas about economics and the nature of societal relations.
Why is it so tough for people to separate the personal from the social, the anecdotal from the general? We’ve come to conclude that most people commenting on economics and society are firstly giving vent to some emotional quirk, making a resentful statement primarily. See for yourself.
Scott Brison: If Canada doesn’t tackle income disparity, the economy will suffer
We’ve been enjoying Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s book The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger. It takes a hard, statistics-driven look at economic inequality and the character of society. The bigger the gap between the top and bottom twenty per cent of a given population the worse off that society will be in virtually every way. Not just by some tiny margin either and not just in terms of major health issues or raw life expectancy data. The more unequal your society the more people in jail, the more mental illness, the lower the level of happiness and the poorer general funcitoning it will see. The Spirit Level is quite something, it empowers in great detail the arguments against inequality and poverty in a world where the rich have left us all in the dust. Much of this is known to us through experience,of course, anecdotally or in fragementary ways. Not any more. The findings under consideration also break down from the national level to that of provinces and states …and even by neighbourhood!
Canada, for its part, appears in the charts and graphs as a middling, mediocre country. Our inequality not as bad as that of the UK or the US but we have more than western and northern Europe or Japan and so the negative effects of inequality and poverty register more than all but the most heartless readers here will feel comfortable with. The countries with the least inequality do better across the board with statistics indicating better child welfare, better health, better everything from more reading to less bullying in schools. Powerful ammunition this is indeed for fighting back against the people and policy makers who think all we need is to cut this taxe or reduce that regulation.
Dr. Wilkinson has been appearing in the media in support of the book quite a bit. We at suburban-poverty.com could listen to him all day. Here are some links:
The Equality Trust
Richard Wilkinson In Canada Huffington Post Canada
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?