Taking poverty down a notch or two, even eliminating it, would be a great investment. That is something most of us understand intuitively and now here are numbers to support our common sense in the form of a United Way Toronto/York Region study.
A few weeks and a 49-page report from Meal Exchange that took a detailed look at food insecurity on five Canadian university campuses is pretty much forgotten. Drag. Especially if you are one of those students, trying to advance yourself but scrambling for calories.
image: tom brindley via Flickr/CC
Subdivided. City Building In An Age of Hyper-Diversity
Jay Pitter & John Lorinc, editors
2016. Coach House Books, Toronto
279 pages. $20.95 CAN
This collection of essays was much tougher reading than we expected. After nearly six years blogging about social difficulty in the suburbs we don’t expect to be unnerved by our topic. Subdivided unnerved us.
The good old days of multiculturalism, in which eastern and southern Europeans (and maybe a few other groups), found Toronto adjusting to, and eventually welcoming, them are long gone. In its place, we now see an ever bigger and richer Toronto home to newcomers in a living arrangement of hyper-diversity. This infinitely more complex Toronto is by turns depressing, ugly, unjust and unequal despite recurrent commentary about its peacefulness, high socio-cultural potential and general awesomeness.
Subdivided delivers unto us many a less-than-comfortable truth. There’s too many people here in isolated lives centred on a combination of shit jobs and lacklustre housing. Reading Subdivided made us feel like Toronto’s diversity is the stuff of an Adam Curtis documentary, another nightmarish expression of the global economic machine and its operating system, neoliberalism.
That toughness of presentation is what makes this collection of essays so amazing, so real. It’s hard to think of any other such wellspring of direct, sustained observation of what it is really like to live here. A chapter on Brampton, for example, brings forth a wave of nausea faster than a jar of expired mayonnaise. ‘Browntown’ is next door to suburban-poverty.com’s backyard, we can attest to the truth of what is said here about Brampton. Same for another entry on Mississauga, which is literally our backyard. You’d almost wonder why Canada bothers attracting new residents to its Sprawlvilles. Except perhaps as a cycnical ploy to increase domestic markets and the tax base and to fulfill some corporate/ideological role in the global economy.
What to do? Good transit, a strong social safety net, higher wages, police reform, and affordable housing would help us toward a healthy, cross-connected society according to the essays in Subdivided. None of these things will be achieved quickly or cheaply, though.
We better get busy before something really awful comes of the present lame and indifferent regime of city building in greater Toronto. Stress is not good for the indivdual or the community. Stress and reaction brought us Rob Ford, the scale model mock up of Donald Trump. Who knows what the stresses of race and class we are leaving in place will inflict on us? We aren’t Milwaukee yet but how much longer will we sleepwalk into this?
We suggest future editions of Subdivided include a stamped, pre-addressed thank you card readers can mail to the one percent.
Buy Subdivided for your unnerved urban affairs shelf.
Good news, even as winter approaches: in 2017 Ontario can expect to see a basic income pilot project. Hopefully that means that Canada’s largest province is on the path to adopting a benefit regime that will truly secure its people against poverty. We’ve been sold on the idea of a universal right to an income for as long as we can remember. It seems to us that nearly every form of social difficulty could be improved upon if nobody in this society was below a certain level. On the other hand, we could indeed be looking at yet another ‘cycle of consultation’. You know, another rationalised round of reportage, fact gathering and public hearings that kick the issue of poverty down the road and toward the next election. Public pressure might make all the difference, though.
Extra bonus: it would seem a good way to innoculate our society against the rise of Trumpist-style influences, a comprehensive ticket to change for the better. This winter thoughts of a basic income will be keeping the staff at suburban-poverty.com feeling warm inside.
Basic income pilot consultation
Basic income can reduce food insecurity and improve health
University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine
image: chuddlesworth via Flickr/CC
We all love life, right? That’s why longevity is such a sensible measure of the quality of life in a given place. Gaps in longevity data emerge into view quickly thanks to such things as gender and occupation. Ideally, a well off society should find these gaps moderate and when in the right frame of mind it might even challenge these gaps, seek to close them up. A new medical study reinforces our understanding of the role of income in determining longevity with the finding that in Canada high income men are starting to outlive low income women. The incomes of Canada’s richer males is more powerful than the natural characteristic of women to outlive men.
Did you just say ‘holy shit’? We did.
High income men now outliving low income women, study finds
image: Insomnia Cured Here via Flickr/CC
Merit is supposed to be one of the anchor concepts of modern economics. A good product, for example, merits sales, a smart lawyer merits his fees, and so on. Why aren’t we productive Canadians getting a nicer hit on payday, then? Our productivity is up but the Centre for the Study of Living Standards finds that we aren’t really being rewarded for that. Wages have risen more slowly over time than our productivity. Have we changed our tune on merit?
Labour productivity and the distribution of real earnings in Canada, 1976-2014 (45-page .pdf file)
We’ve marked several Hungercounts now. A grim but important indicator of where we are in regard to food and food banks.
See also: (72) Foodbankistan