Like millions of other Canadians this month, I’ll be voting for a local candidate to represent my interests in Parliament.
If I lived in 1950s or 1960s Canada, my choice might be different than it will be this month. Back then, the business world worked closely with governments to help co-construct a society worth living in for each of us. ‘Open for business’ back then actually meant something because big business was a reliable partner that paid a living wage to its employees.
When business became truly global it stopped thinking of citizens though (except for their role as consumers) and started thinking more about shareholders. Jobs in western countries like ours no longer paid a living wage. The work that was largely available became precarious, often without benefits. The labour that remained here was a shell of its former self when it came to providing for families.
It is no longer realistic to believe that even a full-time job at minimum wage can support a family. I wonder in what worldview is it okay that we say to those people, you just have to work harder? I’ve heard some say it’s their fault for not going back to school and retraining for a better position. But service jobs will always exist and someone will need to do them. Isn’t a reasonable level of compensation appropriate?
We spend millions of dollars on mental health now when in fact the greatest mental health program we could give would be to ensure people have basic income security. Some reading this might say that government can’t afford to do anything like this.
Then I would ask: Who will pay for their mental health programs? For their foster care run-ins? For their physical health ailments? (Fact: the worse off your income, the worse off your health will be.) Who will pay for their welfare? Their drug treatment programs? Who will pay for their emergency room visits because their lives most assuredly will be lives of crisis? For those who say they don’t want to pay for a strong social policy safety net, I can tell you we either pay now or pay more later.
We have allowed a neoliberal framework as the way to ‘do’ capitalism — that is, let the profits go to the top and too bad about the bulk of people who make up the bottom. We do not all start from the same starting blocks. We do not all have the same inborn advantages of family, education, or talents.
My vote will go to the politician and party that won’t be okay with poor bashing while paying out billions of dollars to corporations like Bombardier, SNC Lavalin, and the Oil Sands. My vote will go to someone that can convince me they won’t keep doing the same damn things over and over, expecting a different result.