Myth busting two big lies as we fight to keep basic income alive
Joli Scheidler-Benns is a PhD candidate in Health Policy and Equity at York University. She is a sessional professor for UOIT's Faculty of Education. She serves in a Research, Strategy, and Community Development role for The Lindsay Advocate while also serving as a Writer-at-Large.
As advocates, we are fighting hard to keep the basic income program alive here in Lindsay. We are heartened by the strong support coming in, and yet we are also dismayed by comments that constantly circle around two big lies.
One is the idea that we can’t afford the pilot program.
The other is that the poor are ultimately lazy.
The truth is that not only can we afford the pilot, but we can afford a more universal plan for all Canadians as the pilot has already revealed many success stories in its infancy. Here in Ontario our GDP has only grown and this is an extremely wealthy province. It’s not really about affording something — rather it’s about the budget.
When the richest people can avoid paying taxes and the middle class carries the load for social programs, our redistribution policies are less effective. The budget is limited because we are refusing to tax the richest – which includes corporations — and ask them to pay their fair share. The richest people in Canada also have nothing to do with taxing the residents of Kawartha Lakes.
In a report released two days ago from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the answer becomes much more clear .
Just 87 people in Canada have more wealth than 12 million Canadians. That means that 32.5 per cent of Canadians combined own less than 87 people. This is astonishing – and unacceptable.
These 87 people have 4,488 times more wealth than the average family. Middle-class families are losing rapid ground while, with no inheritance tax in Canada, it ensures that the richest families pass on their dynasty to their children and the cycle of richness continues.
To hell with the cycle of poverty, why shouldn’t we care about the cycle of privilege even more?
Because of this richness, this level of wealth provides easy access to legal counsel and accountants that encourage and assist them in finding as many loopholes as possible to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. If you want to take action to stop this privileged cycle you can sign the petition here.
These richest people tend to gain wealth through investments, bonds and stocks, not through actual labour, like most of us do. Their wealth assures their stature in society, not the success of society itself.
We can afford a program for everyone, not just a pilot, if the right social structures are in place. Instead of focusing on this truth, many instead are side-tracked with the idea that the poor are lazy, don’t want to work, and are getting a hand-out through the program.
Luckily 72 per cent of Canadians now feel that people are poor based on life circumstances rather than bad life choices or character flaws according to polling just released. Only 28 per cent of people still blame the poor for being poor. Those that have these negative and often hurtful things to say are by far the minority in our population.
Those of us who have made it through life without a devastating life circumstance are very fortunate. Life-changing events can happen through death, injury on the job, the movement toward precarious work, and increasing instability and unavailability of good jobs in general. Those who have retired and lived through the many years since the Second World War were supported by a very generous social system compared to today’s reality, whether under Conservatives or Liberal governments.
Now, 65 per cent of Canadians also feel that too little is being done about the growing poverty rates in Canada and also feel that wealthy people are wealthy because of advantages, not because they worked harder.
Why don’t we care how much the rich are working?
Why is it only the poor who we target to scrutinize?
These are fundamental questions for the fabric of society when we would rather pick on someone who is down on their luck or through life circumstances, rather than hold those with enormous earnings accountable.
Further, a full 82 per cent of the people say that this growing gap between the wealthiest and everyone else is intolerable, and 74 per cent of the people indicate that they are struggling to maintain a middle-class life.
It is important to realize that this issue is not going away. The problems are only growing and will soon include more woes of the middle class whose backs have been carrying the taxation of redistribution services for many years. It isn’t the poor people who are at fault for this; it is the way that at least 87 people – not to mention corporations — aren’t taxed appropriately.
The negative perspectives of the people who are poor has been changing as more of the middle class is feeling the strain too. More understanding of the situation that we are all in is creating empathy and support for possible solutions…which is why initiatives like the Basic Income Pilot Program are being brought forward.
The fight is not over for the pilot program yet, but if we don’t succeed in reinstating it, then we don’t have any means to at least test what could possibly work right now for our poor and our community.
That’s why we must fight hard, together, for this policy to continue, or social policy initiatives won’t happen again on a broad scale for a very long time. The idea is to show its potential on a small scale so we can make it a pan-Canadian program – just like we did with health care long ago.
This is our window. This is our moment.
Let’s fight this together.