Pandemic has proven we’re a caring society; government budgets should reflect this
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.
Michael Wesch, a cultural anthropologist and professor, says there are three main questions that unite all of humanity. “What am I doing here? What am I supposed to be doing? And am I doing it right?”
COVID-19 has all of us asking these questions again even if we thought we had them figured out.
Our governments, for example, are starting to conclude that the austerity measures they have imposed last 40-plus years (from Conservatives and Liberals at different levels) were based on self-interest and greed.
I would argue that care and social well-being is the bedrock of our society.
That’s why governments are going to revisit how they design and fund long-term care.
If we weren’t a caring society, then there wouldn’t have been the great national swell of sadness and outrage over our elderly dying the way they did in long-term care homes, like what occurred at Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon.
A pure capitalist would see the elderly as a drain on society and this outcome as a relief to our health-care system.
Obviously, this is not how we responded as Canadians. Instead we demanded an inquiry and expressed outrage over the needless loss of lives.
Prior to the pandemic we were already seeing cuts to our health care, education and social programs.
Rates of COVID-19 infection in Ontario’s long-term care homes are shown to be a direct result of years of provincial cuts.
Chicago School economists (those who believe that free markets best allocate resources and that government should be mostly absent) would of course say let the free market handle things.
This theory says that when everyone is in competition with each other, the strongest survive.
Even if this were remotely true, the free market has never truly been free and is especially broken now.
It rewards, disproportionately, the CEOs and shareholders; it disadvantages the rest of us — those who make up most of society.
Municipalities will be the hardest hit having received less redistribution over the last several years. A full 77 per cent of Canadians want to see more federal support to municipalities, according to a recent Angus Reid poll. Without support, our city will be left with battered social services and broken infrastructure.
There are ways to ensure we keep our social programs in place; the same survey says 75 per cent of Canadians support instituting a wealth tax on the richest in society.
Our economic budget should reflect our values of a caring society, focused on our social well-being and a fair recovery, rather than once again turning to cold and unnecessary austerity measures that harm the people.