So many left behind — now we reap what we have sown

By Roderick Benns

Roderick Benns is the publisher of The Advocate. An award-winning author and journalist who grew up in Lindsay, he has written several books including Basic Income: How a Canadian Movement Could Change the World.

Working-class Canadians have now grown up worse off than their parents.

Despite all the discussion about how divided we are as a nation now, there has always been one key reason for that division — and we have yet to meaningfully address it.

Inequality is the basis for virtually all the contentious issues that fester within a growing minority of the population. Name the issue — anti-vaccination sentiment, distrust of government, conspiracy theories, apathy – and inequality is a leading cause, either directly or indirectly.  

There are concomitant causes, too, of course, such as living next to the most twisted western country in the world when it comes to social policy and paying too much attention to U.S. discourse.

Working-class Canadians have now grown up worse off than their parents. Too many cannot afford to save a down payment on even a modest home. It’s the people who hold more than one job just to make ends meet or who must use food banks to survive. “From the perspective of the past three decades or more, inequality has increased substantially,” according to the Institute for Research on Public Policy.

This is not the Canada of the 1970s, 60s or 50s. It is a Canada that followed the U.S. lead into corporate acquiescence. In the last 20 years, the corporate income tax rate was cut from 28 per cent to 15 per cent. The corporations grew richer, the people poorer. Did corporations use this money to reinvest in the national economy? No. They used it to enrich their shareholders in the form of dividends, as economist David Macdonald has written about. It could have been used for the good of all, had the government so directed.

So of course we have “anti-vaxxers.” Why would they trust a system they feel has never had their backs? (And saying you do, Mr. Trudeau, does not make it so.)

We cannot in good conscience just blame today’s freedom-loving flag wavers because many are the byproduct of a less fair Canada — their life prospects continue to be truncated. They are angry — and anger in the internet age easily finds a willing ear. That’s because, as Jonathan Gauvin and Angella MacEwen write in Share the Wealth, “Feelings of injustice and abandonment make people more vulnerable to populism, misinformation and division.”

This is what births a Pierre Poilievre, an apprentice of political darkness. It is easy to direct that rage toward a self-satisfied Liberal Party that has fanned the flames of division while doing mild wealth redistribution, instead of the needed fundamental economic rethink required.

We can expect more of this, not less, unless future leaders dig down deep to take steps to create a fairer society.

6 Comments

  1. Robert George says:

    You had a logical and coherent argument going until you took the cheap shot at Poilivire. Too bad your partisan prejudice interfered with your thoughts. I had hoped you might be maturing into an unbiased observer and reporter of our events.

    • William says:

      You consider yourself logical and coherent, but support Poilievre, whose name you cannot spell? The robocalling, Unfair Elections Act-wielding, barbaric cultural practices snitch-line loving career politician? The guy who hasn’t held a job outside of government but fancies himself anti-elite? The millionaire who is fooling working class rubes into worshipping his every word? The guy who voted against gay marriage and cannabis legalisation? The guy who pretends to support women’s rights but wanted to restrict abortions? The guy who thinks crypto currency is a good investment? THAT’S who you support to lead the country?

      You probably also think Trudeau is a communist. I wish he was, then I’d support him. That cons are so worked up over a milquetoast centrist like Trudeau, thinking he’s a commie or socialist because his party didn’t let millions become homeless or starve during the pandemic, shows how politically illiterate many Canadians are. What he did was the bare minimum. The party ignored huge swaths of the population in their aid, too. If you think having to be tested for COVID to travel is authoritarian, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Japan, for example, is still closed. Does that make their country communist or authoritarian?

      It wouldn’t surprise me if Poilievre became the next PM, Canadians are largely apathetic and, frankly, stupid and selfish. Bouncing back and forth between the two same political parties since the birth of the nation is one piece of evidence for that fact. Low voter turnouts, falling for dopey slogans, buck-a-beer style campaigning, largely ignoring third parties, almost American levels of delusion when it comes to how “great” our country is when many others rank higher in everything, etc. is some more evidence.

  2. Roderick Benns says:

    Perhaps you could identify the partisan prejudice at work here, considering I took shots at both the Liberals and Poilievre? The point is that successive governments, both Liberal and Conservative, have had the opportunity to fix this and have failed.

  3. Ben says:

    The separation of powers between Federal, Provincial and Municipal jurisdictions has allowed politicians to go “not my problem” at so many issues for far too long.

    In Ontario, we can no longer trust the province with our Healthcare and education and we can’t trust municipalities to initiate sufficient housing development. As long as that’s the case, the federal Liberals will continue to campaign on “Look at your awful local leaders, we’ll protect you” while doing nothing.

  4. Wayne says:

    Oh….you hate the USA , and Pierre Poilievre. Yawn. BTW there are lots of well paying jobs in construction and trucking for young people.. I guess living in mommys basement, playing on the PS5, and tweeting about how tough life is on a 1000$ iPhone all day long, is easier though. Thanks for the great, well thought out, article ! lolol

    • William says:

      “BTW there are lots of well paying jobs in construction and trucking for young people.. I guess living in mommys basement, playing on the PS5, and tweeting about how tough life is on a 1000$ iPhone all day long, is easier though”. Considering the author runs a business that involves writing articles, I will assume this is directed at the people he is advocating for.

      News flash: not everyone can work, not every job has good wages/benefits, not every person is capable or willing to work at every single job in every industry, and government money is wasted on worse things than helping the less fortunate.

      I’m disabled, don’t have a PS5, I got my phone used and it sure wasn’t $1000, I don’t live in a basement, and I don’t use Twitter. I am however sick to death of right-wingers accusing everyone of being lazy takers when all we want is a decent quality of life for everyone – because it’s 100% possible. Could you live on $896-1169/month? That’s what hundreds of thousands of disabled Ontarians are expected to live on. But you’re right, maybe we should just get a job. I’m sure construction and trucking companies are hiring a lot of physically and mentally disabled people – wait, what? I will note that MPPs get $2300/month for a housing allowance alone. Of course they aren’t expected to live off just that amount, they are special after all (sarcasm).

      Do you think people getting $700/month on Ontario Works, many of whom are disabled but couldn’t get beyond the stringent ODSP application, are living the high life? ODSP applications can take months/years, involves doctors, lawyers, social workers, and caseworkers, and require a certain level of wherewithal and resources that many don’t have access to. I’m actually one of the lucky ones. The OW monthly payment doesn’t even cover a PS5, so what about their rent and food? Or do you actually believe every adult’s parents are willing and able to continue paying for their grown children to live at home?

      As for the anger from working people, some of whom are supporters of the Conservatives and Poilievre or the People’s Party, their anger is also justified, even if I believe their solutions to be wrong. Too many people with jobs can’t afford to live with the high cost of housing, food, utilities, car/gas, etc. I don’t believe the anti-public health people are right about vaccines or mandates, but it’s not surprising that so many people believe the conspiracies given the sheer amount of propaganda online – and the Con politicians willing to exploit it.

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