A CHORUS OF VOICES
by Robyn Lee
I’ve come to the conclusion that governments in Canada cannot affect social change without the public’s help. Policy and funding decisions that would bring about crucial changes to benefit the poor in this country has to be initiated by us. What elected officials hear from the majority of Canadians is that we want tax cuts. Is it fair to criticize governments for the plight of the poor when our loudest demands are for our own benefit? Tax cuts are what the majority wants and expects, and a function of a politician’s popularity is to deliver to the most voters.
When the government tries to address conflicting demands we end up with the ineffectual policies we’re seeing now at both the provincial and federal levels. For example: The Ontario Liberals twenty-five cent per hour reply to demands for an increase to the minimum wage only brings minimum-wage earners up to about $16,600 a year (provided that they are able to secure a 40-hour a week job). The greater concern for the provincial government is that forcing businesses to pay a more adequate minimum wage, such as $10 per hour, could result in a rise in unemployment. This policy accomplishes little other than lip service to anti-poverty criticism, because the worker’s wage still remains well below the poverty line in Ontario.