The annual year-end retail madness has already started, with barrages of corporate advertising, Santa Claus parades, re-runs of “holiday favourites”, and homilies about the season of good cheer. At People’s Voice, we enjoy time off with family and friends over the winter solstice as much as anyone, but things are far from merry for millions of people.
For example, over 21% of single mothers in Canada are raising their children in poverty. An appalling 50% of status First Nations children live in poverty, rising to 64% in Saskatchewan and 62% in Manitoba. In total, almost five million people in this country live below the poverty line; many depend on food banks to survive, and most could only dream about putting a big pile of colourfully-wrapped gifts under the tree.
Or think about the huge numbers of people desperate for an affordable place to live. In Toronto alone, approximately 5,000 people are homeless, with 3,200 people on the wait list for supportive housing at any given time. In the Vancouver area, the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is now estimated at $2000, more than double the social assistance rate for British Columbia. For them, the Christmas holiday brings no respite from the cold.
Statistics can become numbing, especially when the mainstream media celebrates consumer spending as a virtue. But here’s another: the two richest Canadians – billionaire business owners David Thomson and Galen Weston Sr. – have the same amount of wealth as the poorest 30 per cent of the country combined. This is a life and death issue. On average, the highest income earners in Canada live 20 years longer than the poorest.
Instead of hoping that charity will lift people out of poverty, we need a wide range of government policies to transfer wealth from the rich to the poor. That’s our wish for 2018.