On blue bags and sea­son’s greet­ings

The Compass - - EDITORIAL - Harold Wal­ters Harold Wal­ters lives Hap­pily Ever Af­ter in Dunville, in the only Cana­dian prov­ince with its own time zone. How cool is that? Reach him at gh­wal­ters663@gmail.com.

While Com­pass colum­nist Pat Cullen calls for a ba­sic in­come, I am ad­vo­cat­ing for a guar­an­teed an­nual in­come (GAI) so Canada and New­found­land and Labrador can elim­i­nate most, if not, all poverty.

Our provin­cial poverty re­duc­tion strat­egy of­fi­cials, and our fed­eral and provin­cial elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives should be ask­ing Cana­di­ans and New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans how we can im­prove and mod­ern­ized our so­cial safety net.

I say that Prime Min­is­ter Trudeau, and the 13 provin­cial/ter­ri­to­rial pre­miers, in­clud­ing Dwight Ball’s Lib­er­als, should im­ple­ment a one-stop GAI scheme for Canada’s most dis­ad­van­taged or most vul­ner­a­ble res­i­dents — per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties, the work­ing poor, low or fixed in­come se­niors, men­tal health con­sumers and fam­i­lies, the un­em­ployed, the un­der­em­ployed and the home­less.

In a 1984 book called “Cana­dian Churches and So­cial Jus­tice,” gov­ern­ments have ba­si­cally three ways to help those “in need;” 1) pro­gres­sive tax­a­tion through tax cred­its, like the dis­abil­ity tax, fam­ily and se­niors tax cred­its, and GST/HST tax re­bates; 2) pub­lic ser­vices and so­cial agen­cies, such as medi­care (MCP), NLPDP (or phar­ma­care), NLHC (sub­si­dized hous­ing), home heat­ing re­bate pro­gram, CPP, EI, OAS, se­niors GIS, AES in­come sup­port, spe­cial needs pro­gram, and stu­dent aid, and 3) min­i­mum wage laws.

Un­for­tu­nately, th­ese gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tives have had lit­tle, if any ef­fect in com­bat­ing poverty.

As for the pri­vate sec­tor, like non-profit com­mu­nity, re­li­gious and so­cial or­ga­ni­za­tions, the best they can of­fer is band-aid so­lu­tions, like food banks, soup kitchens, Christ­mas ham­pers and so on, but while they are help­ful to those peo­ple in need, it doesn’t elim­i­nate nor re­duce poverty.

The lat­est sta­tis­tics, in Canada, clearly show that there are 4.9 mil­lion Cana­dian women, men and chil­dren liv­ing in poverty. Ac­cord­ing to the New­found­land amd Labrador’s gov­ern­ment’s poverty re­duc­tion strat­egy there are ap­prox­i­mately 27,000 low-in­come res­i­dents (2011).

For many fam­i­lies and in­di­vid­u­als, so­cial as­sis­tance (or AES in­come sup­port) now acts as their pri­mary source of in­come. They and other low in­come groups are strug­gling to pay for the rent, heat­ing, food and other ba­sic liv­ing ne­ces­si­ties, and, in many cases, their low in­come is wholly in­ad­e­quate. For oth­ers, in­come sup- ports pro­vides a top-up to their low wages, Em­ploy­ment In­sur­ance and other low-in­come sources.

Some peo­ple be­lieve that gov­ern­ments can­not re­duce or elim­i­nate Poverty. On the con­trary, we can­not af­ford to not too.

Re­cently, there have been many Cana­dian groups and in­di­vid­u­als call­ing for ei­ther a GAI or as Pa­tri­cia Cullen points out ba­sic in­come. They in­clude for­mer Se­na­tor Hugh Se­gal, Saskatchewan and Prince Ed­ward Is­land NDP; the Fed­eral Green Party, Lib­eral party mem­bers; var­i­ous Cana­dian com­mu­ni­ties, and even the Cana­dian Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion en­dorse it. Says Cullen: “poverty leads to hunger and bad nu­tri­tion. Both kill and they are very costly killers.” Poverty can also lead to men­tal ill­ness, es­pe­cially de­pres­sion.

In my opin­ion, a GAI for Cana­di­ans is a log­i­cal, prac­ti­cal al­ter­na­tive to the cur­rent patch­work of over­lap­ping fed­eral, provin­cial, and mu­nic­i­pal so­cial pro­grams. The GAI could be im­por­tant in an­other sense in that it could elim­i­nate the bu­reau­cratic di­vi­sions and du­pli­ca­tion be­tween the var­i­ous lev­els of gov­ern­ment.

So, Justin Trudeau, Rona Am­brose, Thomas Mul­cair, El­iz­a­beth May, and Premier Dwight Ball, let’s have a GAI for all dis­ad­van­taged Cana­di­ans.

“That’s it,” I said, stamp­ing snow off my boots in the porch. “I’m done with the de­pot.”

“Harry, my dis­tressed love,” said Dear­est Duck, “what’s making your wa­ter hot?”

“My Duck,” said I, “Some­thing’s been on my mind, so I’m done with saving up bot­tles and cans and lug­ging them off to the green de­pot.”

Dear­est spocked her eye­brows into a match­ing set of ques­tion marks. “I fear there is no hope,” I said. B’ys, lis­ten. Re­mem­ber the so called Cold War back in the last cen­tury?

All hands were afraid that Com­mu­nists would fire off a vol­ley of atom bombs and blow up the world.

That didn’t hap­pen. No­body blew up the world.

Re­mem­ber the era of WMDs — Weapons of Mass De­struc­tion?

There was in­duced fear that Bad Guys would blow up the world.

That didn’t hap­pen. Bad Guys didn’t blow up the world.

Back in Novem­ber, all hands in the King­dom of Justin and lands else­where paid their re­spects to mil­i­tary troops dead and gone and of­fered sup­port to troops still top­side…

“Harry?” said Dear­est Duck. “Have you been drink­ing adul­ter­ated herbal tea again?” “Not I, my Duck.” “The cold war, Harry? Any need of this just be­fore Christ­mas?” “I’m just say­ing.” “You bet­ter say it more clearly then,” said Dear­est Duck.

It’s com­ing on Christ­mas and it seems we’ve for­got­ten some­thing about hop­ing for peace on Earth … and saving the planet — I s’pose — see­ing as I’m talk­ing about wav­ing bye-bye to blue bags.

It’s com­ing on Christ­mas and we’ve for­got­ten some­thing that was on the tippy-top of our minds back when the Western World was fac­ing-off with the Com­mu­nists.

We’ve for­got­ten, or are in de­nial about, the fact that there are suf­fi­cient nu­clear ar­ma­ments still stock­piled on this planet to blow us all to king­dom come, eh b’ys?

As far as we know, there are none in the King­dom of Justin, but once upon a time — if Mr. Google is telling the truth — a Fat Man A-Bomb sat like a hu­mon­gous deadly egg at CFB Goose Bay. “Harry, my love…” “Hold on, hold on.” Nowa­days all hands are en­cour­aged to go green, or what­ever. Think of your chil­dren and grand­chil­dren is the ral­ly­ing cry that urges us to re­cy­cle cans and bot­tles and shop­ping fly­ers.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m con­cerned about the fu­ture and what awaits my grand­chil­dren … and yours too, for that mat­ter.

But I don’t think lug­ging

My Im­per­fect

Slant empty Coke cans to the green de­pot is go­ing to help in any sig­nif­i­cant way to de­ter­mine tomorrow, so to speak. “Harry…” “My Duck…” Think about this: here we are dili­gently sort­ing our refuse into colour-coded plas­tic sacks — Yes, plas­tic sacks, al­beit some mag­i­cally bio-degrad­able version of plas­tic — and bundling it off to re­cy­cling de­pots.

Here we are bravely [?] re­cy­cling de­spite the re­pressed knowl­edge that WMDs truly do ex­ist — not all of them worlds away …

… and we can be sure of this — there’s an id­iot some­where lick­ing his in­dex fin­ger­tip hop­ing for the chance to…

“Harry, stop it! I’m go­ing to lick my fin­ger­tip and hit Delete on your key­board,” said Dear­est Duck ex­hibit­ing more than a smidgen of dis­gust with me.

In my opin­ion, a GAI for Cana­di­ans is a log­i­cal, prac­ti­cal al­ter­na­tive to the cur­rent patch­work of over­lap­ping fed­eral, provin­cial, and mu­nic­i­pal so­cial pro­grams. It’s com­ing on Christ­mas and my most fer­vent wish — truly — is for peace on Earth and good will among its in­hab­i­tants.

“My Duck,” said I, “I fear you mis­un­der­stand me. I truly want to save the world…and I pray for peace on Earth.”

But, b’ys, I don’t think saving tin cans and blue-bag­ging pa­per is a ma­jor step in that di­rec­tion.

I s’pose though, even small steps are im­por­tant.

We have to re­mem­ber a larger … well, you get the point.

It’s com­ing on Christ­mas and my most fer­vent wish — truly — is for peace on Earth and good will among its in­hab­i­tants.

Prob’ly I’m way too sim­plis­tic in say­ing that we must not al­low our­selves to be mis­di­rected. I’m cer­tain Dear­est Duck would be the first to say, “Harry, my erst­while Cold War honey, “sim­ple” might be more the word for you.”

Nonethe­less, at the risk of ril­ing some of you, I’m go­ing to hum a lit­tle bit of this Christ­mas hymn: “O lit­tle town of Beth­le­hem…hum…hum…hum…the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

So, I hoist the dregs of my bot­tle — Al­right, I’ll heave the empty in my re­cy­cle bin — and bid you a Merry Christ­mas — Yes, frig it all, Merry Christ­mas!— and peace among ter­res­tri­als of good will.

Thank you for read­ing.


On Sun­day, Dec. 13, mem­bers of the Spa­niard’s Bay Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment met up with Santa Claus and a few res­i­dents of the town to help light a Christ­mas tree. The jolly old man in the red suit was more than happy to help out, while also tak­ing time to ap­pear in pho­tos with those who came out for the event.

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