Today, the Salvation Army launched the "Dignity Project", an attempt to educate and make Canadians aware of the needs of the very less fortunate in our society. It started with the fundamentals, what do Canadians think about poverty and those who are poor. It would be nice to think we are a very compassionate bunch, however, the numbers, and this was a true survey and not some lame Internet/Facebook thing. It appears Canadians take a very dim view of those who are poor. Some of the results are:
* Nearly 50 percent of Canadians feel that a family of four could get by on $10,000 – $30,000 per year or less
* Nearly half of all Canadians feel that if poor people really want to work, they can always find a job
* Nearly 40 percent believe people who live in poverty in Canada “still have it pretty good”
* 41 percent believe that the poor would “take advantage” of any assistance given and “do nothing” with support provided
* About a quarter of Canadians believe that people are poor because they are lazy and have lower moral values than average
* 96 percent of Canadians believe that everyone deserves a sense of dignity, but only 65 percent believe that being poor can rob you of dignity
Quite the interesting set of statistics, if the report does anything it should give us all pause as to what are our attitudes to the less fortunate. A quick read of some comment sections point out that these are not just people on a bad day, but a reality. I was at the Yahoo Page and the comments were running about 50-50, half were berating poor people as being responsible for their state of being because of the actions they had done, such as, leaving school early, or getting involved in an addiction. While people ranted, the realization is this is not to do with the cause of poverty, that may be for another report.
Of course, I thought the last statement, the belief in dignity may be one of those, 'I better answer the way they want me to answer'. So sure I believe that people should have dignity in their lives, but just because those on welfare are living better then I do, well, that's the real crime.
I wondered why there was this negative feeling, I mean its not a total surprised, there is nothing people have been crabbing about for years. I heard people talk about those in a subsidized housing project yelling at some automakers "keeping working guys, I need the money to buy beer". I did suggest the tale was rather apocalyptic, but it fits the stereotype.
This made me wonder why the prevalence and then I got another document to study, this time in the mail It is called "The Three Cities within Toronto". It's an examination on the development of Income Polarization in Toronto, from 1970-2005. It came with this issue of Spacing Magazine. To give the quick view, Toronto is becoming a very polarized city between the very rich and very poor. While the population of people who are rich has remained stable 15-18%, those who would be considered poor has increased 178% from 19% of population to 54. Meanwhile the Middle class has decreased by 56%, to 29% of the population. While this is sadly not abnormal, I think it may give the basis of the opinion, the Middle class is an endangered species. The adage that people are living pay cheque to pay cheque is not an adage but the truth. The Middle Class is going because the source of the middle class economics and income is disappearing. The Manufacturing Industry is leaving and the service industry is growing. It could be said the age of the $20/hour job is gone, now the $12-15 range is the new reality and new good paying jobs. Couple this with the fact that taxes and everything else is going through the roof. The former middle class is battered to extinction. They are angry but where to release the anger, yes to the government that imposes taxes and seems to squander what people worked hard earn on self-serving projects. But usually the money involved in mind boggling. How do you understand a billion dollar boondoggle. You can't, but if you see a headline that states that it costs governments $55,000/year to house a homeless person, then it becomes personal. That guy on the corner with the sign and the hat bugging you for loose change is costing more then you make. Now understand the front line is probably about $13,000/year but when you put in the nice offices for Ontario Works, well, it begins to add up. Those new business cards cost money after all.
Plus add the fact the recession that is supposed to be a recovery is very fragile, if it exists and you have a very cranky populace.
They can't yell at the Premier, because he's surrounded by security and the only time he comes out is in well stages, well rehearsed 'spontaneous' meeting with the common folk, usually those who are long time supporters of the governing party. Is he approachable, yeah if you don't mind getting tasered if you get too close. So who symbolizes all the waste, the guy in public housing, the mother with a couple of kids trying to live high on the hog on a thousand a month. It's the people who have to go to the food bank each month, hoping there is something new and not the same old stuff. Again, the recession has affected even donations to food banks so people who need the extra food can't get that.
As an aside, I sent an email to Andrew Burditt, asking him if he was surprised at the findings, to date, he has not returned a reply.
It would be easy to blame the people with the negative thoughts, but more important, we need to examine a lot of things, the first thing is the entitlement that seems to flow towards those who are in power with the government or have the very cushy government jobs.