EDITORIAL: *** NOT PUBLISHED *** Are you still treading water in these economic times?

Inflation, rising prices, fuel purchases costlier…sound about right. And so you feel you have support in the battle against inflation, check off the ones you have: Old Age Pension increase tied to the inflation rate, Canada Pension Plan payments increased comparably to inflation rates, property taxes index to compensate for inflation changes, salary increases automatically indexed to Bank of Canada interest changes, your elected representative calls frequently to update you on how the government is helping you with your constant battle with the rising cost of living.

Your mortgage rate remains unchanged even though the Bank of Canada’s interest rates went up. Your rent stays the same even though your landlord is renovating, updating, and repairing.

Oh, you don’t have all the latter. Oh, you don’t have any of them. Oh, you have not heard from your elected representative even once. Hmm, and your elected rep gets a salary increase commiserate with inflation increases just as you do?

In the words of the great Satchmo, ‘What a wonderful world.’

If you called your elected rep for answers, you’d get deflections galore: ‘not our responsibility;’ ‘that is the responsibility of the other level of government;’ ‘we are looking at that issue seriously;’ ‘we’ll be sending you a cheque very soon.’

Ever get the feeling, your own governments are scamming you? Empty promises. Vague assertions. Worthless commitments.

When is the last time you heard a politician respond, “I hear you and I will get back to you in two weeks with real answers, concrete suggestions.”

Do you think this is irrelevant whining? Consider some interesting facts regarding food banks, about the impact of our painful economy…

The Greater Vancouver Food Bank serves 17,000 people monthly of 2,500,000 people living there. In Toronto, more than 270,000 people were served in March of last year; nationally nearly 1.5 million people visited food banks. Food bank usage has increased by 35% since 2019 (Bank of Canada statistics).

Oh you don’t need to patronize a food bank. You have a good income. You’re a professional. In the last years, food banks have been used by more and more full-time workers, income earners making $40,000 or $50,000 per year. Who? Retired teachers, nurses, and university students.

Food banks in Vancouver started in the early 1980s and were designed as temporary charitable responses to touch economic times: rising interest rates, high inflation, people going hungry. By the end of 1985, 94 food banks were in operation across Canada; by the end of the decade, they were serving nearly 400,000 people. Food banks were not intended to address systemic, societal problems: wage stagnation, withering of high-paying unionized jobs, and cuts to support and social services. They were emergency responses with planned short-term life. The need got worse in the ‘80s, ‘90s and 2000s.

Governments responded with modest social assistance increases but poverty levels continued to rise. Vancouver’s is at 11.2%. The job market changed with an increasing number of people doing gig and on-demand work without protections, benefits, or dependability of wages.

Any wage increases that may have occurred have been ruined by grocery prices rising 9% in April 2022, gas, by 6%. People of modest incomes cannot keep up; moderate-income earners are feeling relentlessly pressured now.

Add in the cost of housing and the situation becomes deplorable. But it is a vicious circle: the exodus from the large urban centers increases the cost of housing in smaller centers and these costs are horrendous. The average rent of a one-bedroom apartment in Vancouver is about to break the $3,000 a month level. Mortgage costs have increased by nearly 30% in the last year. The Bank of Canada’s 5% interest hike will increase homeownership costs by over $500 a year.

The provincial and federal governments talk an ineffective game. They are failing to address the systemic issues that caused food banks in the first place. The time for action is now and these governments need to work on some constructive solutions. They were elected to give us responsible and responsive government. Instead, we have nincompoops as in Ontario rejecting exploratory endeavours like a test trial of basic income.

Canada produces enough food to feed 52,000,000 people and yet 7 million of our 40 million people go to bed hungry every night. Something is drastically wrong with that picture. Governments are promising to increase financial aid to farmers so more food can be grown. Production of food is not our problem government leaders.

We need leaders who are willing to explore new solutions or actually enact old ones. We need leaders to open their minds, energize their motivation and engage productive policies to help our fellow citizens. Many people need help and they need it now. I don’t need food banks yet but I am worried I could, far sooner than should the way our governments are governing right now.

Are you listening? Or are you going to sweep this economic erosion under the carpet and let politicians continue to cash in their salaries sourced from our pockets?

[Source: Much of the statistical information was based on the August 2023 Maclean’s magazine, “A Growing Hunger,” by David Long.]
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