Here in Weston / Mount Dennis, a significant percentage of our population earns less than the average Toronto resident. In addition, we have more single parent households (30%, compared to the Toronto average of 21%).
How can these statistics be improved? Gentrification is often thought to be the answer. Unfortunately it can force low income people out through higher rents and property prices. This is happening across Toronto and simply shifts the problem to other areas. It does nothing to help people – in fact by forcing them to move, their lives are further disrupted. A better and more humane way is to support individuals so that they can pull themselves out of poverty. It also benefits society as a whole.
A review of studies in 2013 concluded that:
a decrease in income inequality is associated with sizeable reduction in crime. It is evident that a focus on reducing income inequality can be advantageous to reducing property crime, robbery, homicide and murder…
One of the problems with studies and facts is that sometimes they don’t fit the popular narrative. Some politicians find it much easier to blame the victims of poverty as being the cause of their own misfortune. They also look down on efforts to help the poor. Rob Ford’s famous ‘Hug a thug’ comment was made to justify his council vote against participating in a federal gang intervention project.
Should we expect politicians to look for ways to lower poverty? For example, raise the minimum wage so that people can earn a living wage. As of last month, the minimum wage became $14.00 and will become $15.00 next January. Without wishing to impugn the Premier’s motives, we may have to thank an election year and her attempt to outflank the NDP for that move. In general though, it makes sense to lower inequality as it has the potential to improve everyone’s quality of life.
How else can politicians reduce inequality? They should be spending more on:
- public housing,
- bike lanes
- social services
- addiction support
Why should we support this? Another recent study has shown that increasing social spending has a more positive impact on longevity and general health than increasing health care spending.
With the provincial and civic elections coming up in June and October, politicians will be courting our vote through some blunt platforms. There will be some who will promise to reduce spending, find efficiencies and cut taxes. They will talk about taxpayers rather than citizens. They will promise to keep property taxes at or below the level of inflation and reduce income taxes – in effect forcing a funding shortage since costs are always rising. Beware of these people – they have caused our current crises through:
- A constant focus on austerity
- Inadequate spending on public housing and repairs
- Opposing anti-poverty initiatives
- Prioritizing cars over pedestrians, bicycles and public transit
- Diversion of money to dogma / re-election driven transportation issues (e.g. Scarborough subway, Gardiner extension).
- Refusing to adequately subsidize public transportation (Toronto’s subsidy is .78 per ride compared to $1.03 in New York or $2.21 in Mississauga).
In other words, their platform is designed to increase income inequality and therefore higher crime and lower quality of life.
Thinking citizens don’t mind paying taxes because they see the bigger picture. The siren call of lower taxes is a tempting one and popular with unscrupulous politicians. Unfortunately the effects aren’t pretty.
Incidentally, everyone in Canada is a taxpayer. Perhaps politicians should talk about citizens instead.