A government that focuses more on affluence and corporate profits will only broaden the gap between rich and poor. I worry about families like mine who will get caught in this growing net of have-nots.
By Patti Encinas
Published June 06, 2018
I'm a regular work-a-day person. I get up very early every morning and put on a uniform to go to work. My employer even tells me what colour shoes I'm allowed to wear and I abide by that rule because, like most work-a-day folks, I need my job. The colour of my shoes doesn't affect my job performance but hey, whatever.
Like many families that populate this province, I am the female head of household in my single-parent family. In 2005 I bought my very first brand new car, and 13 years later I still drive that car. I saved for nine years for enough of a down payment to buy a modest home in a low-income neighbourhood for my family in 2012. We're not destitute but we're also a not middle-class family.
We're fortunate enough not to have to rely on food banks and social supports, but we're not fortunate enough to have family vacations in the summer.
This year, both of my children will be entering college and university. Much of this cost will be financed through student loans and by borrowing against the equity in our humble home. For this, I feel extremely privileged (there is such a thing as good debt). Our lives as a family are not getting better, but we're just hanging on to what we have. For this too, I feel very privileged - at least we not falling behind, much.
I come from a regular middle-class background. When you hear about the generation that is the first not to do better than the previous one, you're hearing about people like me.
This upcoming provincial election is so very important to me. Its outcome has the propensity to make or break our family. The election strikes a very real fear in me that depending, on who becomes our Premier on June 7, my family may very well slip even further behind.
Every time I read or hear something that talks about how Ontario cannot afford all this "free stuff" and debt proposed by the NDP, a little piece of my brain explodes with thought of how we cannot afford not to have fully-funded pharmacare, dental care, post secondary supports, higher taxes on rich people and big corporations, more inclusive minimum wage policies and everything else laid out in their 97-page platform [PDF].
I can't help but wonder what people think all of us work-a-day folks will do to survive without these things. How do they figure we won't become more of a burden instead of less if we continue to lose what little we have?
I have worked for minimum wage. I now work in a unionized job that pays me a fair but not exorbitant wage. I know full well the differences in living either kind of life.
Because I make a higher wage now, I pay more in income tax. This contributes to government programs for those with less. I have disposable income that I spend in local businesses. This helps the economy.
I know that being able to buy beer for a buck will do nothing to improve life for my family (I wonder though, if it may cripple the craft beer industry).
I know that the savings of a corporate tax cut will not be passed on to me as a consumer.
I know as a public sector worker that "finding efficiencies" would likely mean I will either get a pay cut, lose full-time hours or lose my job entirely. Where will that leave me and my family?
The first thing to go will be any kind of spending for a dinner in a restaurant, picking up some take-out, supporting local shops instead of the Walmarts and Dollaramas of the day, or any other small creature comfort we might enjoy.
Next will be my trusty old car. There will be no money for car repairs, no money for gas and certainly no money for insurance.
Then it will be my children's education. If we cannot somehow pay for all the costs over and above tuition they'll simply have to drop out.
What kind of future can they hope for with only high school diploma level skills? Minimum-wage workers simply cannot afford to contribute to the economy in a meaningful way.
If I lose my job, I'll lose my ability to save for my retirement. As it is now, I'll be able to retire with just enough to cover my own food, shelter and basic necessities. Without that, as a senior citizen I will be fully dependent on the rest of you to keep me from homelessness.
Last to go will be my home. My mortgage is less than what current rents are for similar accommodations. If I have no job or am making significantly less money than my modest income, what bank is going to be willing to carry my mortgage?
So if I have to sell my house and go back to renting, more than half my income will go just to pay the rent. At that point I just may have to start depending on government support programs to get by unlike now how I pay taxes to support those programs instead.
I am not an anomaly. I am the norm. Far more families are like mine than not. This election has the very real power to make or break so many families who are walking that fine line of supporting themselves versus being dependent on help from the rest of you.
That's why it's so very important for everyone to not only get out and vote but to vote with a conscience. Don't vote for any party that cannot see the big picture or frankly, doesn't care.
In an ideal world, we would all have the means to support ourselves independently. The ability to do that very much depends on a government that paves the way for us to do that.
A government that focuses more on affluence and corporate profits will only broaden the gap between rich and poor. I worry about families like mine who will get caught in this growing net of have-nots. If you don't think it can happen to you, either you're already affluent or you're in for a big shock with a Doug Ford/PC government.
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