WAR ON THE POOR
by Mac Walker B.A. (Spec.), LL.B., Dip. Crim. September 11, 2014
online publication by poor vote turnout
We do not enjoy government of the people, by the people or for the people. Conservative governments are for business and by business. A U.S. corporation becomes Canadian to take advantage of our low corporate tax rate(1). The people are distanced by government; often the people are the enemy of government, as if a moat existed. Street signs at what was once called public property say ‘private property – government of Alberta.’(2) The commons, the right to access public property, as well as other fundamental liberty rights inherited from our constitutional history, are under attack by government. The militarization of the police and events such as took place at Ferguson, Missouri demonstrate the ‘us vs. them’ mentality of the modern state.
The poor are the target of government today. The flat tax, for instance, taxes the poor (those who make about $40,000 yearly or less) at the 3rd highest rate in Canada. The Alberta Advantage is for the rich, only. The massive amounts being spent on roads hardly benefit the poor, nor do the hundreds of millions spent on redundant art galleries, museums and other government monuments. The generous severance bonuses doled out to politicians and their friends are justified by appeal to their contracts, but the poor were obviously not represented when the golden handshake provisions were included. The pig-at-the-trough behavior of many government politicians and their appointees siphons money away from, and reduces in importance, the task of eliminating poverty. The government forces the denial of legal aid coverage to AISH recipients as they make too much money. Jim Prentice would raise guidelines to include AISH recipients, and those less poor would still be denied a lawyer, showing his disdain for the poor, whose welfare is of concern only when the optics are bad. Justin Trudeau says the middle class have been left behind; the poor get no mention. The criminal courts and jails are populated mainly by the poor, including an over-representation of aboriginals and other marginalized sorts. The courts rake in millions in fines from the poor in addition to jailing them (e.g. hundreds are now always added for victims and $2875 is the minimum fine for driving without insurance). And this in the face of modern thinking which acknowledges that people are not responsible for their plight, since the causes of behavior are found outside the individual. Determinism teaches us that moral blameworthiness is an illusion, yet fault is the justification for the poor’s incarceration. Parliament(3) and the Supreme Court of Canada have endorsed determinism by requiring more leniency in sentencing for aboriginals, whose moral blameworthiness is reduced because of the difficult circumstances they were born into. The Supreme Court held others might demonstrate reduced moral blameworthiness due to formative circumstances they had no control over. (4)
“All men (i.e. people(5)) are created equal,” says the U.S. Declaration of Independence. So said Abraham Lincoln a century later in his Gettysburg address. The Canadian Charter guarantees equality before the law. Fairness and justice require that equality be applied to end poverty. The inequities of the accidents of birth should be ameliorated and the suffering of the poor ended. Yet, income inequality increases and extreme poverty still exists. The young who are not rich face poverty, as student tuition and debt have risen substantially, as have housing prices.
Conservative governments ignore the welfare of the poor, to some extent because the poor tend not to vote, which is encouraged by robocalls, voter suppression, requiring a permanent address and expensive government identification, muzzling the government election agency thereby preventing it from assisting and encouraging voters, etc. Government austerity measures are a direct attack on the poor, while benefits, write-offs, subsidies, grants and deductions enrich the wealthy and corporations far more than the poor. The proliferation of liquor stores and gambling opportunities together with consumption taxes on alcohol and tobacco fleece the poor of their measly income. A sales tax, which the conservatives have given notice of likely implementing, will take a much larger proportion of the poor’s income; to the rich a sales tax is a mere annoyance.
If the poor rise up and vote, conservative governments will vanish.
1. Burger King Merger with Tim Hortons
2. Edmonton courthouse
3. Criminal Code of Canada s. 718.2(e)
4. R. v. Gladue (1999) 133 CCC (3d) 383, affirmed and extended to others in R. v. Ipeelee 2012 SCC 13
5. Allen Jayne, Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence Origins, Philosophy and Theology (1998)