Tag Archives: poverty

Ratspeak

Frugality: The quality of being frugal; prudent economy; that careful management of anything valuable which expends nothing unnecessarily…

I was walking downtown with my son yesterday in the sweltering heat and we saw a 7-11 and decided a slurpy would hit the spot.

Well, a small slurpy last summer — and for many years before that — cost 99 cents + GST of 5 cents = $1.04.

But just before the Olympics, 7-11 bumped the price a nickel, to $1.04 + GST of 5 cents = $1.09.

Then, less than a month ago, just like Colin Hansen predicted (because he’s soooo good with predictions), 7-11 passed on the savings of the new HST to consumers by bumping up the price of a small slurpy yet another nickel, to $1.09.

With the HST, the tax is now 13 cents, and the total for a small slurpy is $1.22.

That’s almost an 18% increase in the cost of this simple, mass-produced item in eight months! To extrapolate that level of inflation across even a small sector of the economy could have disastrous ripple effects….

To wit, my son is now asking me for a raise in his allowance.

And, to avoid taking yet another hit to my own disposal income, I have decided to freeze my son’s allowance for the next decade.

To be sure, neither of us will be setting foot in 7-11, or any other overpriced chain convenience store, for a very long time, especially given the fact that they are part of the Western Convenience Stores Association, one of the six business groups who have launched the legal challenge to the NO HST petition.

Now, it would seem to me that, in a consumer-driven economy based on convenience and mass production, it can’t be a very good thing for the captains of industry to have parents all across North America teaching their kids about FRUGALITY for the first time in 50 years…

Just saying.

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Bread and Circuses (Another Liberal Budget)

It’s that time before a paycheck when the bread heels in the back of the fridge are savoured, toasted with a sliver of butter and served with a glass of cold water, to be eaten in small bites.

It’s that time between circuses when the routine becomes drudgery, the job seems pointless, and the reward too little. Coworkers are all schmoozing and mooching, cruising some angle that only makes money, willfully distracted by a moment in time that answers, “Yes.”

This other little city in North Cascadia crafts perfect endings, sundowners that make jaws drop, cycles of ecstasy that lead to nightmares entwined in sleep. The fear rides momentum to the brink of another fantastic hope, but the sweet smell of waking up is so comforting it keeps lulling back unconsciousness, where the nightmare is relived.

The expectation is that the memory of the circus will make the old bread heels taste better. But the circus is soon forgotten, easily separated from the memory of just who raided the cupboard again. The circus succeeds despite the soul-sucking shills eating cake all around, not because of them. It is sure sign of an empire in deep decline.

For it is hunger, only hunger, that makes stale bread palatable.

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Fear of Commitment: The Morning After Walk of Shame

Players will say anything to bed a mate. Big promises, compliments, pick-up lines, rosy pictures of the future, declarations of love. Anything that will get you invited to the old dance, eh?

But when it comes time to following through on those promises — of making a long term COMMITMENT – players vanish into thin air. The morning after, they embark on their walk of shame, never to be seen again. Hey, they got what they really wanted… what did you expect?

Zero respect for other people. Using them for your own gratification, then tossing them aside like so much garbage. Pigs!

Well, VANOC has proven to be no better than a slimy Guido, making big promises to win the Games, but once they got the prize, what happened to all the promises?

Claims of a Carbon Neutral Games are one thing, but quite another was the promise that the Games would be unique because they would show the world social responsibility in action. The billions of dollars flowing through Vancouver would have a hugely positive impact on the Downtown Eastside, leaving a legacy of jobs and housing that changed the milieu from desperate to admirable. Community consultation, fiscal transparency, civil liberties, everyone would be shown nothing but the highest respect.

VANOC even put it down on paper, in a document that could be held up by all to measure their success: The Inner City Inclusive Commitment (ICIC).

But, from everything I have seen happening in the inner city these past six years, pretty much every one of the ICIC promises has been broken, forgotten, not addressed at all. And, to cap it all off, over the past two weeks a police sweep has depopulated the DTES to a virtual ghost town, leaving an empty feeling in one’s belly not unlike the feeling you get when you’ve just been used for a one night stand.

But don’t take my word for it. You be the judge. Here are some of the many promises, quoted verbatim, in the Inner City Inclusive Commitment. Personally, I can’t find one on this list that has been kept. Can you?

Excerpts from: “The 2010 Winter Games Inner-City Inclusive Commitment Statement”

Business Development

– Develop opportunities for existing and emerging local inner-city businesses and artisans to promote their goods and services

Civil Liberties

– Provide for lawful, democratic protest that is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

– Commit to a timely public consultation that is accessible to inner-city neighbourhoods, before any security legislation or regulations are finalized, subject to lawful and legitimate confidentiality requirements

Employment

– Create training and a continuum of short and long-term employment opportunities for innercity residents to encourage a net increase in employment

Financial

– Provide disclosure of all financial aspects of the Games, including expenditures and revenues, in the bidding and organizing phase of the Games

– Commit to a comprehensive annual financial audit

Health

– Showcase a commitment to public health issues, including a comprehensive alcohol and drug strategy

Housing

– Ensure people are not made homeless as a result of the Winter Games

– Ensure residents are not involuntarily displaced, evicted or face unreasonable increases in rent due to the Winter Games

– Provide an affordable housing legacy and start planning now

Input to Decision-Making

– Work with and be accessible to an independent watchdog group that includes inner-city residents

– Develop full and accountable public consultation processes that include inner-city residents

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The Taxman Cometh, and She’s a Babe in High Heels

“To tax and to please, no more than to love and to be wise, is not given to men.”

— Edmund Burke, 18th Century Irish philosopher and statesman

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About two weeks after “Black Friday” in late August when I got the mass email from the Provincial Government that all BC Lottery funding to the Arts was being chopped by Campbell’s Liberals like so much dead beetle wood (see September 09 posts), I received a phone call from the Canada Revenue Agency.

Already reeling from the Provincial cuts and facing the likelihood that the arts program I’d run for nine years was going to go belly up, the Feds now wanted an audit. Let’s really put the boots to those charities!

Fuck. Really? Now that we can’t afford legal and accounting advice, you want to audit us?

The woman on the phone was pleasant enough and very sympathetic to our plight, but, of course, there wasn’t any choice in the matter.

Well, months later, she finally arrived on the boat from Victoria after braving a sailing delay, stopping for a capsized ferry righting, and construction/Olympic closures all the way into town.

Silly me, I was expecting a frumpy, joyless, bespectacled hag with bad breath and a wart on her nose. I opened the door to a tall, fashionable, totally hot babe.

She wafted in on a cloud of delectable perfume, her long hair flowing and feathered, her big, green eyes sparkling with confidence and no-nonsense vigour.

I was still a little stunned when we sat down at the table to get to work. And then she did one of the sexiest things I have ever seen a hot babe do:

She flashed me her badge.

Well, we got along great. She was articulate, good humoured and full of information. The audit process was tough, but fair. We have nothing to hide but years of good works and due diligence, so I was never too concerned about the audit, per se, other than it being an excruciating way to spend an afternoon; getting henpecked by a picky bean counter for hours on end.

But it was a whole lot less painful looking into those lovely eyes all afternoon.

I was actually sorry to see her go….

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Entrenchment Sale Coming Soon

prose70

After the charity I co-founded was submarined by the B.C. Liberals two weeks ago and I lost my low wage arts job of nine years, I’ve been in a nasty funk. All those years of charitable service for naught is a bitter pill to swallow. It all seems so futile. Like trying to be environmentally progressive, or standing up for the poor, or teaching kids about the joy of art in life.

I really, really need a shakeup. To take a hard right and burn out in a new direction. So I have decided to do something drastic.

I’m selling out.

I’d like to think that this Big Decision is similar to the one faced by yippies circa 1982, when they realized that the struggle to achieve a truly free and civil society was really just a pipedream. The kiddos are getting bigger and the bills keep racking up. Jones is getting way ahead. Who gives a fuck about Peace and Love anymore? Time to earn some serious bread, man.

So the YUPPY scourge is born.

Up until this point in my life, I’ve tried hard not to do the typical Stuff White People Like. I’ve treeplanted, traveled far and wide, dropped out of University, never owned a cat or dog, sunk all my time and energy into the arts, slam-danced my ass off for about a decade straight, and owned a succession of clunkers. Sounds strangely familiar, though, eh?

I have suddenly realized that, although I may not have become White Trash or a YUPPY or a Wallflower, boy, am I ever white. And I need to embrace my whiteness fully and completely now. So, what’s best way to do that? Simple.

I’m going corporate.

The first step, of course, is a personal makeover. And to truly commit to reinventing myself, I must symbolically strip away the last vestiges of progressive idealism from my life.

So I’m selling my shit.

Anything of aesthetic or intellectual value, not strictly utilitarian, I am putting up for sale.

Nothing material shall remain of my former punk ass. Nothing that reminds me of life’s past futility.

And I’ve got some good shit. The kind of stuff that white people like. Vintage memorabilia, art from far and wide, lots of old vinyl.

And, you know, Christmas is coming soon.

So let’s forget about this pretentious yawner of a blog, and the silly old notion of becoming pen pals. Let’s become Paypals instead. I’ve already set up my account.

Stay tuned: The Entrenchment Sale is coming soon!

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Item shown in photo: 1970 Topps Pete Rose All-Star card #458 is in Ex+ condition with no creases or marks, some minor corner wear and off-cut as shown. Rare early card of one of baseball’s notorious greats, barred for life from the Baseball Hall of Fame after admitting to betting on baseball games as a player. NM Book Value: $50 US.

Starting bid: 99¢

Rich Coleman’s Shrivelled, Grinchy Heart of Gold

As one of Gordon Campbell’s most loyal and powerful generals and a driving force behind the Liberal regime for the past eight years, Rich Coleman can take a large share of the credit for the shameful fact that British Columbia’s child poverty rate has been the worst in Canada for five years in a row.

Soon after they were elected, his BC Liberals made drastic cuts to the Ministry of Children and Family Development and terminated both the children’s commission and the provincial child’s advocate. And a minimum wage perpetually frozen at $8 per hour will barely cover a young parent’s daycare costs, let alone supply the most basic family expenses – it makes more sense to stay at home with your kids and collect welfare than work for minimum wage.

BC’s child poverty rate has risen to a staggering 22% now – nearly one in four children live in poverty – despite an historical boom in the local economy over the same five-year period. While the Liberal’s pals in big business have profiteered enormously and gotten fat feeding at the Olympics trough, the poor have been getting steadily poorer and children’s living conditions have been getting worse and worse. Apparently, the promises made about the Olympic legacy helping to make BC one of the most progressive and socially advanced jurisdictions in the world were only made to win us the Games — as soon as they were awarded and the money started flowing in, all those promises were forgotten. They just weren’t a priority.

The Liberals have not only abdicated their responsibility to our province’s poorest and most vulnerable, they have systematically dismantled the government infrastructure that was put in place by previous governments to help the most at risk kids. Not only has the child poverty rate gotten worse, the kids who live in dangerous or abusive situations have lost many of the supports that relieved their often horrible conditions at home.

So, after promising the arts community in mid August that they would “get their money soon”, Rich Coleman apparently had an epiphany. He suddenly found a heart inside his gold-plated tin suit and decided that his government’s deplorable record of beating down the province’s poorest children was wrong. So wrong, in fact, that he was willing to break yet another public promise, this one to the arts community, in an effort to right his governments’ abysmal failure at protecting its most vulnerable children. After announcing the cuts to the arts, he justified breaking his promise by stating:

“When you think about a child arriving in school with an empty stomach that isn’t going to get the education they require, you have to decide, ‘Is that a priority, or some other thing?’ You make the decision on behalf of the child.”

It was a real tear-jerker (with emphasis on “jerk”), yet many commentators have suggested that Coleman was being disingenuous, talking out of both sides of his mouth, creating a false dichotomy to justify breaking his promise and gutting a whole economic sector, or just plain being an utter douchebag for pitting arts funding against hungry children.

Personally, I’m more inclined to give Coleman the benefit of the doubt. I mean, no one in a position of great power and influence in a rich country like Canada could be that maniacal and underhanded, right? Rich Coleman has a heart after all, a tiny, shriveled Grinch-like heart that simply doesn’t pump enough oxygen to his brain. Unfortunately, this means he has trouble thinking straight and holding a thought for more than five minutes, which is about how long his vow to make children a government priority has lasted.

The arts money he raided from BC Lottery was not earmarked to help children; it was simply put into general revenues. The budget that came down last Tuesday didn’t restore the child’s advocate, or increase funding to the ministry, and it certainly didn’t provide for an increase in the minimum wage. Instead, most of the money will go to help offset the loss of revenue caused by the Liberal’s massive tax breaks to big business. They are, after all, the neediest bunch of helpless crybabies in our society. It would be utterly despicable if we didn’t do more to help them, right?

Rich Coleman is a new man. He has his priorities straight. I have the utmost faith in him now, and feel much better that he pulled funding from the arts and bankrupted my business. I am no longer on the exhausting treadmill of the “working poor”. I’m simply poor now. But my son doesn’t have to worry, because Rich Coleman has seen the light and now truly, genuinely, cross-his-heart-and-hope-to-die cares about helping the 1 out of every 4 children in British Columbia who live in poverty.