NOTES/QUOTES #3: Wealth inequality, Trump Derangement Syndrome and a low-ink warning
Sometimes a politician will make what simply sounds like a heart-felt plea for their constituents. But the remedy for the problem they present could be more problematic than anyone might realize.
Such was the case in the NWT Legislative Assembly on Tuesday, when Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh MLA Tom Beaulieu made a member’s statement on wealth inequality in the territory.
“Today I would like to talk about an issue which is affecting more and more people in the NWT. This issue is wealth inequality, which can be described as an increasing wealth disparity that exists between our richest and poorest citizens,” he said.
“The NWT has the highest median personal income in Canada, at $50,000 per year. However, a closer look at the figures will show that the distribution of wealth among our people is not equal. Of the 22 communities that have income data, only four have an average personal income above $50,000, which means that all other communities have an average personal income lower than the territorial average.”
He went on to explain how “the gap in wealth accumulation” is more pronounced when comparing non-Indigenous residents to Indigenous people.
He then mentioned increasing food insecurity and the increase in people on income assistance.
Now the cost of living in the North is, and has always been, very high. And Beaulieu mentioned this assembly’s mandate is to: increase affordable housing; improve food security; support energy-efficient technologies; implement affordable daycare; and to allow seniors to age in place.
“We in the NWT must work to close the wealth gap that has threatened our economic potential, prosperity, and day-to-day livelihoods,” he said.
Now as long as Beaulieu is pushing for increased social programming, I’m fine with that. There is arguably no place in Canada that deserves a steel mesh social safety net more than right here.
However, that is still a form of wealth distribution that must be carefully thought out.
Is it proper to jack up taxes on people making money to give it to people who don’t have much? Also, for people making an income via a low-paying job, is it proper to hike to the minimum wage to levels that would hurt businesses’ bottom line? Perhaps even forcing them to cut employee hours or positions?
Another option would be to simply build on existing policy; for the GNWT to further decentralize services by moving departments or other government offices to smaller communities.
Problem with that is it’s extremely difficult to find qualified people to staff those positions if they have to live in a small community lacking in services and amenities people making a decent salary would come to desire.
Yet another solution is to ensure people from these smaller communities have access to proper training (hello, plans for a university here) so they perhaps would be more agreeable to living and supporting the community they grew up in.
So while I appreciate Beaulieu’s concern, I hope he and his colleagues have a common-sense solution for the problem that won’t be something that hurts the economy or makes this place less attractive for people making decent wages — or even, shudder, have real wealth — to make their home.
On my Twitter feed this week came a suggestion to follow one Ron Sexsmith, a celebrated Canadian singer-songwriter from St. Catharines, Ont. He’s a staple on the summer festival; circuit and has played Folk on the Rocks, I believe in 2012.
While I am a fan of folkies and indie rockers, I chose not to follow Mr. Sexsmith. Not because I don’t like his music, but because of what I read on his Twitter profile:
@RonSexsmith Half man Half melody (Automatically blocks all Trump supporters. If you support him I have no respect for you or your opinions).
For a talented person such as Sexsmith who makes his living by interpreting his life experiences through song, I find his position disappointing. It appears he is suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome.
By simply shutting out a huge portion of the population, he shows he has blinders on and will be living in an echo chamber.
I’m not a huge Trump fan, but in all reality, he has done a number of positive things for his country. I think he is a clown most of the time, but I just take that for what it is — entertainment. But what I won’t do is take such a rock-hard position in my life and simply shut out people with different views than mine. Build a wall, so to speak.
I have always had friends from all walks of political life. But society has changed in recent years.
I find the intensity of hatred the left has for the right is so much more than right has for left. All I can say is it’s time for everyone to be human. Be nice. Stop looking for enemies. Start accepting different points of view.
We in Canada and the United States live in a wonderful place under democratic rule. We all need to protect it and enjoy it. That means engaging in open debate — the bedrock of democracy — not “automatically blocking” people with different perspectives from your life.
As I intently listened to the judge reading his decision in a key sentencing hearing a short while ago, I frantically tried to pick out important information in my notebook.
In the hushed Yellowknife courtroom — full of supporters of the victim and the convicted killer — I scratched away in my form of shorthand I have developed in the decades of reporting.
As the judge neared the end of his statement, the key part when he would announce the penalty, my pen started to run out of ink.
As you can see from the photo of my notebook below, I had to shove my hand in my Canada Goose parka pocket — never a quiet thing to do — and feel around for another pen.
I grabbed one, and immediately scribbled down the sentence still rattling around my grey-matter RAM. And it wasn’t straightforward, as some math was needed (ugh, math — the bane of most journalists I know).
It was kind of a rookie mistake, not having a backup pen at the ready.
Oh well, at least I managed to get the info correct, a quick tweet issued (@james__oconnor) and a story filed a short while later to Cabin Radio.