“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” famously opens Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. The line also perfectly describes the growing income and wealth inequality in Ontario, a tale of two provinces that compels us to finally institute a wealth tax.
In the tale of one of the provinces, it’s the worst of times, where Ontarians are stretched thin and increasingly worried about their futures. As a recent report by Food Banks Canada shows, demand at food banks across the country has increased, with Ontario being one of three provinces seeing visits going up the most.
This tale is one where the minimum wage will reach $15/hr., still well below the living wage, a whole three years after it was initially scrapped by the Ford Conservatives, costing workers $5,300. Bill 124 is still on the books, restraining wage and benefit increases below the rate of inflation for hundreds of thousands of public sector workers. Housing costs are skyrocketing and the rent freeze is set to end Jan. 1 even as many still haven’t recovered from a pandemic that, let’s not forget, isn’t even over yet.
It’s a tale of a province where social assistance rates haven’t increased since 2018 and have been woefully low for decades, with monthly rents rising well above recipients’ monthly incomes. It’s one where injured workers are confronted by the Ford Conservatives bragging about passing surplus funds onto employers — not the workers struggling to recover.
In this tale, Ontarians contracted COVID-19 and died from it at higher rates, lost their jobs, lost hours, and lost their homes.
Meanwhile, there’s the tale of the other province, where it’s the best of times — so long as you are rich or a large corporation.
Click here to read the full op-ed by CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn in The Hamilton Spectator.