Tag Archives: BC government

Welfare: For Freeloaders or Desperados

The history of social welfare has been long and varied, being part of the Roman, Islamic and Jewish empires. It has covered different groups with different criteria but overall it was for the poor and needy, for the elderly, widows and people with disabilities.

Canada has had a welfare system since the Great Depression. Part of a social welfare system, in Canada’s case includes health care, education and supporting the underprivileged. It can vary from province to province as to what specific criteria are. There is also the specific welfare part of welfare, which is helping those who are unemployed or unemployable.

I have had the unfortunate experience of needing welfare firsthand. When I was in my 20s I hit a time of recession in the province and couldn’t get a job. Putting in over 50 applications a month landed me nothing. I had no choice but to go on welfare. As it turned out there was a period when my other two roommates were in the same situation. We would get a few tins of food from the food bank and limp celery and eked by. I had no savings, no car and was not even sure how to do more than I already was.

Eventually I ended up with a part-time job for two days a week. The business was good enough to pay me under the table. If they had taken deductions and given me a pay slip I would have had to report it to welfare. That amount I made would then be deducted from my welfare payments. Welfare at that time paid something like $300-400 a month, hardly enough to live on. I could lay around and get $400 or I could work part-time and get $400. There really wasn’t incentive to even work part-time. So the under the table arrangement helped me survive because who can survive on that amount when rent is $300?

I then got a second part-time job and worked under the table there for two days a week. That gave me four days at part-time. It made the welfare bearable but still hard to do much. At the same time both businesses offered me a full-time job and I went with the one that I thought would keep me interested longer. I got off of welfare with a huge sigh of relief. It was humiliating and belittling.

In Canada’s past, women and single mothers on welfare weren’t allowed to have boyfriends and their virtue and chastity were watched as much as their bank accounts. This attitude can perpetuate in our society. It’s one thing to be buying designer clothes but to have nice clothes and a haircut for applying for jobs is another thing. Yet people have been scrutinized and punished if they try to have any normal aspect of living. “Welfare bums” are relatively rare and those who are like that often have other underlying conditions that could do well with other government services. If a person is an alcoholic or drug addict or socially inept or unhygienic, which stops them getting a job, then the answer is not to leave them on welfare but to help them become another useful cog in society’s great machine.

Yes cogs. The cut and dryness, or the black and white world of welfare is denigrating and hard. Most people don’t choose to be there as it’s no way to live. My second brush with welfare was at a point when I was trying to move out of freelancing into another job. I was in school full-time for three months doing an apprenticeship program in script supervising. Unlike every other person in the course I had neither a spouse to support me through the program, nor was I able to get unemployment insurance because I was a freelancer. I did have two publishers in New York and on average received one manuscript a month from each. This was enough to get by on while finishing the program.

Unfortunately, both publishers went under or changed focus (one to movies) at the same time and I lost my source of income. I didn’t want to forego the course but what money I had got me through to the end of November and I still had December to go with no options. I went to welfare and said I only needed $300 to pay my rent and I could get by. ( I lived alone and had no roommates). At that time I had a grand whopping total of about $4,000 in RRSPs. RRSPs are heavily taxed if you take them out early. They are also taxed if you take them out when you’re older. But people get them as retirement income, a way to cushion one’s unemployed elder years.

Welfare would give me no money at all. Not even $5. Here I was, in school, going through training, with no options and they wanted me to cash in that $4,000, so that I could then depend on the state for longer when I was older, use medical services more because I was not living well, or more likely, end up living under a bridge. This was the government’s solution. Of course the rate of welfare isn’t much higher than it once was but I probably needed to be a drug addict to get any support. It was the only time in my life where I was seriously contemplated prostitution. I just couldn’t get up my nerve to do it, yet this is where my government wanted me to be.

So the next time you pass judgment on one of those welfare bums, trying walking and living a mile in their shoes. Welfare isn’t for the weak at heart and most people can’t even survive on it. There is no such thing as living a free and easy life while on it. Oh, and how did I get through that month? By the good graces of friends and family. My landlords only charged me a half a month’s rent. People sent me money and I gave out no Christmas gifts. I thank my lucky stars I had such generous people in my life.

http://www.canadiansocialresearch.net/bc_welfare_time_limits.htm

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Why Protest the Olympics

There are people out there wondering why anyone would protest the Olympics while others are happy to protest anything for the sake of protest and anti-disestablismentarianism. Recently as the torch relay began in Victoria, pre-emptive strikes were taken by the organizers to ferry the torch bearers in a van around protestors. According to other media reports the protestors and police both met their mandate without violence or arrests.

Yet these torch bearers were cosseted away so that the protestors couldn’t protest the relay. Now I don’t know what exactly this group of protestors were trying to raise their voices against in regards to the Olympics but the last I remember (despite the changes to human rights laws that Harper has been making) Canada was a fairly free country with the right to freedom of speech. That means that if we disagree with our government and politics, or if we agree, we are allowed to voice our opinions.

BC MLA Harry Bloy would rather we have a totalitarian state in which everyone is a shiny happy person loving all that the government does. And if not, well then, off with their heads. He in fact stated the following: “People who protest the Winter Olympics are nothing more than terrorists with limited intellect…” Wow. So now we have one of the new catch phrases in our modern vernacular, right after George Bush’s overused hyperbole of “axis of evil”  and the “war on terror” with using “terrorist” for anyone who does something I don’t like.

Here’s how I see the whole Olympics thing. The Olympic sports are a great thing. Having the top athletes compete against other countries in something that isn’t blood and violence is something that should be encouraged. Extolling the best in the world in athletics is a memorable moment and people who excel whether as brain surgeons, ballet dancers, runners or engineers should be acknowledged and cheered for their excellence and skill. I applaud that.

What I do not applaud is the Olympic committee (both internationally and VANOC) which makes their rules over those jurisdictions civic, provincial and federal. What I do not believe in is spending millions, promising the taxpayers all the time that the Olympics won’t run overbudget nor will our taxes be raised (can anyone say HST) to pay for this fanfare…and all the time we know they are going to go overbudget. What I do not support is millions of dollars spent for fancy buildings, some of which are only temporary, while people are losing jobs, and lives, because of healthcare cuts. What I protest is a million dollars worth of free tickets for politicians when nothing has been mentioned on what people who don’t have a $100 for a ticket can see.

I think these are worthy things to protest. Not the sports themselves, nor the athletes. I protest attitudes and security of a greater level than that of visiting heads of state even seem to get. I protest to the fact that anyone who has a problem with so much money gone to frivolity is deemed a terrorist by an arrogant politician who has no clue what it’s like to be underprivileged. I protest to a lowbrow attitude that anyone who dislikes the Liberal government’s brazen disregard for people in real straights (and taking forever to even give paramedics a contract) is considered of low intellect. Mr. Bloy, let’s you and I go take an IQ test and see who comes out on top.

I also protest people who protest anything just for the sake of being contrary, but I don’t believe this is the case with many of the protesters. They want people to know that not everyone is happy with the money being thrown at the Olympics, and when has an Olympics event ever made money for the hosting city? Isn’t it only once in recent memory? It would be better to say that I don’t protest the Olympics but that I protest VANOC and the International Olympics Committee, and I’ll continue to as long as we see unfairness and inequality happening even with this.

http://www.bclocalnews.com/greater_vancouver/burnabynewsleader/news/68785952.html

Addendum: Feb. 14–In light of the fact that this is now getting even more attention, although I wrote it several months ago, I’m going to add to it, to clarify. And to comment to the comments below.

I’m a little amazed that the commenter below equates spending tons of money with fun, joy-filled lives and spending no money with a boring, joyless life. There is quite a range in between no money and some money. Not to mention that, guess what, you can actually have fun and not be bored by spending little to no money. But I’m not going to list activities for you here. Spending far overbudget on the Olympics does not necessarily lead to joy. Did you see anywhere in my post where I said this or that we should spend no money? Nope. What I protest is the overspending and VANOC/IOC’s attitude.

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about read my recent post about the IOC’s attitudes towards Australia’s athletes hanging the boxing kangaroo flag in the Oympic village, or my post of Feb. 9th in regards to overkill on the budget. Here are a few more examples of the wastage of money better spent.

I know someone who was hired to get the communications village built up at Whistler for the various media. A temporary structure, it was already behind schedule and he was the second or third person hired to oversee it. Meetings in Madrid and other parts of Europe and a command to get it done, no matter the cost. He was also replaced by yet another person. Who knows how many to this date but you can bet money was wasted replacing person after person as some used the prestige of having an Olympics contract to push them into a better job, or the ones in charge let people go so they could maneuver in who they wanted.

Here’s another example. Campbell bragged this week of the $450 million spent on sports as part of the Oympics while at the same time his government has cut the arts funding budget for BC from $47 million to $3 million in just two years (that’s over 90% cut which no other area has experienced so drastically). Arts, like all the ones seen at the Olympic opening ceremonies. It’s not wrong to support sports but it is wrong to slash and get rid of arts and then demonize and pit artists against children saying if we give money to the arts we cannot give chidren a school lunch program. Even $47 million is pretty small peanut next to what’s been spent on sports or the Olympics over all. Oddly they didn’t pit the athletes against the children.

I talk to people in this city worried about the raise in taxes that will come (and has in several ways already) because of the Olympics. They worry about their children suffering under the debt that we will still be paying off twenty plus years from now. Yes, the Olympics cost money. That’s a given. But there could have been much more of a middle ground and I for one never believed the glosses that  came out in the beginning where they (politicians of course) promised us that we would not see a hike in our taxes to pay for this and that it wouldn’t run overbudget. Oddly enough, to the commenter below, because of spending all this money we could very well be leading boring and joyless lives for years to come because of the tax burden that we will be shouldering. Next time you choose a book over a movie or a walk in nature over dining in an expensive restaurant, tell me if you’re having a boring and joyless time.

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The Importance of Art

There has been some brutal slashing of arts funding in BC, not to mention Canada. However, the BC government slashed funding quietly, in the background and almost to nil for most things. Magazines and performance groups that have continued for many years have suddenly found themselves out of business. We already know that Prime Minister Stephen Harper believes artists stand around at elite galas sipping champagne and hobnobbing.

Well let me put into perspective why art is important, and to do that for our local governments I’ll talk about it in a way they can recognize.

First, why does Canada subsidize the arts and have arts grants that other countries scoff at or are jealous of (let’s just say the US)? Because it costs the same to produce a movie (renting equipment, paying actors and crew), or produce an album (studio and recording fees, paying musicians), or publish a book (printing and layout costs, staff, distribution), etc. For every form of art there are costs and they are similar no matter which country one is in. However, Canada’s population base is much much smaller than the US’s. To make any profit from the expenses that go into producing anything from a stage play to a picture book requires a certain number of sales/patrons attending or buying. Canada’s population tops out around 33 million to the US’s 304 million. Even ten percent attendance/sales is a big difference between these two countries.

Of course, if we want to just dismiss Canadian culture and say we are a cheap facsimile of the United States, well then it won’t really matter and Canadian art be damned. Yet that is only part of the picture, Mr. Premier and Prime Minister. There is far more that makes art than sales.

Without art you would not have those campaign speeches, nor the speeches you give throughout your term in office. Speechwriters learn their craft and writing is an art. Without art you would not have campaign posters or brochures or pamphlets without which it would be harder to influence the voting public. Graphic designers go to school to learn the elements of design, composition, color, effectiveness, etc. and that is an art. Without art you would not have those televised moments of your promises or the carefully crafted ads to make you look good and to make your opponent look bad. TV ads are done by camera men, directors, writers, and a host of people. Putting together a good ad is an art.

Without art you would not look so good in your suits. Clothing is designed by people who go through school to perfect their craft. You’d be wearing handcrafted burlap of a similar design to everyone around you. Clothing design is an art. Without art you might not have a national anthem. Musicians and songwriters go to school and work to hone their skills, and music is an art.

Without art you would have a world of unhappy people with no entertainment except for the elite rich who could pay the high prices. There would be no music to listen to, no books to read, no shows to watch, no beautiful pictures or dances to see. Without art you would enter a dull policelike state where unfortunately even the signs would have to be done by some artist but where the voice of knowledge would be silenced. Yes, knowledge comes with education. Knowledge of the history and depth of a discipline whether it be music, dance, writing, drawing, painting, sculpting, designing. Without these skills we will enter back into the simplistic drawings and songs of children. Without art challenging boundaries and perspectives, we cannot grow as a society or reflect on our deeds.

Next on the chopping block will probably be literacy. I’d think that the ministers of culture in the respective levels of government might be doing a nervous dance right now. After all, without art and culture that the BC government has almost wiped out, we won’t have very much and those ministers won’t have a job. So, Gordon Campbell and Stephen Harper, have you yet figured out which part of art is part of every day life and keeps you in your jobs?

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The Media Circus and the Bandwagon

The media is a powerful tool (whether internet, print or radio) and how a story or event is portrayed can sway popular opinion, raise hopes or fears. There also seems to be two types of news: there is the news that reports an event that has just happened, and there is investigative reporting, which involves giving backgrounds and both sides (sometimes) into current events. Of course some investigative reporting also takes noncurrent events and makes them current by revealing what has been going on behind the backs of the public.

Reporting is supposed to be unbiased but as we know the range is vast. The best news presents only the facts but that’s rare these days, and even those facts and events are embellished with adjectives and descriptions that can color the story. The worst news reportage is given to hypberbole and innuendo or even outright conjecture and sensationalism.

But media in general, to draw audiences and increase sales, must report current and hot topics, sometimes over and over and over again, ad nauseum. This mindless media bandwagon is like the chatter of an excited child who has noticed a bright balloon. They forget to ask other questions or point out more than the obvious. For whatever reason, the media might latch on to a certain topic and deem it newsworthy, and flog that horse till everyone whether they wnant to or not Here are a few examples.

H1N1, also called Swine Flu. The vaccine is out, the vaccine is out, British Columbians are rolling up their sleeves, health authorities ask the public to be patient, many British Columbians have been waiting. Have they? How does the media know? Have they done surveys or is that just hyperbole? So here we are told over and over again about the vaccine, about the flu, about the number who have been hospitalized or died in BC.

Here is what we aren’t told and which I’ve had to dig out on my own. What’s a pandemic? It’s a case of a particular strain of disease that is infectious and shows up in different regions (global). There are different levels of pandemic. The Spanish flu (a strain of H1N1 coincidentally) of 1918, estimated to have infected a third of the world’s population killed between 50-100 million people and was a stage 5 flu pandemic. It was one of the most deadly flus in the last hundred years.

The WHO says a flu is pandemic when these conditions are met:

  • emergence of a disease new to a population;
  • agents infect humans, causing serious illness; and
  • agents spread easily and sustainably among humans
  • Flus recur often and flu pandemics (AIDS is also considered a pandemic) at least three times a century. The media has been hyping the shots and the spread of the flu but not putting it into context with what a pandemic is or how severe it is. At this point, it’s still not that severe but it has been classed a stage (or level) 6, which indicates spread not virulence. More people die every year from a regular flu than have died yet from this strain. However, what they also don’t say is that because it is of the same type (but not the same) that caused the Spanish flu they are worried that it could be as deadly. Avian flu was more virulent than the current flu but didn’t spread as quickly.

    The media needs to do a better job of presenting facts without increasing fear. By only reporting over and over again about the flu and vaccines makes it sound very deadly. And though it is to some people and there are risk groups, that is no different from the yearly flus that can kill 500,000. So what are the facts in perspective, instead of the facts segregated out for greater effect and emotion?

    Then we have the Olympic bandwagon. Over the past several years we’ve been presented with several perspectives. The cost of the Olympics, how much the province, the city and the federal government were going to put in was mentioned first. As projects and venues were completed, these things were reported of course. The lighting of the torch is now in the news.

    Also in the news is the fact that the city and the province are fighting huge deficits. The provincial government wants to bring in a tax (after the Olympics of course) that will ding everyone into paying more for things that weren’t previously taxed. Jobs are being cut by the city and province. Oh and somehow the Liberal government has prebought enough tickets to Olympic venues to equal a cool million bucks.

    It should be up to the media to now present a picture of what we were told and promised at the beginning and what we’re getting in retrospect. But I think I can figure that out. We were given wishful thinking and lies so that some people would naively believe that the Olympics wouldn’t be over budget and that we wouldn’t be paying higher taxes to cover it. But really, I’m as bad as the media (though I’m not being paid) because I base my beliefs on conjecture and what I can remember. But perhaps we’ll see some good investigative reporting on this before the Olympics begins though it’s more likely to happen after the close of the event.

    And of course, media can be influenced by and even muzzled by politics. And politics plays in anything that a government is involved in.

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    Drugs, Thugs and Hugs

    Vancouver is starting a community court as an attempt to stop filling up the court system with repeat criminals who happen to be drug addicts and stuck in the perpetual cycle of addiction>money>crime>drugs>addiction.

    There are several stats that contribute to trying something new. I’ve always contended that our criminal justice system is broken. The Downtown Eastside is considered the poorest postal code in Canada, as well as having the worst and largest number of addicts. Vancouver suffers from a high number of crimes ranging from car to house break-ins. Many of these can be contributed to addicts looking for that fix and needing money. So in their jittery, drug addled state, they trash cars, or steal purses and backpacks or invade homes.

    I’m not speaking speculatively but as someone who has been a victim of these crimes. I’m not particularly rich, don’t drive an expensive car and don’t live in a ritzy neighborhood. That doesn’t matter in Vancouver. When I had a Honda Civic (the most stolen car in BC at the time) it was broken into sixteen times. Licence plate, registration, sunglasses, ashtray w/coins, first aid kit, half a tire jack, gear shift knob, cassette tapes, etc. were taken. Some can be contributed to kids and car thieves (gear shift knob, licence) but the ease of getting into a Honda was well known.

    Although the break-ins happened all over the city, the majority happened where I live in East Vancouver. My next door neighbor, who at one point had a nice heritage house, became an addict. We had no proof that he was the perpetrator but the crime rate on our street was very high while he could still pay the mortgage on his place. My apartment (part of a heritage house) was broken into when I was away but my landlords were watching it and at home that night. We’re pretty sure it was the drug addict neighbor who even seemed to be paying a couple of teenagers to scout out places.

    Twice more my place has been invaded. The second time I was actually home and someone walked into my back door (facing into the back yard) and took my purse. I suspect it was my no longer homeowner neighbor who had lost his house to drugs. The last time was last year when some other addict crowbarred my French patio doors and stole my camera.

    This happens time and time again in Vancouver and although some criminals are of a higher organization, most of these crimes are caused by drug addictions, homelessness and sometime mental health concerns. Locking up these petty criminals for a short time doesn’t solve the problem overall. Most get very minimal sentences and are back time and again in the courts.

    The community court (that some are labelling Hugs for Thugs) is to deal quickly with the criminals, where they meet with a triage team of counsellors and/or social workers. They’re sentenced to varying degrees, where community work or reparation is included, and sometimes jail time. This court has just begun and has been successful in other geographic areas. It’s the first in Canada and hopefully, along with the safe-injection site, will help keep the crime down and maybe, just maybe get people off drugs and off the street.

    We’ll need affordable housing, which there is a lack of for even people who are poor and not yet homeless, as well as those on drugs or suffering from mental health issues. But I wonder how it will work if the addicts don’t want to change. And I know, after talking to someone who was a police officer for 25 years, that those on crystal meth will be the hardest to reform. Crystal meth literally eats the brain, making those addicts the most violent and least likely to be able to get off the drug. They usually have a five-year lifespan from when they get addicted.

    But considering the rampant crime and the ineffective court system for this problem, I’m willing to hope this could be a win-win situation, with everyone suffering less from crime and people getting off the street and off drugs.

    The official community court, justice reform site: http://www.criminaljusticereform.gov.bc.ca/en/justice_reform_projects/community_court/index.html

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    Carbon Tax and Post Consumer Waste

    I received my $100 carbon tax credit (govspeak calls it the Climate Action Dividend) from the BC government yesterday. Of course, they can’t just send the money but have to include some do-good hype to cover up that they’re not actually doing much that’s green. Supposedly this is a revenue neutral tax because “by law, all revenue raised by the carbon tax must be returned to individuals and businesses through reductions to other taxes.”

    The enclosed pamphlet is not high-end glossy so that’s good. It’s an 8×12.25″ piece of paper, folded into fours and double sided (French on one side, English on the other). It sports four-colour printing, which is always expensive. Were the colours needed to print the pictures of a child holding a plant, two people walking in a forest or the person’s head with thought balloons of a light bulb, lawnmower and a running shoe, or would two colour have done as well? I lookied closely for the recycling logo. There is none but it says this at the bottom:

    By using 40% post consumer recycled paper for this project we saved… 262 trees, 10,780 kilograms of solid waste, 98,978 litres of water, 34, 105 kilowatt hours of electricity, 19,595 kilograms of greenhouse gases, 50 cubic metres of landfill space.

    Saved? Hmm.

    Let’s see…only 40% post consumer paper when many other magazines and publications use 60-100%? But maybe it wasn’t good enough for printing four colour. There is no mention of using vegetable based inks. And let’s look closer at this “SAVING” aspect. The Liberal government sent a cheque to every man, woman and child living in BC. That’s approximately 4, 428,000 people as of April 1. How many trees, water and kilowatts of electricity were used for this propaganda? How much landfill and greenhouse gases were created in printing this?

    The carbon tax is for all forms of fuel including propane, oil, gas, diesel and natural gas. Yet if you look at the smartchoicesbc site it says there’s a tax on natural gas but then it says there’s a PST exemption for natural gas. WTF?

    Content… we must look at content because it has an important message, doesn’t it? Oh and it’s from the Minister of Finance, not the Minister of the Environment. Well we are talking about money and what you can save but aren’t we really talking about lowering greenhouse gases? It does list six things you can do, four of which apply to homeowners, one for car owners and one for anyone who wants to buy compact fluorescent light bulbs.

    I’ve been trying to get my landlord to put in better weather stripping. I already have the light bulbs so will I see more of this neutral revenue in my taxes right away? I don’t think so. It’ll be averaged out. A real climate action dividend for me would have been the government saving the money by not adding this mostly inane pamphlet, but taking the “saved” costs and lowering the price of public transit. That would really help me. As it goes, $100 doesn’t cover a two-zone transit pass for even one month.

    And really, did the government need to send out a brochure to give us some simple examples of “Climate Smart Action” when most people will toss the cheques in their bank accounts and spend it on whatever comes next, either bills or that next tank of gas?

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    Zenn Car or Tesla Roadster

    I’m sure there are more electric cars out there but I recently mentioned the Zenn Car and Tesla Motors Roadster. Because I’ve wanted to downsize since last year, and should have done it then, I’ve been looking at cars. My Saturn Ion 3 does get pretty good mileage: 600 km to a 50 litre tank, or about 30 mi/gallon. That’s highway driving. But I don’t need the space and therefore could improve on the mileage with a smaller vehicle.

    Well, an electric car would be ideal, right? When I looked at the Tesla Roadster http://www.teslamotors.com/, with its 220 miles to a charge, its ability to accelerate, its green aspects, I thought yes! The catch: you have to place an order and it could take a year to get your car. The cost is $109,000, which makes it a toy for the environmentally conscious elite only. It’s only available in the US. Still, if some of the jetsetting rich folk  think beyond what they can spend on frivolities, then that’s a start. And as we know, many rock and movie stars can be role models (just look at Paris!), so let’s hope they lead by green examples.

    On the other end is the Zenn car http://www.zenncars.com/ made in Canada. It’s classified as a NEV (neighbourhood electric vehicle). That’s part of the catch; it only goes up to about 25 miles an hour/40 km. Even in Vancouver, should I be puttering about at 40 km, I’m going to make a lot of irate drives in the 50 km zones where everyone goes 60 km. But it’s cheap at $15, 995 USD. Available in many states, Zenn is looking at starting in Montreal for Canada. It’s taken awhile to get through the Canadian red tape even if it is a Canadian made car. But for delivery vehicles and people who just move about the city from work to the store to home, it’s a cheaper alternative.

    I can’t buy the Roadster because it’s expensive and only avaialable in the US. I can’t buy the Zenn because its goes too slow (and I drive on the highway to get to work) and it’s only available in the US. I can’t buy a Prius or any other electric hybrid car because they’re too expensive.

    Now, I had even more incentive to get a smaller car because of the BC government’s impending carbon tax, to make people choose greener alternatives. I’ve already grumbled about how this would work better if we actually had real alternatives. I should have sold my car six months ago when I first decided to downgrade. I’ve looked at the Honda Fit, the Toyota Yaris and the Nissan Versa. All are viable as smaller cars, all are similar though one is better at pick-up, one at trunk space, one at turning radius.

    My catch? I still owe payments on my Saturn Ion 3. Although it’s been reliable and good on gas mileage, everyone is scared to buy cars (let alone trucks) right now. I can’t sell it for what it’s worth, which means I can’t buy a smaller, more energy efficient car. So the government has me where it hurts with their extra tax on the already taxed gas. And soon, it will be cheaper to take the bus, but it’s still cheaper for me to drive.

    Anyone want to buy a good car?

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    Suffering the Effects of Gas…Prices

    Alas, today I had to put gas into the car. $25 for a quarter of a tank at $1.42 a litre. For those of you in the US, there are 3.8 litres to the US gallon (different from the imperial gallon) but roughly you can multiply it by four for a price of $5.68 a gallon. It’s still cheaper to gas up in the US, when I can, but I can’t afford to drive as far.

    So, gas prices, definitely causing us discomfort but these days we hear, oh the price of food is going up because of gas prices. Airline tickets–gas prices. Clothing–gas prices. Gas prices–gas prices. Yes, the price of gas is going up because of the price of gas. Or gas prices are going up because of volcanoes, tsunamis, rain, broken fingernails or war somewhere. I wonder how much George Bush can be blamed for gas prices?

    The moment that our lovely provincial government mentioned that they would be doing a carbon tax on gas as of July 1, the price went up by a couple of cents (back in April). Let’s not forget that gas is already taxed federally and provincially and more if you live in large urban centers–36.3% as of 2006 for Vancouver. Oh and there is tax on the tax. (You’ll have to read my earlier rant, “Carbon Tax: Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” to see why I think it’s hugely flawed–the least amount of work the gov’t can do toward environmentalism.)

    Let’s go back ten years or more. I remember a time when the price of gas stayed the same for months on end and would only change by a cent. In BC, less than ten years ago Arco started to come into the province. Gas went down to an unprecedented .29 cents a litre. You could gas up for $15. It began a gas war because of Arco’s low prices. Do they even exist anymore? At that point in time prices would drop or rise but stay that way for a week.

    Somehow everything sped up exponentially. It became a daily thing to see prices change by .10 cents a litre and it still happens. So, tell me, great gas corporations, are your prices changing on the hour because of every geographic upheaval, drop of rain or hurled insult somewhere in the world? Does this somehow affect the reserves? According to these poor beleaguered gas companies, which I’m sure are losing money, yes, every little earthquake, every insurrection causes gas prices to change instantaneously.

    Wow, we are so volatile. I notice that those world crises are at their lowest late at night and mid day but that they affect gas prices most when we are going to or coming from work and always on the weekend when you may be driving at any particular time. Gosh, our world is like a bunch of festering sores just constantly popping.

    There have been calls for investigations into the price of gas and the fluctuation of such. I have yet to hear that there was such an investigation or the results. We’re at the mercy of the gas companies who will only switch wholeheartedly to hybrid or other clean energy cars when they can no longer suck the last drop of oil from the earth and likewise suck us dry. Just look at how little advertising has ever gone into a hybrid car and how they are more expensive than any gas guzzler. Oh, and if you check far enough some gas and car companies are often jointely owned or have shares in each other. Can we say collusion?

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    A Welfare State of Mind

    The BC government thinks they shouldn’t raise the rate for welfare recipients because it might equal the rate of the working poor. Notice that they’re not going to do anything with raising the minimum wage so there are fewer working poor or get rid of their contentious two-tier wage, where younger people can be paid a lower minimum wage.

    In any system, whether just paying income tax, being on welfare, unemployment or being employed, there are people who cheat. In all cases, it’s a small number of people. For welfare, most of the people are on it, not because they’re lazy or bilking the system, but because they have to be.

    I speak from both sides of the fence. In my twenties I was out of work and putting in fifty applications a month. I had finished high school, graduated from art college and still could not find a job. I lived in a house with two other people. At one point we were all unemployed. Rent was still cheaper than trying to move. With welfare for each of us, we still had to get food from the food bank because welfare barely covered the cost of rent. Any extra bills, and I had fewer then, were beyond the means.

    Welfare is designed to belittle, humiliate and keep people impoverished. It used to be, decades ago, that a woman on welfare also had to answer for her social life, everything from who visited to what their boyfriends did, if they were even allowed to have a male visitor. More women than men are on welfare. If a marriage falls apart and the guy is  a deadbeat dad, then the woman is left with trying to get a job, plus raise children and provide childcare, and often childcare amounts to as much as she earns. So she ends up on welfare. Or as a prostitute.

    Welfare punishes you if you get a job that doesn’t pay enough or isn’t full time. You’re given a base amount (if you’re single–$610/mo.) but should you make some money, you have to deduct it against the welfare amount. I’m not sure what this is. Navigating through the labyrinth of the BC government’s income assistance site does not net you this information, so I’m presuming it’s the same. If you’re on unemployment I believe you’re allowed to make $50/wk before the amount is deducted against your unemployment amounts. So let’s presume it’s something like this.

    What then happens is a person isn’t encouraged to get a part time job, if they still must be on welfare. You end up working for the same amount you would get for not working. When I was in such a situation the only way I survived was by being hired by one company for two days a week. Yes, it was under the table so that I could actually survive on welfare. Eventually, they hired me full time and with great relief I said good bye to the humiliation of welfare.

    Many years later I ended up in a situation where I had been freelancing for years, but had lost my clients at the same time. I couldn’t get unemployment because I was freelance. I was $300 short of rent one month as I was looking for more work. I didn’t know what to do so I appealed to welfare. At that point I had about $4,000 in RRSPs, my retirement income, in hopes that I won’t have to live under a bridge in my elder years. All I needed was $300 for one month. I would have even repaid it, but no, I was told I would have to exhaust my RRSPs first. I’m sure if I had owned a house they would have wanted me to sell it. They might have wanted me to sell the car I had but it wasn’t worth much and would have left me more stranded for work.

    I found it particularly transparent of a government’s true attitude, where they were willing to bankrupt people completely and leave them destitute in the name of keeping them off welfare. I would have then been a full welfare recipient in my retirement with no resources to fall back on. Somehow, something came through last minute, saving me. But in my desperation I was seriously contemplating prostitution. That’s where the government welfare policies put many people.

    And if you get only $610/mo and don’t have several roommates, and perhaps a couple of bill payments, well, then you might end up sleeping on the streets so you can eat and pay those bills. There are people, the working poor, who likewise live on the streets because they can’t afford housing. Eventually that hard living will cause more health problems and then the government will pay out more in health services to heal those people. But it’s much better to keep a person less than poor so that they can never get out of the perpetual welfare state.

    I pray that with the cost of housing, heating and the rising price of food, that I don’t eventually retire into abject poverty. I wish I could say this was too far from the truth to consider, but it’s a reality that could just be around the corner. It’s too bad that supposedly progressive governments have such short vision and lack the perspective to take their thinking out of a welfare state.

    http://www.policyalternatives.ca/News/2008/04/PressRelease1868/index.cfm?pa=BB736455

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080423.wxbcwelfare23/BNStory/National/?page=rss&id=RTGAM.20080423.wxbcwelfare23

    http://www.eia.gov.bc.ca/factsheets/2007/increase_table.htm

    http://thetyee.ca/News/2008/04/22/Poverty/

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    The Slow (and Planned?) Demise of Medicare

    I consider the various world governments that have suddenly proclaimed the environment as in dire shape as having really just tried to gain popularity with their voters. They’re not doing this in many cases because it’s right but because it will garner votes. Likewise, I see the present Canadian government as having put out the smokescreen of environmentalism to draw our attention away from the dire straight of our health care system.

    Over the years, Alberta went through a stage where the Klein government cut back on many services. My mother, a senior, needed a blood test and there were only two labs in the city of Calgary because the rest had been closed down. She waited eight hours. Other similar cases lead to a crisis, wherein Klein then started letting in privatized clinics because of the waiting lists. Of course he set up the situation in the first place. Gordon Campbell in BC, like Klein, was a Liberal as opposed to a Conservative in sheep’s clothing, did the same thing. They both proved themselves to be the wolves at the doors of the health care system.

    Healthcare in Canada is free to everyone. Except in BC and Alberta, richer provinces than any of the Maritime provinces, where people must pay a premium. How is this fair? How is this right?

    On top of that, the healthcare system has never considered basic dental care as integral to someone’s health. As anyone who has ever had a toothache, broken tooth, crooked teeth or gum disease can tell you, dental care not only matters for hygiene, it matters for overall physical and mental health. In BC, chiropractic, massage and physiotherapy have been cut out of the system, leaving many people with trying to rely on drugs should they not afford the therapies that help with soft tissue problems. As someone who suffers from this condition it is massage that is most effective and yet denied. Should I even mention that the Liberal government also cut out podiatrists and optometrists, somehow not see foot or eye care (the areas that can have many problems for aging people) from the healthcare system. We’re living in an age of whittling away our healthcare benefits.

    Granted it takes a large budget for all the country’s benefits but how is penalizing some people fair? I now know people who exist everyday in pain because they can’t afford the therapy needed to fix their problem. Private clinics won’t change that. It may put the good doctors into the clinics and the specialists, leaving a majority of the public with fewer good resources.

    I have many friends in the US. Sometimes they must drive an hour or more to go to their doctor because that doctor is the only one on their company paid healthcare coverage. Others, even working, can only afford to cover their children, not themselves. A friend who is diabetic was paying over $800 a month for healthcare. Another friend who had uterine cancer surgery last year now owes over $20,000 to the hospital. That’s where privatized medicine will get you. Albeit, our system isn’t perfect and you must sometimes wait months for a specialist appointment, it is still better than paying thousands.

    This is by far, not the end of this topic. I’ll have more to say and rant about another day.

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