Poor can’t afford more austerity

TheStar.com – opinion/letters
Published On Sun Mar 04 2012.   Murray MacAdam

Re: Premier shouldn’t give up on tax hikes, Column, March 1

Martin Regg Cohn hit the nail on the head. Ontario is facing a looming round of spending restraint and austerity as called for in Don Drummond’s report. Plagued by “tax phobia,” as Cohn notes, the government is in effect boxed in, in terms of how to deal with its $16 billion deficit, unless it is willing to consider tax increases.

Yet “taxes” is not a dirty word. They are the price we pay for a civilized society, for maintaining our common life. We need to share the costs involved more fairly. The Occupy movement has focused a spotlight on the vast, and growing, gulf separating the rich and poor in our society. Now, more than ever, a wide range of people agree that the glaring inequality in our society is profoundly unfair and they are calling for action in response. The provincial government must accept its responsibility as part of this call to action, and it can use tax policy to both address the rich-poor gap and to provide urgently needed help to alleviate poverty.

Moreover, the call to austerity seems to assume that everyone should be equally impacted by austerity measures and has the ability to do so. Nothing could be further from the truth. We see a deepening crisis of poverty in our society in so many ways, including the fact that 400,000 people in Ontario must rely on food bank handouts each month to ward off hunger. Poor people have been enduring austerity for at least the past 15 years. Now, once again, they are being asked to wait for justice.

We need a broad spectrum of society backing the call for fair, feasible tax increases on the wealthy, and to counter the anti-tax fundamentalism that has gripped so many.

Murray MacAdam, Social Justice & Advocacy Consultant, Anglican Diocese of Toronto

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