In Canada we have been conditioned to believe that hard work will get us anywhere. The belief that we could all be rich someday keeps us going through the hard times, keeps us pounding the pavement looking for work, and makes those long shifts at gas stations and fast food restaurants all over the country go by a little quicker. It is the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down.
The reality is somewhat different. Hard work and being rich are not in the least bit correlated. Few would claim that being the CEO of a corporation requires more work ethic than operating a jackhammer, yet Canadian CEO’s make on average 206 times more money than do most working Canadians. Clearly the amount of effort expended is not a very accurate marker of how rich you will be someday. Many rich people do work hard, however to claim that they work harder than the poor and to use that as a rationale to explain or justify class differences is ridiculous.
In contrast to the myth of the self-made millionaire, an overwhelming majority of Canada’s wealthy people simply had wealthy parents. The few that have managed to transcend more humble beginnings were able to do so because of the safe and relatively free environment that Canada provided. Self-made millionaires were born in public hospitals. They learned to read for free in public schools, and earned overtime for extra work because organized labour fought the authorities in the courts and on the streets for the 8 hour workday. Their nice houses and shiny cars are protected by the RCMP. There is no such thing as a self-made millionaire. Our taxes pay for healthcare, schools, roads, and the police. The rich could not have attained their position without these basic institutions paid for by all of us.
We are now in the ninth year of Conservative rule in Canada. Stephen Harper has done his best to demonize the public sector by portraying any effort to deal with social inequality as an intrusion by “big government” on market freedoms. His attacks range from health care to education and organized labour, and they are always accompanied by the free market mantra that low corporate taxes, spending cuts, and elbow grease will bring the Canadian people to their place in the sun.
These are disastrous policies. After nine years of unchecked free market ideas, Canada’s manufacturing industry is in tatters. Farmers are struggling and the Canadian Wheat Board has been sold to Saudi Arabia. Thousands of well-paying union jobs have been lost. These are replaced with temporary, low skilled jobs in which there are no room for advancement and which don’t provide benefits for families. Canadians are suffering.
The myth of the self-made millionaire has always been an unlikely story based on the numbers. In a Canada where public services are stripped, cut, and demonized it has become a statistical impossibility. My colleagues in the New Democratic Party believe in a government that supports the aspirations of Canadian people. We believe in a strong health care system, accessible education, and the rights of workers to advocate for themselves. We believe these fundamental pillars of Canadian society provide the foundations needed for our citizens to improve their lives and achieve their dreams.
The policies of the Conservative Government are undermining the very foundations of our country. On Election Day, if we stand together, we have the power to fix the damage and to build a better future.