I am part of a coalition dedicated to reducing poverty.
Recently, during a public meeting on the coalition's plan to reduce poverty, a public health nurse posed a classic Canadian dilemma.
She agreed wholeheartedly with the poverty measures the coalition proposes our governments act on. But, she asked, will the middle class get stuck with the bill?
It's a question that cuts to the heart of a critical social and political dilemma facing Canada today: Are we in this together or aren't we?
Until now, every generation that came before us used the prosperity of the nation to invest in the well-being and longevity of the majority.
With far fewer resources than we have today, our great-grandparents, grandparents and parents built roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, sidewalks, child care centres, playgrounds, subways and community programs that benefited all of us.
For the most part, they didn't jack up untold amounts of debt to pay for it. They worked hard and willingly paid taxes -- because most knew first-hand the hardship and devastation of having to go it alone.
But for more than a decade Canadians have been insulated.
Our nation has enjoyed unprecedented growth in economic prosperity. At the same time, we voted in governments who told us the best thing they could do is give us back our tax money.
Somehow, we came to believe that Canada could enjoy the same high standard of living -- with public services the envy of many nations -- without having to pay full price for them.
We forget that our taxes actually pay for services and a high quality of life that are of priceless value. Even for the middle class.
In the U.S., where the Bush administration worked up trillion dollar debts in the blink of an eye, they are just beginning to ask the question: Who pays for this? And is it fair to leave the bill for generations to come?
Some Americans are proposing taxing the wealthiest a bit more so they carry a fairer share of the load. Warren Buffet, the richest man in America and the world, agrees.
In Canada, we seem to be afraid of such debates. Yet the price of ignoring poverty costs each and every one of us.
A recent study shows the cost of ignoring poverty costs every Ontario household anywhere from $2,299 to $2,895 a year. That's because persistent poverty costs our public system through health care, education, and in so many other ways.
But poverty isn't just about dollars and cents. It's about people and communities.
I, for one, am willing to pay my taxes if it means I'm doing my part to make sure no one is left behind.
If you're with me, you may want to register your vote on Canada Without Poverty's new online poll question:
If you pay taxes, would you be willing to pay a higher amount each year if you were confident it would contribute to the elimination of poverty and to greater social security for all Canadians?
So far, the majority votes yes.
Check out the poll at: www.cwp-csp.ca
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