Archive for March, 2015

When a Well-dressed Dude talks about Wealth Distribution

March 28, 2015

by Jack Locke

Hoang Mai1

Hoang Mai, MP, centre, speaks to locals at the Green Co-op in NDG.

 

 

Being a poet, I thought it would be a good idea to attend a recent talk sponsored by Montreal’s NDGers for Wealth Distribution. NDG is a Montreal borough(Notre-Dame-de-Grâce) that has grace and good organic coffee.

The speaker for the evening was Canadian member of Parliament for Brossard-La Prairie, Hoang Mai,  whose base pay just rose $4,000 to $167,400 per year. And I was hoping I could learn something from his example.

“We have a rich country but how come we have kids living in poverty, seniors living in poverty?” asked Mai.

The amiable New Democrat, whose background is as a lawyer, spoke to approximately 30 people of varying ages at Co-op La Maison Verte(the Green Co-op) March 27.

“The gap between the rich and the poor is growing and has been over the last 35 years,” insisted Mai.

Born in 1973, Mai must have observed this pattern at a very young age, I surmised.

“It’s not normal, why can’t we change it?” he asked with frustration in his voice.

“Oh, oh,” I thought. “We can’t change it?” Well hell, I came to the talk so I could learn how I could change it. Shit.

Then out came the cliches.

Hoang Mai, MP, speaking at Co-op La Maison Verte in NDG.

Hoang Mai, MP, speaking at Co-op La Maison Verte in NDG.

“We are talking about sharing the wealth.”

“About 25 years ago there was a motion in Parliament to eliminate child poverty.”

“Household debt is at a record high.”

“Working people should have a minimum wage.”

“If our party is elected, we would close loopholes for tax benefits for CEOs.”

“We want to stop subsidizing the oil industry.”

“I agree, there has to be international cooperation to close tax loopholes.” Of course, one has to pay taxes before one can take advantage of said loopholes, I imagined.

“You won’t solve the whole problem, but there are concrete things we can do to tackle the problems.”

“The federal government has a role in providing leadership.”

Regarding the setting of minimum wages, “We can’t tell the provinces what to do, but we can have meaningful conversations with the provinces.”

Can’t we have meaningful conversations tonight?
Then he got downright personal.

“I have in my riding people asking for foodbank increases.”

Those are the people who need a $4,000 annual increase in pay, I thought. But the money is going to the articulate guy in the nice blue suit standing in front of me.

Regarding Old Age Security payments and a guaranteed annual income for seniors, “I can’t say what our position is right now, what will be proposed I can’t say…I can’t tell you precisely what our position is.”

I’ll bet they have a position before the election, and I’ll bet it will be sweet.

After hearing the New Democratic Party politician speak, I felt worse than before.

The only thing that raised my spirits is when Mai mentioned that he had voted against the Honduras trade agreement with Canada.

Great, I finally started to feel like my government is serving my needs. A Honduran trade agreement?

All night, he said nothing about his own salary increase. Maybe he was unaware that he just pocketed a raise? I guess it’s not a subject one should raise at a meeting of people who are interested in greater wealth distribution.

I walked home.

 

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When a City Council Pretermits Poetry

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As National Poetry Month(April) approaches, I am reminded of the words of the late Westmount, Quebec resident, former McGill Dean of Law, and poet, Frank Scott who wrote:

      Come and see the vast natural wealth of this mine
      In the short space of ten years
      It has produced six American millionaires
      And two thousand pauperized Canadian families.

Sadly, it takes fewer than six Canadian politicians to pauperize two thousand Canadian poets. The equitable recognition for poetry has, I am afraid, fallen victim of government gone gonzo.

Taking note of numerous Canadian cities who have officially recognized National Poetry Month, I approached my local municipal government of Westmount to see whether they would follow suit by having their next council meeting opened with the reading of a poem. Westmount is culture. It is a city that prides itself on being the first place in Canada to have built two stacked—one upon the other—NHL-sized, underground hockey rinks. With such a clear commitment to culture, I thought, how could they refuse?

I must mention that Westmount has sponsored a Pastry and Poetry event at their library for the past four years. While they decided to impose a fee this year for the first time in order to recoup their costs, the cost of having a poet read a poem prior to a council meeting would be negligible.

Photo Nicole Forbes

Westmount Councillor Nicole Forbes.

When I received an email reply from City Councillor Nicole Forbes, speaking on behalf of the council, I was knocked off my computer chair.

“…unfortunately we cannot start our Council meeting with the reading of a poem.”

“Cannot?”

Why precisely? No reason was given.

Regulations? A by-law?

Or was it merely that council loves poetry too much and would not be able thereafter to concentrate on business?

Obviously, this was their reason.

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