Sunday, July 21, 2024

It’s Time to Realize That Many Meaford Residents Are Struggling

By Stephen Vance, Editor

Some members of Meaford’s council seemed genuinely surprised that more than a quarter of Meaford children under the age of six live in poverty, and some 12.5 percent of all youth under the age of 18 live in low-income households.

The fact that it was a surprise to members of our council was a surprise to me. After all, unless you are a teacher, municipal worker, a police officer, or a few other select professions in Meaford, you are most likely relegated to minimum wage or slightly above minimum wage jobs, and whether people want to admit it or not, minimum wage is a far cry from a living wage.

According to Statistics Canada, the median household income in Ontario is roughly $75,000. In Meaford the median household income is just $68,700, yet our housing and rental costs are virtually the same as what you would pay in larger, more affluent communities.

While many might believe that the majority of people using the Golden Town Outreach food bank are unemployed, some 60 percent of the roughly 200 families that are helped by the GTO food bank each year have jobs. That means that roughly 5 percent of Meaford’s households require assistance from the food bank, and of that number, 120 families have employed adults in the home, but they don’t earn enough to keep food in the pantry.

Those kinds of numbers might make one wonder how dozens of apartments and significant business space in a proposed downtown development could ever be filled.

The median income for a single person in Meaford is roughly $27,000 ($2,250 per month) before taxes, which translates into roughly $13.50 per hour, just $2.25 above the provincial minimum wage. Let’s fully understand what that means. It means that half of the single households in Meaford make more than $27,000 per year, and half of the single households in Meaford make less than that. After taxes, a person earning $27,000 takes home roughly $1,900 per month.

The average apartment in Meaford fetches about $800 per month, groceries for a single person cost roughly $200 per month, the average car insurance – assuming you can afford a car – is another $100 per month. Then of course there are the expenses for other basics like clothing, car repairs, fuel, dentist visits and prescriptions (low income folks rarely have a benefits package), phone $50 per month, internet another $50 per month, cable television yet another $50 per month, electricity (which has been increasing in cost by leaps and bounds in recent years), and, and, and… you can do the math from there. That $1,900 take-home pay for the median single person in Meaford is gobbled up pretty quickly.

All of these facts, which I had assumed were well known, makes it all the more puzzling for me when people suggest that we need to cut municipal staff, or get rid of a bunch of teachers, or switch to a police service whose officers wouldn’t actually reside in Meaford.

Who do you think keeps the cogs oiled for the local businesses, and lower income folks to earn a living… well, almost a living?

We have been duped into supporting a race to the bottom. We’ve been convinced that unions are a bad thing, and that governments need to operate with a skeleton crew, and we’ve been sold on the idea that we’ve all got an equal opportunity to rise to the top, and realize our dreams. The reality, though, is that as we’ve demonized union and government jobs, the private sector has responded with a big ‘screw you’ to workers and have paid their employees as little as possible, as all of the solid factory jobs – union or not – have disappeared overseas.

The municipality of Meaford, and its residents, need to come to terms with the fact that the race to the bottom has failed us. The race to the bottom has cost us entire industrial sectors, and it has cost us a sense of community. It’s every man, woman, and child for themselves, but hey, we’ve got cheap sneakers thanks to the Chinese and other sub-First World nations.

It is amazing to me that, just 50 years ago, a union job was one to aspire to, yet today a union job is despised. To get a municipal job used to be a badge of honour, and today municipal workers are demonized.

When did we lose our sense of community, and when did we decide that the best strategy is to demonize those who earn a healthy income and benefits? Shouldn’t that be the goal? Shouldn’t those jobs be a benchmark for all jobs?

We need to cling tightly to every well-paid job in this municipality, and we need to respect those with highly paid employment lest we all plummet to the bottom which we seem to so ardently desire.

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