Sent to Michael Baker, Minister of Finance, Province of Nova Scotia
I have noted in today’s paper that you are launching an on-line survey in preparation for your annual budget.
I implore you to do what you can to make ours a more compassionate society. It has been said, and I heartily agree, that the success of any society can be measured by the way in which it treats its most vulnerable citizens. Every year or two a survey is taken in each of the nations of the world to rate the satisfaction of its population with their own country. Canada and the Scandinavian countries have consistently scored in the top ten percent. These countries have for decades been blessed with universal medicare, minimum wage laws, workmen’s compensation, pensions of various kinds and other services that to a great extent owe their existence to human compassion and provide protection and a measure of equality for their citizens.
On the other hand, there is much inequality still. I think it was J.K Galbraith who spoke of a “horse and sparrow” economy, built on the theory that if you provide the horse with oats at the front end, what comes out at the rear will keep the sparrows happy. Another useful phrase is “a trickle-down economy”; unfortunately not much trickles down unless by government regulation. This situation presents a serious challenge.
I realize that it is difficult for Canada to compete with the United States when that country has lower minimum wages, more people per mile of road, and the climate tends to be milder. (Perhaps NAFTA was not such a good idea for the low income people of Canada.) The US also tends to throw its weight around and there is much economic imperialism. So the gap between rich and poor widens – and George Bush seems to have other priorities. It widens here as well as in the US. And among the nations, as well as within.
I should like to see the poverty gap narrowed. I should like to see Pharmacare extended to everyone, beginning with all preschool children. I should like to see Medicare strengthened and hospital wait times reduced. I should like to see more and better facilities for the homeless; many of them are unable to function normally in society, but others can do so if they have the support they need. I don’t know what fees you have in mind. But generally, fees should not be such as to prevent the poor from sharing fully in our common life, or obtaining justice in the courts and elsewhere.
Assistance for families who are caring for aged and infirm relatives will take pressure off nursing homes. This will in turn release hospital beds and reduce wait times. Nova Scotia has a large ageing population, so such assistance is particularly important here.
I would be happy to pay more in taxes if I could be sure that the disadvantaged would benefit. At least, I would not complain. Many of us who make more than twice the minimum wage can afford an increase. And we need politicians – nay, statesmen – who will challenge the population to build a more compassionate society. “Ask not what your country can do for you . . . . .”