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COMMENTARY · 2nd March 2010
Stacey Tyers
The debates have been strong and firm through the Olympics about the need for social programming and the need to bring awareness to our ridiculously low minimum wage.

I respect people should work hard, but just because somebody is earning less than $10 an hour doesn't mean they aren't hard workers. Not everybody is built to be a strong, successful independent business person. Not everybody has the same lives and needs.

I have heard time and time again, if people can not afford to live in Vancouver, even Terrace or anywhere in BC (which for the record I have heard referred to more commonly than not from people in other provinces as standing for BRING CASH) that they should just move.

This thought process has me completely baffled. I can't possibly understand how, if someone is unable to afford living where they currently are, one might believe they would be able to endure great costs to just relocate. Secondly, everybody depends on these low wage workers for their everyday life.

It made me think, wouldn't it be a crazy idea if ALL employees working for $10/hr or less just didn't work for one day. I suppose somewhat equivilent to a unions walk-out. Unfortunately these low wage earners have no union protection if they decided to do this. This demographic is also the most at risk, if they did not work for 1 day, of actually losing their jobs and winding up in an even more dire situation.

But I think it's important we take the time to think about this:

Think about your day, and who you come across in your day. Your Tim Horton's staff happily providing you with your morning coffee, the waitress and cooks at the restaraunt you stop at for lunch, the cashiers at the grocery store as you purchase your groceries for dinner, maybe the security guard at your place of employment that you never bother to acknowledge on your way out the door. The gas station attendant, the person behind the counter at the local retail store, where you buy books, office supplies, electronics, clothing etc, the person who delivers your paper, or your courier.

All throughout the day these low income earners are working hard to become something, but imagine how inconvenient your life might be without them.

If we chase them all away, who will rent you your movies or sell them to you, who will serve you in various capacities, who will rent your second home providing you a modest rental income.

I want everyone to know something;, not everybody on welfare WANTS to be there. There are so many circumstances in life. Our Income Assistance system has NO incentive for people to get off the system, not only is there NO incentive or even reason in some cases, it is a system which pulls people down and does everything it can to keep them there. It is incredibly terrifying for some people to let go of the safety net of knowing that no matter what they will have a roof over their child's head and prescription medications. Maybe not always enough for food, but that security is so hard to move away from when you are scared.

It is not all teenagers and second income earners earning lower incomes, so please... the next time you think somebody is whining and should just pull up their socks... they ARE working, they are TRYING, they are struggling and fighting for survival and yet... they smile, hand you your coffee and tell you to have a nice day. We NEED diversity in our communities, cities, provinces and country.

I hope that the next time you purchase your coffee or other items, you might smile back and tell them thank you, it goes a long way.

Just a thought on how all this new found patriotism could be shared in kind gestures with your neighbours, friends and community members.
It is easy to become poor.
Comment by Carrie La Porte on 3rd March 2010
Yep. That's right. It is tremendously easy to become poor. You can have a work place injury and end up on a disability pension. You can get laid off from your place of employment. You can have a member of your family develop serious health issues requiring medications or treatments which are not covered by health plans. You can have marital breakdown and end up being a sole support parent with insufficient income to maintain you in your former standard of living. Your spouse can die. You can become a senior with an inadequate pension. You can do like my mother did and invest your money in an investment scheme which turned out to be a swindle. You can invest in real estate and have the market plummet leaving you owing more than the value of your assets. You can get robbed. And more.

As the saying goes, "you are just two pay cheques away from poverty." Sadly, many of our poor are educated, capable, motivated people who have just slipped between the cracks.

For myself, I had a work place injury at the age of 38. Prior to that, I had worked since my teens. In the blink of an eye I went from being, fit, athletic, and productive to unable to dress myself, having to use a walker for the next three years, and living on a subsistance income for many years thereafter. It happened to me. It could happen to you.