Peter Ponders The Problems at Hand

As I tell anyone who will listen, I worked for Unemployment Insurance and its successors for over 40 years. I  learned a lot of things about people over that time, especially about unemployed people.

I saw firsthand evidence of just how hard some people had to work just to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. In one ( albeit extreme) case, I remember someone applying for Employment Insurance who had worked in the film industry, an industry renowned for its short term contracts a). They provided no less than 36 Records Of Employment b). When their application was processed, they did not qualify for benefits, as they had insufficient insured hours to establish a claim. All that I could do for them in this case was provide them with a letter for Social Services c). I still remember feeling very sad about that individual’s situation all these years later.

I can tell you that I saw a lot of people during my career who were applying for Employment Insurance and providing evidence of several different concurrent employers in the previous year. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to reflect on the barriers which they had to overcome to balance work, family and some semblance of a personal life. In many cases, they also had to “shoehorn in” their education. I often say that we live surrounded by heroes. At my job, I saw proof of that all the time, living proof, I might add.

One of my universal tenets of life is that no one has the right to look down on anyone who is doing their best to make a legitimate living.

This is probably a good time to mention that while many of us sit smugly in our chairs and reflect on our own personal employment situation, many of our friends and neighbours are nowhere near as fortunate as we are in this regard.

Many of us have seen panhandlers as we go about our daily lives. I know that there are some stories published about these people which purport to ” expose their lavish lifestyles”. There have also been stories written about “aggressive panhandlers ” and “squeegee kids”. I will be the first to agree that some panhandlers can be “aggressive”, I have encountered a few myself.

However, I think that panhandlers are viewed as “lowhanging fruit”, an easy to hate target, an easily accessible and identifiable bad example, a way to make insecure people “feel better ” about their own insecure lives. They are lumped together with the homeless in that regard. They are the “elevator music of Life”, generally overlooked the same way that people overlook leaflet distributors, except when people need someone to target with hate.

And how about sex trade workers? A huge part of pop culture, sneered at by many “upright people “, yet fulfilling a very important service.

Yet how little do we care when one is found murdered? How many become victims of serial killers? Look at the travesty of the “National Inquiry Into Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women And Girls”. Anyone else remember Robert Pickton? And don’t forget that each and every one of these women is a mother, a daughter, a sister, a human being. When we reduce their lives to mere statistics, we dehumanize and devalue them. Another sad fact is that many people, rather than expressing sympathy for their fate and understanding the circumstances that led these women into the tragic “death spiral ” which their lives became, instead point their fingers in a judgmental manner and attempt to “blame the victim “. I find that very sad and frankly, incomprehensible. How can “civilized people ” think like that? You might want to listen to “Porchlight ” by Twin Flames to give you some perspective on this sad reality, as an aside.

I will end this segment with an incident I witnessed one Saturday night in April, many years ago, on Parliament Street in Toronto.  It was a chilly evening and I saw a young woman wearing a waist length coat, a short skirt and fishnet stockings. She was literally pushed out of a stopped car and tottered as she regained her balance. I will never forget her shivering in the crisp April air. Again, I close my eyes and I can still see it. Very sad. What is especially sad is that sex trafficking has been always been a major problem facing “civilization”, and it seems to be increasing in scope as the world evolves.

By now you are probably wondering what my point is this week. My point is that many people among us are barely scraping by financially. Sometimes we get so engrossed in our own lives that we don’t take the time to appreciate that.

We need to put a stop to the growing trend towards people needing to work at two or three part time jobs to get by. These jobs generally lack benefits and can leave the employee open to exploitation and abuse by an employer who lacks scruples, or a conscience, for that matter. The lack of stability and increased anxiety which are the natural byproducts of this form of employment certainly do not contribute to a productive, supportive environment.

I sincerely believe that the Minimum Wage everywhere should be $15.00 per hour, or the equivalent in local currency. Universal health and dental care should be standard, including less expensive prescriptions. Decent, affordable housing is also a priority. Education at all levels also needs attention regarding cost and availability.

I hear you ask how all of this can be paid for. Simple, Loyal Reader.  The money is there, it has always been there. We simply need to redistribute it a little. The question is whether We have the will to do so, to build that all inclusive society which we all deserve. Stop trying to bust unions as well, for a strong, unified workforce can go a long way toward reaching these goals.

As is anything worth getting, this will involve a struggle and it won’t be easy. It will, however, be worth it.

See you soon.

  1. a) While we read about “stars” being paid very well for their participation in these endeavours, many of the crew are not as securely employed.
  2. b) The document which provides proof of insured hours, insured earnings and Reason For Separation. All of this information has an impact on finalization of the claim.
  3. c) Temporary financial assistance available through the local municipal government as a last resort. I can tell you that these payments are not as lavish as your loudmouth bigoted friend seems to think they are.

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