Not the Canada he came to

I am writing to you as a longtime immigrant from England — we came to Canada in April 1969.

Dear editor,

I am writing to you as a longtime immigrant from England — we came to Canada in April 1969.

When we first arrived here, we were always trying to compare the value of goods and services, to what we would have paid back in England. That did not work, so we started comparing values based on what one hour’s pay would buy here.

I am a tradesman and never actually worked for minimum wage, however I do remember that at that time minimum wage was about $2.25 per hour. We remember quite clearly what the cost of living was when we arrived here.

I would like to illustrate clearly how today’s minimum wage has failed to keep up with the cost of living.

• 1969 wage $2.25 per hour

Coffee 10 cents per cup = 22.5 cups for one hour’s work;

Three loaves of bread for $1 (four on sale) = eight loaves for one hour’s work;

Gasoline 34 cents per gallon (7.5 cents per litre) = 30 litres for one hour’s work;

Car ( full-size six-seater V8 Ford $3,200  = 1,422 hour’s work;

House (three-bedroom bedroom detached with garage)   approximately $20,000 = four year’s pay at $2.25 per hour.

I must add that all other grocery items were equally affordable.

• 2012 wage $8 per hour

Coffee $2 per cup = 4 cups for one hour’s work;

Bread $3 per loaf = under three for one hour’s work;

Gasoline $1.20 per litre = 6.5 litres for one hour’s work;

Full-size car $30,000 = 3,750 hour’s work;

House (three-bedroom detached) $300,000+ = 12 year’s pay at $8 per hour.

As you must well know, all other items are equally expensive.

I have no idea what the percentage of minimum wage earners (or slightly above) is in Canada, but I’m guessing 10 to 15 per cent. In 1969 a family with good financial management, could live reasonably well, if not plush. But with most of the things essential to modern life at least affordable, the average low wage earner could be comfortable.

In 2012 this is no longer possible. Without marketable skills, a family is condemned to a life of extreme poverty. The things that you and I take for granted, a home of our own, decent food, comfortable clothes, a decent reliable car, the occasional visit to a restaurant or movie theatre etc. are totally beyond the reach of a huge segment of our society.

In 1969, food banks were unheard of (at least I had never heard of them). Today, there are men and women and families that would never make it through the month without them. Today, children are going to school without enough food in their bellies, and clothes on their backs, and likely living in substandard housing.

This is not the Canada my family and I came to. We came to a country that was kind and gentle, a caring society that looked after the weaker and underprivileged.

We have witnessed a degeneration of society into haves and have-nots, and the gap has grown wider over the four decades we have been here. Something has to be done! The need is desperate, and the people who need that help are almost too despondent to care anymore. We have seen some braver souls in the Occupy movement (whatever you think of them) trying to bring the world’s attention to their desperate need.

Surely there are enough politicians in Victoria and Ottawa who understand the plight of the poor! Those living in almost Third World conditions. There are many who see the affluence (of some) all around them, but have absolutely no hope of ever enjoying some of it, unless someone in a position of authority takes up their cause. Gentlemen, I urge you to discover your hearts, and have some compassion on those in need.

Surely, if enough politicians realized that if people had a decent living wage, crime would be reduced, and there would be no need to build bigger prisons. If children went to school well fed, they would be able to concentrate more on their school work, and we would end up with a better educated workforce, more able to compete in global markets, and save more millions in health care in the process.

The implications of having Enough, are endless, and the benefits enormous, if only to restore the dignity of those who are forced to seek food in food banks, and welfare offices.

The plight of thousands of British Columbians is in your hands, it is your responsibility as representatives of all people to care for the underprivileged as well as corporate interests. We await your action on this matter, please do not let this letter end up in File 13.

Tony Powsey,