Canadian politicians have, from time to time, proclaimed a war against poverty. What they are really prosecuting, however, is a war against the poor. Unemployment benefits are routinely denied to people who, over the course of a lifetime, have contributed a portion of their earnings to UI (now called EI).
Welfare rolls have been slashed by provincial governments. The downloading of government services combined with tax cuts that benefit the rich have resulted in the reduction or elimination of countless programs, from hot lunches in the schools to subsidized housing. Politicians and bureaucrats have responded by inventing new definitions of poverty but people without food remain just as hungry as before and people without shelter are still without homes.
At no time since the Great Depression has the gap between rich and poor been so wide and the outlook for poor people been so grim. Hard-hitting and outspoken, Hurtig builds a compelling portrait of Canadian society under the rule of the “neo-Neanderthals.” He puts together the latest and most reliable statistics with stories told by people on the front lines of the poverty wars.
Many of these stories are as heart-rending as the comments from politicians and their corporate supporters are callous. Pay the Rent or Feed the Kids challenges all Canadians to re-examine the society we are living in and to demand changes for the better.
Mel Hurtig has been a bookseller; a political activist (founder of the Council of Canadians and leader of the National Party of Canada); a publisher, and a writer. He is the author of The Betrayal of Canada, A New and Better Canada, and an autobiography, At Twilight in the Country.