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What about the minimum wage earner?

Toronto-city is fast becoming the city for the affluent. As we drive around the downtown residential areas we see gorgeous homes, exquisite renovations, lush landscaped gardens and a feeling of serenity.

And for those who prefer glass enclosed condominium luxury there are beautiful options.

Driving west along a three kilometre stretch of the Gardiner Expressway recently I counted twenty-one tall cranes all busily cobbling together more urban towers for those who can afford them.

Juxtaposed with that picture at the time, I was listening to a CBC radio interview with two women, both minimum-wage earners, both in the service industry and both struggling to make ends meet.

One lived in Scarborough and the other in the Jane-Finch area. They were discussing how difficult transit is in Toronto.

To get to their jobs at 7 am they each have to leave their homes at 4:30 am because public transit takes two hours to get them to their downtown jobs.

Imagine situations where the workers have little children.  Those children have to be awakened at 4:30 am to be taken to caregivers, grandparents or whatever arrangements have to be made for their care while their parents rush off to work. Innocent children caught in the cycle of poverty.

This scenario is repeated thousands of times each day as poor people scramble to get to work.

These are the house-cleaners, nannies, gardeners and others workers who serve those beautiful homes and condos and also the thousands in other service jobs like factory workers, building maintenance crews, office cleaners, elder-care support workers, restaurant servers and the list goes on.

Statistics on personal wealth places Toronto very high on the list of wealthy cities.

But census data as reported by the Toronto Star’s social justice reporter Laurie Monsebraaten, (November 2017) shows that Toronto is clearly segregated along income lines. 

Those who serve Toronto’s affluent cannot afford to live in Toronto. Yes, there are pockets of public housing blocks but we see those disappearing as the appetite of the affluent grows and wealthy incomes rise as low-wage earners see their incomes drop or disappear.

The Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) report dubs Toronto “the inequality capital of Canada”.  And the Toronto wealth pie has no slices for the poor and for those minimum-wage workers who silently serve our wealthy.

So, what about the politicians? The only time we hear from most of them is during election campaigns when they all, without exception, make huge promises which lure voters. However, once elected most forget their promises as they settle into their guaranteed income jobs and pension plans.

I don’t know what the answer is. But I do know the costs of poverty on the children of the poor.

I have seen those impacts in forty years of serving students in schools. It is heartbreaking to see children arrive at school sleepy, hungry and undernourished in so many ways while their parents struggle to pay the rent and put food on the table.

One cannot force a conscience on wealthy people – one cannot magically make them realize that their servants, nannies, house-cleaners and support-workers are part of a huge struggling under-class who need to have a share in this democracy. That their children are starving. People in rich circles have networks, great technology and well-connected family mentors and friends, so the good jobs mostly go to them. Whereas children of the poor make do in struggling neighbourhood community centres with dwindling support from government.

What are the futures of those children? Whom can they and their parents trust?

                                                                                                                                                       – Dr Vicki Bismilla 

Posted: Jul 3, 2019

May 2020

Centennial College

Immigration Peel Canada

© CanadaBound Immigrant 2016