The economic recession that began in 2008 affected Canada more gently than any other G7 country, and Alberta, whose economy is overwhelmingly reliant on energy sector commodities, has fared better than the other provinces. This, in theory, makes us one of the most fortunate populations in the world. But for middle and lower income Albertans, life has only become more difficult over recent decades.
John Ralston Saul, the eminent Canadian economic and political thinker, warned that “the exploitation of natural resources does not tend to produce a stable, balanced economy. To the contrary. Commodity markets were and are subject to incessant devastating swings. This sort of economy almost invariably produces an extreme social divide between a few rich and many poor.” The facts support Saul’s assertion, and this social divide is happening at an increasing pace in Alberta.
In fact, while Alberta’s Gross Domestic Product has steadily risen, our disposable income has not kept up. A report published by the Alberta College of Social Workers with the Parkland Institute states that “the middle class is at increasing risk of collapsing into low income; poverty is growing among those who work full-time, full-year, during a period when Alberta experienced greater economic growth more quickly than any other jurisdiction in Canada or the global north.” The ACSW report summarizes that “despite increased hours of work and a significant increase in the intensity of work, many in the middle-income deciles have little to show for their hard work, except fewer hours to enjoy with their families.” It continues, “Albertans have by far the lowest leisure time in the nation” citing 200 hours less per year than the average Canadian.
Of course, this would not be so worrying were it not the case that Alberta’s cost of living is increasing at a staggering rate: 134 per cent from 1985 to 2005, for example. Alberta food banks report a 75% increase in usage since the recession, with November 2011 breaking all records for Canadian food bank usage. Homelessness in Calgary increased by 458 per cent between 2006 and 2008 (the most recent figures). As well, Canadian personal debt is rising while personal savings are falling, as we borrow more to make ends meet. If unchecked, these trends will gradually squeeze more Albertans into poverty.
But if Alberta’s GDP keeps increasing, having more than tripled since 1985, where is the money going? The ratio of the Albertans with income over $100 000 to those who make less than $40 000 has nearly tripled as well, over the same period. What this indicates is that the so-called Alberta Advantage has benefited the wealthy few, while the rest of us are only working harder to get by.
- Arran Fisher
Canada’s economic resilience
GDP growth by province:
J. R. Saul, “Reflections of a Siamese Twin” Ch. 9
Alberta College of Social Workers Policy Framework 2010
Canadian Consumer Price Index, by city
Alberta food bank usage, Calgary Herald article
Canadian food bank usage
Canadian personal debt, Statistics Canada
Calgary Homelessness Statistics
Human Resources and Skill Development Canada, Satisfaction in LIfe study
For a long time a demographic has been moving up through society causing massive social, political, and economic changes. Everywhere we look we can see their influence. Their decisions have brought us all the prosperity and disparity today. But today, standing in that shadow, I can tell you that they forgot one thing. They forgot to leave a way up. The way forward for the majority is eclipsed and we fear for our future.
I am a born and raised Calgarian. I ask myself, why is it so tough to get ahead? I debate with friends and co-workers as to what is wrong and how to fix it. We laugh at ideas and quote expert “opinions” about why this or that idea is doomed to fail. Then something strange happened. The entire free world took to the street and started having that same conversation.
At first the only thing clear about the message was the urgency and dedication in which it was being presented. After further investigation of the strange phenomena occupying the world. I found that somehow they were having the same conversations. But instead they focused on what needs to be done to move forward outside of the status quo.
A grass roots movement, leaderless, collaborated, and committed to the identification of the problems; analysis and integration of the solutions. Working to serve the people with their best answers to move forward as a society. The birth of a social consciousness self aware and aware of its responsibility to humanity.
Being new, societies first reaction, naturally, was to kill it. First it was ridiculed, then violently opposed. To us it is already self evident. This conversation needs to happen the way it is happening and where it is happening. We have knowledge, but imagination is more important than knowledge. So join the conversation as we figure out what is needed to brighten the future ahead.
The Occupy Calgary protest would like to thank the City of Calgary for not using physical force to evict protestors from Olympic Plaza, and acknowledging we express a legitimate political point of view protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As the Occupy movement continues to grow we are saddened to see that protestors staying at Olympic Plaza face an increasingly difficult struggle to survive, which distracts them from their original cause.
The forces wishing to evict us have managed to turn this into a battle over Charter Rights, and shift discussion away from the social problems that brought us together in the first place. We did not come together to express a political opinion for its own sake—we came together because we feel there is something wrong about the distribution of wealth in society, and wanted a dialog to understand how this came to be, and what we can do to fix it.
The protestors representing us at Olympic Plaza are an eclectic group, and while they bring a multitude of issues they want addressed, this multiplicity has been detrimental to our protest because it has been difficult to organize a coherent statement declaring what the protest is about.
Calgary newspapers and television coverage has been a mixed bag; while some reporting has been positive and fair, other reports are maddening in the ways they selectively distort and misrepresent the facts.
A recent CTV News report showed a man identified as a construction worker who had wandered into Olympic Plaza, and got into an argument with the protestors. The construction worker, Richard Evans, had a “heated discussion” with protestor James Bullock, and with a heartwarming nod and a handshake, offered him a job, agreeing to pick him up for work from the plaza the next day. At 7:00am the following morning Evans returned with the CTV News camera in tow, unable to find Bullock thus confirming the protest itself is an excuse to squat on pubic land as opposed to having a real reason to be there, and concluded that Bullock would be an unreliable employee.
What the report failed to mention was Richard Evans is not a random spectator, but a known political agitator. The CTV News crew had to have known who he was; none of the protestors recognized him even though he was present at the Occupy Calgary rally held five days earlier on the steps of City Hall, heckling protestors with a sign that called them “dirty smelly hippies” while disguised head to toe in a chicken costume. Whether Evans knew Bullock has an existing condition that renders him unemployable, we can’t determine.
We question the sincerity of Evan’s job offer, having earlier revealed his desire to ridicule the protestors, some of whom are from the weakest and poorest segment of society and suffering from addiction and mental health problems. While some individuals may not be employable, they are still human, and perhaps know more than anyone about life’s unfairness and injustice. They are perfectly entitled to express their political opinions even if they do not “contribute to society” by paying taxes.
Occupy Calgary has many supporters, and is not limited to the group occupying the plaza. Many of us have jobs, children and other responsibilities that prevent our participation in the protest as much as we would like, so do not let the mainstream media tell you what to believe about the protest, because they have never met more that a few of us, and choose to present what they perceive whether it has any basis in reality or not.
The challenge that we have before us is an extraordinarily difficult one… the public must become motivated and the public will not be motivated unless they understand how they are being deceived and become angry enough to do stand up and something about it…
And yet, at the same time, the only way that we can win this battle for the very evolution of our species is to wage PEACE, rather than wage war… because war and competition are the ways of the past… peace and cooperation are the ways of the future… and we must move forward into the light, not backwards into the dark.
The public must first become enraged enough to do something about their impending situation, and we must then show them how to respond with peace and love, rather than hostility and vengeance. We must be able to first understand and articulate well enough to show them that they will be directly affected, and we must then respond to their inevitable rage with kindness and understanding… lest they come to view us as their enemy, rather than their ally.
For the system to attack us with violence, we would have to throw the first punch. But we refuse… So the system, the press, the public are throwing every insult and every threat they have at us out of self defence. We are telling the old system that it has to die for us to live… and make no mistake, the system will defend itself to the bitter end.
The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Right now, the system, and the people within it, are going through denial, anger and bargaining. We must be ready to lead all the way through depression and into acceptance, so that we can leave our old ways behind move forward in a different direction. But much rage and denial will play out before the healing can begin… and we must be there and ready to bear the slings and arrows. And we must turn down any bargaining that is offered, because no band-aid can stop this cancer…
To say that it is hard to remain calm, peaceful and understanding when standing face to face with the spitting, snarling, screaming threat of violence is an understatement to say the least… but this is what we “must” do. We must be strong and hold our ground, or fear will always win.
If we must hold hands to avoid throwing a punch… we hold hands.
If we must lean on each other to avoid falling… we lean.
The time has come to grow up, act like adults and face what we must face, rather than a society of spoiled children running away from our problems.
Our evolution means doing the right thing… not the easy thing.
If I just wanted to be safe and comfortable, I would have stayed home… but much better men than I have kissed their families good-bye… crossed oceans and laid down their lives and given up the rest of their days, for much less than what we fight for right now in town squares around the world.
This is why I occupy
Peace and Love All ✌☮♥