In Harperland, it’s everybody for themselves

Tough times are Tory times.

It was a saying I hadn’t heard in years but it now has remarkable resonance.

Stephen Harper has been with us since 2006. Back then, I had a good full time job. I lost that job a year later and haven’t had more than a part time gig since. In 2006, I was working in the same field I work in today — medical publishing — editing a magazine for mental health professionals. I was making $46,000 which wasn’t considered great money back then. The not-for-profit sector has always trailed behind the private sector but a lot of us work in the field because the work is meaningful, and we love it.

Today, I am doing nearly the same work, except I’m editing five publications. I’m making $800 a month. That’s because my field — writing and editing — is no longer valued as a profession. Heck, it’s not even a vocation anymore. People who are writing and editing for the federal government aren’t fairing much better. Once they could command $500 a day, now all the writers and editors are languishing, many working for agencies, at $15 an hour.

Tough times indeed.

In 2006, my husband had a thriving video production business. Today, he’s unemployed and applying for minimum wage jobs. Even the car business, from which he recently retired, was once a lucrative enterprise. Today it’s paying lousy salaries thanks to globalization. Cars, even higher end models, are selling dirt cheap and salespeople are barely making ends meet. Early in his car career, Scott made $60,000 easy. This year, he was limping along making less than $2,000 a month. A welfare mother makes more.

Scott quit cars because the job was costing him, financially and mentally. It was soul destroying sitting in the dealership everyday hoping a doctor or professor would come in and buy the complete package, including warranty. His bosses, the managers, were getting rich, of course. He was digging in, unable to pay the professional fees, his cell phone bill, and business cards.

He took another job with a regular paycheque but he was fired for no reason eleven days later. Our future is now more than uncertain; it’s precarious.

Frantically, I implored him to get another car job.

“I’d rather kill myself,” he said. Can’t argue with that.

Today, he got a call to work the 5 a.m. shift for one of the big box stores. He’ll be lucky to make 50 cents above minimum wage. But I’d rather see him work there, than bury his body over here.

This is a sad career ending for a man who is hard working and enterprising, being the old guy with bad knees stocking shelves. Oh well, at least he’ll get benefits, right?

What a joke that is. Sure, you get benefits in retail but you don’t make enough money to pay the deductible. Scott had benefits in the car business, too. I couldn’t afford the annual checkup at the dentist, and the plan didn’t even pay for his glasses.

Still, we’re lucky. At 60, we’ll still qualify for the CPP and we’re part of the cohort that will still get an old age pension at 65. My friend Ed is not so lucky. He’s two years younger, and he’ll have to wait to get his pension til he’s 67.

Sorry Ed, in Harperland, it’s everybody for themselves.

I’d like Stephen Harper to walk in the shoes of some of us who have lost our way financially, spiritually, mentally. Assisted suicide is looking pretty good right now.

I ask myself the question: are we better off since Stephen Harper became prime minister?

The answer is, “That’s a stupid question.”


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