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March 04, 2014

Rose Simpson: The middle class: Studying bees in a jar

Rose Simpson's column appears every Tuesday morning on the OttawaStart Blog. She also blogs at Rose's Cantina. You can read her previous columns here.
I've been brushing up on my politics this week, and I noticed that, aside from the Ukraine and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, everybody is talking about one subject: the plight of the middle class.

PM Stephen Harper is trying to help out by using one of his tried and true tricks of economics -- income splitting. But he's only intending on trying this one on a hair of the population, namely well-to-do married folks with school aged kids who want mum to stay home and help with math problems.

Justin Trudeau has uttered some piffle about the poor down-trodden middle class who "work hard (and deserve) a real chance at success" so they can pay off their debts and retire.

"We're also all about freedom," he chirped. "Opportunity and did I mention Laurier?"

What? There he goes again with the no sense making.

And Tom Mulcair, of course, he's all about the worker bees. That's what the NDP has always stood for. More of the same.

As a card-carrying member of the middle class, albeit, as someone on the lower end, I want to thank these fine gentleman for their concern. However, it has occurred to me to ask one simple question: why is everyone who is concerned with the middle class not members of the middle class?

If you looked around the Liberal convention, you saw people wearing suits that cost more than my car. What do they know about the middle class? I saw doctors, lawyers, Indian chiefs, but not a lot of people living in the middle. And nobody living in the bottom.

When was the last time Stephen Harper took home a middle class paycheque if ever? Although both he and Mulcair do understand what it's like to living in subsidized housing, with leaky roofs and drafty bedrooms. But their cribs aren't exactly like the ones in Vanier, are they?

None of them are, or have ever been, middle class, so it's sort of like they're studying bees in a jar.

Unless you've lived like a bee, you don't understand the bee's life.

In my town of Ottawa, there are lots and lots of middle class folk who have suddenly had the rug pulled out from under them by the very government who wants to protect them. Public servants are frightened for their lives -- and they have it good, with nice pensions and benefits, so when they lose their jobs they have at least some kind of a cushion.

A lot of people who work in the private sector, which is mostly retail, finance and food, let's face it, are looking towards a bleak future not because they don't work hard but because they're also juggling the responsibility of children who can't find jobs or parents who are losing their good health and faculties.

Being middle class is like being the middle of a shit sandwich.

If that's not bad enough, two-thirds of the leaders seem to have completely forgotten about the lower class who have the same problems as the middle class but less money. Mostly, these people are single parent families and the elderly who are trying not to starve while living on a fixed income. Where do these people sit in any discussion about the middle class? They aren't even invited to the party.

Our social problems are getting worse, despite what Stats Canada has to say with its watered-down data (thank you Herr Harper!) and inability to see the true picture, the one you see on the Google Street map.

The real problem is that the middle class is becoming a blight on the over-ripened tomato that is society today. The middle are losing their good jobs and taking away the crappy employment from the lower level, working at liquor stores and car dealers, as clerks and bank tellers. A lot of them are too old and tired for retraining or they simply don't care anymore.

Pensioned-off public servants are taking those jobs, too, because they want to top off their pensions with a little extra spending money. Or they need to make up ground after terrible divorces. So they're booting good people out of their ghetto jobs.

Our middle class raised children can no longer get the jobs they're trained for, nor can they afford
to buy houses and condominiums because the price tag is too high. So they take up the rental space and that leaves the lower class in pretty shitty accommodations let me tell you.

No wonder there's a crack epidemic.

Add to all of this the skyrocketing price of utilities, gas and food, well if you're middle class it makes you want to kill yourself, doesn't it? Can't find that in the Stats Can economic data. It's in the health care data. Look it up.

Where's the money for hockey and home renos, Mr. Harper? Where's are the good jobs to be found, Mr. Trudeau? And sorry, Mr. Mulcair, where are you again?

This is not the Canada, the middle class signed up for. We might live in one of the greatest countries in the world, but it's still a shit sandwich. Which Harper might have noticed if he didn't spend all his time jetting around the world and wearing funny costumes. Which Trudeau might have noticed if he started buying his produce at Food for Less.

So pardon us for not believing our beloved leaders, the ones who live in Rockcliffe.

The view from the cheap seats is getting harder to take by the minute.



-- Rose Simpson


See also: Ottawa Media Guide
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