February 21st, 2024

The working class can only carry so much weight

By Lethbridge Herald on December 15, 2023.

Al Beeber – managing editor

Tension is in the air. You can feel it and that tension is rising. Even with Christmas nearing, the tension is palpable.

And there are many reasons for it, mostly economic. Groceries are expensive, the costs of mortgages and housing have skyrocketed, southern Alberta water levels are low, our city water and wastewater infrastructure needs millions of dollars of investment – these are just a few concerns.

Add to these matters fear over the Alberta government’s interest in leaving the Canada Pension Plan, animosity over the carbon tax and whether it’s of any actual benefit, the costs of social programming – which nobody can legitimately argue we don’t need – and a litany of other matters and it’s no wonder many Canadians are frustrated or downright angry these days.

And of course, Lethbridge residents are seeing annual increases in their property taxes for the duration of the present city council’s term at least, those tax hikes which are coming off the heels of a hiatus from increased taxes for three years which made many residents feel comfortable and perhaps caught them off-guard, although they shouldn’t have been because inevitably we were going to pay for the increased costs of running the community.

But that doesn’t change the fact people aren’t happy. They’re worried about their financial security and the future for their families. 

The average working stiffs – blue collar, white collar, stay-at-home-in-sweatpants –  have to bear the costs of running our country on their shoulders as they try to raise families, put food on their tables and maybe save a bit of money for their kids’ education and/or their own retirement. 

The average worker who puts in his or her eight-hour or longer shifts every day, is the person whose hard-earned wages pay for every capital cost and every social program in this country. 

We all know life isn’t easy for people on the streets and those struggling with addictions but the reality is life isn’t easy for most people right now. It’s darn tough – and trust me, ‘darn’ isn’t my preferred choice of word – and there’s no sign of things improving.

The distinction between the haves and hav-nots is increasingly becoming blurred in this country.

Increasingly on the minds of many in this community is the Exhibition and who is going to fund its financial shortfall and pay its bills moving forward – a hot potato topic in Lethbridge as you can see in our weekly Roasts and Toasts section and the occasional letter. It’s a subject which I suspect is going to be in the news and on the minds of residents for a very long time.

But it’s just one matter that is frustrating as the working Joes and Janes try to pay their bills and build a decent life for themselves and their families.

Many people are struggling right now and we don’t give enough acknowledgement to the people whose wages are actually going into city, provincial and federal coffers to pay all the bills. 

The working class is expected to do our part because we have jobs but many who give their hearts and souls to their employers are struggling financially, too because of the heavy burdens they are carrying on their shoulders.

Local businesses are struggling as well thanks to consumers shopping online for deals instead of in their own communities. We media outlets know that all too well as we hear the “shop local” mantra constantly yet see city businesses advertise on social media instead of supporting their neighbours.

Working Canadians are expected to accept stoically having less disposable income as we pay more taxes, give larger tips to help people who make minimum wage and contribute more to help the less fortunate in our communities.

The only reward for contributing greatly to the economic wellbeing of our city, province and country, the only reward for working ourselves to exhaustion, the only reward for worrying about our families’ futures, is an expectation we contribute more to others and provide less to our families.

It’s a reality of today’s life in Canada, a reality that puts a damper on the holiday spirit for many. It’s a reality that can’t last forever because eventually, the shoulders that carry the load won’t be able to handle the weight.

This is a reality that all of our country’s politicians need to face – they can only put so much burden on the people paying all the bills before that burden becomes unbearable.

It’s a message that needs to be heard. It’s a message that needs to be respected and a message that needs to be acted upon by all our political leaders. 

CONDOLENCES: I need to make a couple of quick condolences here. First of all, to my former colleague Trevor Kenney on the loss of his mom. Trevor is one of the truly good people in this world and I extend my sympathies to all members of his family.

Secondly, I want to express my sadness at seeing the death of Howard Traweek. Howard took over from Dooley Robinson as cattle boss at Highway 52 Feeders back in the 1970s and I had the pleasure of working with him at the end of high school and during summer break from college. He was good to me and I’ve never forgotten that.

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Yes. And in addition you have a demographic profile showing fewer workers to replace the boomers, with less job security (therefore less consumption/economic growth), and a majority of boomers who will be rolling savings from growth funds to ‘safer’ investments.

In all, fewer workers at lower wages and less income from high boomer wages and investment income to derive taxes from.

Will we tolerate a reversal of social benefits? Let infrastucture decay? Will we tax the high income earners more (the ones who own government)? Hire more police to quell dissent? Blame the Other? Vote for populist rascals?

Citi Zen

Further on the subject of the Exhibition dilemma, perhaps its time to seek out a corporate sponsor to operate the facility. Seems like Calgary Exhibition has the BMO Center, obviously sponsored by BMO (deep pockets). The Ex and/or the City should be actively searching for a corporate sponsor here. They would make the facility profitable, whereas the City has no mandate to show a profit, as the taxpayer backs them on their losses.

Dennis Bremner

As you say Al people are tapped out. Let me give you an actual example of shopping locally vs online. This is not an isolated incident, it is just one example.
I needed 4 “widgets”. The best price I could get here was $1375CAD, GST included. Online it was $624CAD including all taxes (customs. GST etc) and shipping., 2 Day delivery.
I understand the concept of buying power but these were two resellers, one in Lethbridge the other in states. Both businesses were reselling,both businesses have brick and mortar building and the same items, same manufacturer, same stock number in both.
So, would I have purchased these widgets locally if the same reseller here had ordered online from the same company I did and then charged me an extra $100, yes, but if over a 100% markup, the answer will be no all day long! Why? Everyone including me has to make every penny count.

Last edited 1 month ago by Dennis Bremner