I went to the five-party debate on Poverty and Inequality in downtown Ottawa on Monday evening.
The most interesting statement was the one made by the Empty Chair, which is where the Conservative Party representative would have sat had the Conservative Party considered poverty important enough to at least show up and feign some interest in it.
The Empty Chair said Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party do not believe poverty is even worth talking about.
If you’re living in poverty, poverty becomes the single most important thing in your world because it shapes and limits virtually everything else. It creates anxiety and fear and isolation and despair. It exacerbates other problems, like depression and illness. It humbles you and hobbles you.
The Empty Chair said Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party see poverty as a fringe issue, of little interest to anybody who matters to them.
Poverty does not attack randomly. It follows distinct patterns. The following groups are always over-represented in Canada’s underclass: single parents, young families, children, students, people with disabilities, recent immigrants, visible minorities, people living alone, elderly widows, low-wage workers and Aboriginals.
The Empty Chair said these are the people Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party consider irrelevant.
In addition to those who are already poor, many middle-class Canadians fear losing economic ground and sliding into poverty. And, given the alarming state of the economy, it’s a pretty safe bet that more middle-class Canadians will become poor over the next couple of years.
The Empty Chair said Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party are either oblivious or indifferent to fears of economic vulnerability among Canadians.
At first I thought it was insulting and arrogant of them to snub this debate. But after some sober reflection, I realized the Conservatives could not possibly have chosen a better representative to send to the Poverty and Inequality Debate. The Empty Chair spoke volumes; we got the message loud and clear.
On October 14th, we get the last word. Vote loud and clear.