Former Mayor of Toronto John Sewell’s first attempt to bring the issue of economic inequality to a public forum did not go as planned when the discussion revealed the fault lines between age groups on Jan.24 at the Trinity St.Paul Centre.
“We want to begin a public discussion about what we can do and what should be done about economic inequality,” said Sewell.
“We think there is a wide spread recognition that there are vast disparities of wealth and income in our society and that has lead to the coverage received by the Occupy Wall Street movement and the fact that it has spread to many, many cities, not just in Canada, but around the world.”
Ideas such as a progressive tax system, business entertainment tax and taxing inheritance over $1.5 million were discussed by guest speakers Linda McQuaig and Ed Waitzer. The discussion quickly changed focus as older citizens in attendance preached that the youth of society are not standing up for their economic rights; a statement Waitzer – the former vice president of the Toronto Stock Exchange – agreed with.
“We desperately need a popular youth movement, the demographics are all against them and they did not show up here,” said Waitzer.
“There really should be a youth political party at this stage and I’m bewildered it hasn’t happened.”
“I want to quickly point out I did an event similar to this one last week organized by the Occupy Wall Street ‘young people’ and it was fabulous,” said McQuaig, an author and writer for the Toronto Star.
“It was packed with youth, so I don’t understand this, because they are out there standing up for what they believe in.”
The lecture comes on the heels of Occupy camps forcefully being shut down by police in Oakland and Washington, camps comprised mainly of youth.
The supposed lack of young people standing up for economic inequality at the lecture bothered Katherine Mettler, who writes policies for the Government of Ontario.
“In regards to youth participation, we keep talking about the lack of young people here, the lack of young people who come out to vote; I think one of the problems is that we no longer feel our voices are being heard and that no one is listening, that we lack a government, a democracy that truly represents the people who are living in this country,” said Mettler.
“Frankly I don’t like where the tax dollars are going now, one of the things we need to do is create change in order to adjust participation.”
Written for: Fundamentals of Reporting at George Brown College in Toronto
Instructor: Vernon Clement Jones