No Art, Thanks, We Can’t Afford It

That seems to sum up the view from the howls of protest over a sculpture being commissioned by Innisfil Hydro for their new head office building. The truth is a lot of people are hurting. I suggested in my last post that people are missing the real issue.

In my mind this controversy is another symptom of the festering injustice of income disparity and inequality. That’s what we really can’t afford. And the problem is global. The crisis situation in Ontario is described in a newspaper article: 

“Forty per cent of those who suffer food insecurity in Canada live in Ontario. A job in the province no longer protects against poverty — a full 10 per cent of those using food banks are gainfully employed. Immigrants, newcomers and other vulnerable groups are over-represented in precarious employment, often working multiple part-time jobs and still not earning enough to make ends meet. Social assistance recipients are living at least 40 per cent below any accepted poverty line …”

But the fact is, there is also a lot of money around – like the $630 billion in ‘dead money’:

 “Statistics Canada said Thursday that private non-financial corporations increased their cash holdings to $630-billion in the first quarter of this year — up from $621-billion at the end of 2013… This accumulation of ‘dead money’ helps explain the lack of business investment despite record corporate profits.”
(Financial Post, June 19, 2014)

 The Occupy movement was angry with the “One Percent” who have since escaped any accounting for the Great Recession. Others are angry at unions, especially public service unions. Everyone seems to be angry with civil servants’ and politicians’ salaries, expense accounts and ‘gold-plated’ pensions. I’ve been encouraged every so often to tear a strip off the members of the provincial Sunshine List who receive $100,000 or more per year.

What’s the solution? Should we – the 60% who own just 11% of total wealth – attack each other and beggar ourselves? Our economic system is not working. “Free enterprise” and “globalization” are not delivering on their promise. Money is like oil in water – it always rises to the top. We rely on our governments to lessen the injustice of this system through social programs but even that is failing. There can only be two approaches to this problem. We can put policies in place to prevent or limit historical levels of greed at the top (like the average $7.9 million/year compensation of Canada’s top 100 CEOs) or push up incomes from the bottom.

So yes, let’s be justifiably angry – about income inequality. It’s the one way to realistically confront the issue of taxation and poverty. Why? Because ‘social services’ (mitigating poverty) is the biggest budgetary expense at the Simcoe County level. (Social Assistance = $93.8 million in 2014) Mayors in the US have formed a task force to address the issue there because “The purpose of cities is to lift up residents and build a community and economy that works for everyone.”

As far as public art is concerned, we deserve to build the best community we possibly can for ourselves. Creating beauty is one of the most basic human instincts since prehistoric times. We can afford what we decide to afford. I hope that Jig Rig will be a lasting inspiration to all young Innisfil residents who aspire to an artistic / creative career.

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