Finally back on Terra firma…or Terra Australis as the case maybe, and I’m still suffering from land sickness a bit, for those who don’t know what land sickness is, it’s essentially the opposite to sea sickness, when you rock around a lot on a boat, when you get back to shore you continue to rock around even though obviously the ground isn’t moving…but I digress somewhat because now I’m safe again I wanted to share some thoughts on Toronto. I know in the video with Loren I mentioned my dislike of Canada, but in retrospect that was probably unfair in the same way judging a city in Australia as being an example of the whole country would be unfair, but I will say this: Toronto beggars belief, and I mean that literally.
In all my time away in the last 2 weeks, the only time I felt really, really unsafe was in Toronto. The beggars are unbelievable. Sure, I saw homeless people in New York, but they were never threatening, and they seemed content (probably the wrong word) in being homeless quitely. In Toronto, the beggars were not only everywhere, but they were agressive as well. “Can you spare a quarter, sir”, “Spare change”, “I need to feed my family” were probably the most common phrases I heard being relayed to me the whole time I was in Canada (I should have responded with, do you have a job? 🙂 ). I was also offered drugs in Canada, and I was also approached by prostitutes. Now without sounding racist, it’s interesting to note one thing about Toronto’s beggars: they are all literally white. Despite the fact the city was quite obviously multicultural, I never once saw an African American or Asian beggar. Indeed, there were plenty of African American and Asian people in jobs….but none I saw who were begging.
Now a casual reader might say: well, you weren’t in a good part of Toronto, and sure, the first time I was there I was in York (East Airport)…and yet, I didn’t see any beggars in the suburbs, indeed although I managed to walk through some pretty depressing areas, no beggars there. The beggars are all in town. My return leg in Toronto saw me at the Ramada, about a block and a bit from the Eaton Centre, near Younge Street, the prime entertainment area of the city….and the beggars were everywhere. Walk out of any enterance of the Eaton Centre, and they were there…fast food restuarant..beggars…The Paramount Cinema’s on the other side of town, beggars. Outside the Canada Trust building opposite Union Station: beggars. Beggars everywhere, morning, noon and night, but more distrurbing for me perhaps: beggars in your face. And the police seem to do nothing about it.
Which I guess raises the question: if Canada is suppose to be this socialist utopia where everyone is taken care off, why is it that I’d think that Toronto has more beggars per square kilometre than probably just about any city in the Western World…and I’d probably note, at least 100x more per square metre than even New York? Easy: socialism doesn’t work. Sure, Canadians get free health care, but clearly high taxes kill incentives to work, or for that matter for job creation. Toronto’s unemployment rate is roughly 6.5% from the figure I could find, which for them is particularly low, but not really very low if you compare it to say Australia at 4.6%, or even Western Australia at 3.4% (the suburb I live in has an unemployment rate of 1.2%). I’m not sure how the social security system works in Canada, but given the number of people begging I’d guess that it doesn’t work very well. High taxes obviously aren’t providing an adequate social security net, while at the same time they stiffle enterprise.
I suppose though it would be unfair of my not to compare and contrast this to the United States. Lower unemployment rates, yet no social security support or free health care…and a whole pile of people getting paid sweet f*ck all in terms of wages, and yet it still works better than the stiffling socialism you find in Canada. Enterprise is big in the States. Nothing was really big in Toronto.
From an Australian perspective, I guess we’re on a good thing, because we’re somewhere in between the two. I know some American’s who are fond of saying that Australia is a socialist country, but having been to Canada and seen the hand that socialism deals, nothing could be further from the truth. The challenge for todays and tomorrows leaders in Australia is maintaining the balance. Rich nations should look after those who are in need, but also need to balance this with regulations and taxations that encourage enterprise at the same time. This paradox will be the challenge of Australian leaders throughout the 21st century.
We are the lucky country, and I am glad to be home….and there isn’t one street beggar within at least 200kms 🙂