Dispatch from South of the Border: The Uncivil War: A Health Advocate’s Perspective

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Dispatch from South of the Border: The Uncivil War: A Health Advocate’s Perspective
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About the Author

Gary J. Machan

Gary J. Machan

Gary Machan serves on the Community Advisory Research Committee for the Canadian Index of Wellbeing. Through the course of his career he has received several provincial awards including the 2nd Stage of Medicare, Ontario Tobacco Network Innovation Award for Excellence, and Food Champion Award. In addition, Mr. Machan is an associate with the Centre for Inner Freedom where his work was featured by Tom Harpur in his best selling book ‘Finding the Still Point’.

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Having just returned from a week in Florida, at a time that unbeknownst to us coincided with the Florida leadership primaries, never did I ever think I would see America on the cusp of major revolutionary change – at least not in my lifetime. Protests reminiscent of the 1960’s; the establishment clearly having lost the moral authority to lead.

While in no way condoning the conduct of Donald Trump, it is important to understand that his mercurial rise would never have been possible had it not been for a growing number of Americans whose feelings of betrayal have now reached the tipping point. And, in particular, amongst the middle class which is thinning and shrinking faster than the arctic ice shield.

The United States does afterall have the highest level of income inequality of any industrialized nation. And not just that, it has continued to grow, even under the Obama administration. Hence, the Democrats are hardly in a position to be throwing stones, despite Hillary Clinton’s “I feel your pain” shtick.

Granted, some of you might be thinking by now, what does the growing gap between the superrich and everyone else have to do with health and wellbeing?

Short answer: a lot. There is now ample research demonstrating that income inequality is the single most powerful determinant of individual and community health outcomes. It has a profound impact on everything from mental health, obesity levels, to trust in public institutions and crime rates. Quite truly, there is little it doesn’t effect.

Of note, even the rich lose out, since their individual health status is roughly on par with poor people in countries where there is less income inequality. Ergo, there are no winners. Flipped into a positive, introducing policies that engender greater levels of equality is better for everyone.

Where does Oakville stand when it comes to income inequality?

On balance, Oakville is in pretty good shape for the simple reason that so many of its residents fall in the top three income quintiles. Mapped out, what one would see is the highest income bracket is located in East Oakville, high income earners in North Oakville, and the middle class in West Oakville.

This isn’t to suggest that poverty isn’t an issue, or that Oakville wouldn’t benefit greatly by bringing into effect basic income supports such as being discussed by the Wynne government. Indeed, this would do much to support the service sector, employers and employees alike, not to mention make a serious dent in reducing health care, ambulance, and police costs.

Regardless, the reality is such that what is transpiring south of the border will eventually have a profound impact on Canada. A seismic shift is occurring whereby people are finally waking up from the trance that economic growth necessarily equals happiness and wellbeing. Free trade is anything but free. Reaganomics is dead. So too will be tepid liberalism.


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