“There’s too much poverty in Scarborough,” said John Cartwright, president of the Toronto and York Region District Labour Council (TYRDLC). “There are too many low wages in the area.”
“We saw the Metcalf report that John Stapleton had done and he identified the rise of poverty in Toronto and guess where the biggest rise was, in Scarborough,” Cartwright said.
The George Cedric Metcalf Charitable Foundation aims to support people and organizations that are building communities. They come out with an annual report and have worked with Statistics Canada to map the areas of poverty in Toronto. The goal of the research was to find out who the working poor were in Toronto and where they lived.
The problem, according to Cartwright, is that too many jobs are being outsourced.
“Those companies that are now cleaning the police stations are paying 10 dollars and 59 cents an hour. You can’t raise a family on that money,” he said. “Before, it was a living wage. It was less than the average wage in Toronto but at least it was a livable wage.”
Cleaning jobs are being outsourced at City Hall, police stations and the TTC.
“When people come from around the world to make a better life for their family as my parents did in 1950, for many of us [immigrants], the door into a decent quality of life was manufacturing,” Cartwright said. “All along the Golden Mile. All along east Scarborough. Yes, it was kind of hard and boring work but at least you got a decent wage and some benefits and you could raise your kids and have enough money to send them so school.”
But those days are gone, Cartwright says. Companies don’t want to pay their employees benefits anymore.
Cartwright recalls being on the picket line at the CTV headquarters five years ago. He was there because 29 cleaners were fired shortly after unionizing.
“CTV found out that the cleaning company had unionized and soon they terminated the lease contract. They were worried that those cleaners might get benefits rather than working for minimum wage with no benefits,” he said. “That’s really quite a terrible snapshot of Scarborough.”
The situation is not unique to Scarborough, said Paul Bocking, a high school teacher and director and producer of 2 Revolución, a film about the effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on Mexican workers.
“It’s important that we draw these connections between what’s happening on the global level, what’s happening somewhere else, far away, south of border to Mexico and how that affects us in Canada,” Bocking said.
The film is about how NAFTA and free trade has affected Mexican workers and their communities in a negative way.
“Globalization has been very much in our business, doing whatever it felt like it needed to maximize their return on investment,” Cartwright said.
Globalization is not a recent development, as some people believe.
“Some would say that corporate globalization started in 1602 when the first joint stock company was chartered in the world. And that was the Dutch East India Company,” Cartwright said, adding that at the time the company had the right to take over new land and enslave its people to work for the company.
But historically, people have fought and been granted many rights.
“Decade after decade, century after century, the tension in our world has been between the majority of humankind, the 99 per cent if you want to put it that way, restricting the ability of the one per cent to make money however they saw fit,” Cartwright said.