Tuesday, October 16, 2007

How The Proud Islamist Voted

Now that I'm sure my Ontario readers have had their fill of Ontario election coverage, here would be my take on the subject.

Voter Turnout

The fact that it was low has been adequately lamented in the mainstream press - apparently the turnout was at a record low of 52.6% of eligible voters. I've always been confused as to why everyone is so certain that this is a bad thing. Clearly, 47.4 of eligible voters in Ontario either don't know enough or don't care enough to vote in the provincial election. Do we want our government to chosen by apathetic, uninformed individuals? Now, the extent of apathy or political ignorance (it's not clear if either was by itself the culprit) isn't ideal, and of course one would hope that the entire populace would take an active, intelligent role in the political process. . . but raising the voter turnout is by no means a reliable indicator that that has happened.

I object to the notion that a high voter turnout is always desirable, especially when the criteria for eligibility are so expansive. It's always struck me as fairly bizarre that we won't let an 18 year old drive on a four lane highway without subjecting him to 2 years probation and 3 separate exams, but that we will let any Joe or Jane with a functioning brain and a sufficiently old birthdate to choose our elected representatives - as if we were so certain that bad government was less dangerous than bad driving.


Of the handful of readers who know me well, ZERO will be surprised. Of those who only know me slightly, more probably would be. I'm not going to go through every aspect of policy, but social justice is probably my number 1 priority when I vote in an election, and since foreign policy isn't really at play in provincial elections, all of my decisions tend to rest on economic policy.

But let's take the minimum wage, to highlight the point. From January 1995 to February of 2007, we've seen an increase from $6.85 to $8.00, for a boost of 16.8%. From 1995 to 2007, Canadian real GDP has gone up by 22.8%, and since Ontario is one of Canada's economic overachievers, we can expect that it would be even higher in Ontario. Those GDP figures are, however, adjusted in price and purchasing-power parity to 2002 US dollars and prices. The minimum wage figures are not adjusted for inflation. The net result of adjusting for inflation? Minimum wage workers in Ontario haven't actually had a wage increase in over 10 years, since the total cost of a basket of goods an services has since gone up by 27%.

In other words, Ontario has been robbing from the poor to give to . . . someone else. Other data tend to suggest that it isn't the middle class. Of the 3 provincial parties, the NDP platform is the most aggressive on this issue - too aggressive, says McGuinty, who says that raising the wage would be a shock to small business.

Now I'm not one of those poverty activists who claims that it is impossible to live on minimum wage. It actually is, if you're a single person, working lots of hours, living in low cost housing and mooching off friends and relatives for as much as possible. One thing is, however, obvious - minimum wage earners aren't savers - they're spenders. They have to be - new shoes for a job interview are always going to be higher on their priority list than an RRSP. Your patronisingly-named "sandwich artist" will probably be more likely to himself patronize the store he works for if a meal won't cost him an hour and a half of work. Here, we're talking about service industries, the main employer of unskilled labour in the province, so the argument that it would precipitate an inflationary spiral is more bogus than usual. I would go so far as to challenge anyone to show me a single instance where an increase in the minimum wage actually hurt the economy.

Of course, I am an Islamist (didn't you notice?), and consequently my beliefs on the regular redistribution of wealth are informed by Islam and an inherent sense of fairness. As Muslim philosopher and poet Allama Iqbal once wrote:

Ut ho mere dunya ke ghareebon ko jagaa dho
Jis kathe se milthi nahiin dhekhan ko hai roti
Us kathe ko har goshe gundum ko jelaa dho!

Stand up, everyone, and make way for the poor!
If there is a field that does not give bread to the field worker,
Then burn every grain, in every corner of that field.

More to follow on MMP.

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