Trouble in Paradise Island, Bahamas
Trouble in Paradise Island, Bahamas

Once, very briefly, my net worth was calculated at more than one million dollars. Together with my ex-husband, we owned three homes, vacationed in the Bahamas and drove a Porsche.

At the peak of my earning curve, I brought in more money in one month than some people earn in an entire year. I had an accountant, an investment advisor on speed-dial, several sub-contractors under my wing and employed multiple members of my family in the day-to-day running of my business.

My children did not lack for anything…except a happy home. Which is, of course, the most important thing.

Our family’s balance sheet looked good on paper, but in real life, we were “in the red.” Cash does not compensate for a lack of empathy. It can’t fix broken relationships and it definitely does not give you the wisdom needed to guide your children through stormy adolescence and into independent lives.

Now, I am divorced. I ride the bus to work, bring my lunch and buy my clothes at a much-loved second hand clothing store. I am not lacking any necessities, but I’m not considered “rich” by most definitions. I’m comfortable with what I have and I don’t have to worry about the basics.

And, I’ve never been happier. I wish this for everyone. I don’t lie awake at night worrying that people can’t vacation in the Bahamas, drive a sportscar and earn millions. I’m not denying that a few people enjoy these kinds of  luxuries and lead happy lives, sheltered from the reality of the rest of the world’s suffering. But, most wealthy people live in fear of losing things and in denial about poverty because they have to tell themselves something to justify their own excess.

Inconveniently, wealth actually reduces your compassion. Research shows people driving luxury vehicles are less likely to slow down for pedestrians. Hidden cameras show rich people stealing from children more frequently than their less well-off counterparts. The reality is that the more you have, the more afraid you are of losing it. This leads to all sorts of shenanigans and narcissistic behaviour.

And on the flip side, poverty in Canada has reached crisis proportions. Taxpayer dollars are being wasted. Research show the costs of poverty at around $70-80 BILLION annually.

This is why extreme wealth disparity makes no sense to anyone. The uber-rich are not better off and certainly, neither are the large numbers of people struggling with poverty. Billionaires are capable of great depths of unhappiness and the poor experience heights of love we can all aspire to. Despite what you’ve been led to believe, excess money is actually not good. It may just as frequently contribute to despair as it does to elation.

Net worth does not equal net value–to your immediate family or to society in general.

Extreme disparities in the distribution of wealth are bad for everyone. The sooner we confront and accept this, the better. Helping people achieve a comfortable level of existence should be a top priority for Canadians.

Also, taxing the rich to subsidize the poor does not significantly inconvenience the affluent, whilst it greatly improves multitudes of the less fortunate.

This is why the latest data on income inequality should be concerning to everyone. Canadian CEO salaries have ballooned by 73 per cent while the average worker’s salary has risen by only six per cent.

It’s time to bring in more progressive taxation. It’s time to acknowledge that the one percent are dragging down the Canadian economy inching us ever closer to chaos and upheaval. It’s time to take poverty reduction seriously.

Let’s work to restore fairness and justice for the majority of Canadians. Starting now.

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