Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Conteplating the Realities of the Census; Poverty and the World cup

A couple of weeks ago, we received a census form "2006 Census" in our mail box. I forgot about the form until this morning when we woke up to bulletin announcements reminding us, the absent minded, that today is the day to stand up and be counted, or sit down and fill out an on-line form at I have no beef with the census thing, I do remember with utter clarity, the census in Uganda and Tanzania which were detailed in information extraction. This one asks a few questions that seem like introductory queries. I am aware of the benefits of a census. I know it is a useful tool for governments (both federal & provincial), planners, demographers, activists, marketers, social scientists et al. but the way this is being done, more Hamiltonians will find themselves slipping down below the poverty line with no changes in our respective balance sheets.

I am not being an alarmist but the fact that questionnaires in the booklet omit features of our finances is a big concern because it would seem like Statistics Canada is more interested in population growth only. Hamilton is certain to be well over the 500,000 population threshold which is the dividing mile mark used by Statistics Canada to calculate the Low-Income-Cut-Offs (LICO) which to them is an indicator of relative poverty.

Population growth has been at its highest for three years now owing to the city's amalgamation and Toronto's mean project of enticing welfare recipients to move to a more "cheaper and friendly" city. However, the problem is that LICO assumes that living costs generally increase with population density which means that with Hamilton's population surpassing the mile mark, we will be lumped in with our richer and more expensive cousins like Toronto, and that's where I shudder! Hamilton's poverty line, by Statistics Canada's estimation, will likely increase from $12,000 to $30,000 per annum which in my opinion is unfair since the two poverty rates would be based on different baselines, and further still, will be insensitive to the rampant cost of living changes. That's why a terrible thought has crossed my mind, I should forget completely that I ever received the census booklet and yes I missed the bulletins. But again, who losses? I guess its me!

Come to think about it, these misrepresentations would benefit us in our struggle for the alleviation of actual poverty and equal opportunities. Hamilton has a high number of single mothers struggling with the daily economics of survival. Most of whom suppliment their meagre incomes with social assistance which in itself is designed to keep them in this system of financial bondage. They have to meet the rental costs (averaging $645.00@ month), statutory and utility bills, groceries, medication, day care costs, cloths, transportation et al. despite financial handicaps. According to the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton, 81% of single mothers live in poverty which translates to child poverty and high levels of school drop outs, for a hungry child has different needs to satisfy than attending class. Single mothers are in this predicament because of the untold costs and hardships of raising a child. They often have to take up part time jobs and less paying jobs in order to have more time with their children.

Equally important is the increasing number of immigrants under the poverty line. Skilled new Immigrants come over here (often lured in by seemingly benevolent Canadian embassies) with high expectations of new lives and jobs in their respective professions, but the system frustrates them. They face an uphill battle finding work in their fields owing to stereotyping such as the belief that overseas qualifications are either insufficient, of low standard or fake; no Canadian experience is a common statement voiced by most employers, plus numerous barriers to going back to school to re-qualify or learn new skills. All that coupled with the huge burden of having kids in Canada pushes them to oblivion. Medical doctors, engineers et al. from around the globe are trapped in this Canadian quagmire of discrimination and hypocrisy and left at the feet of under-employment like cab driving, housekeepers et al. Perhaps the census will do good and help policy makers rectify the social desparity in our country and perhaps my active participation maybe what will be needed to overwhelm the mile mark. Maybe and maybe God will listen and perform a miracle through this census. To that I pray, AMEN.

The other day we went to the inauguration of Toronto FC, Hamilton Chapter in Stoneycreek. You see, a new MLS team was born and will be stationed at the Exhibition Place Stadium located by the beaches of Lake Ontario off the Hamilton bound Q.E.W and south of Toronto downtown. This reminded me of the world cup, I gatta go to factory direct liquidators to find me a DVD recorder as my TiVo took a leave of absence and I am told it will cost more in repairs than the price of a DVD recorder. I am thinking Ivory Coast and Ghana are going to make some noise and perhaps Tunisia. Togo and Angola should not tremble, I am praying for you to have a good tour of Europe and hey take some pictures of all the tourist attractions in Germany. Kidding aside, my money is on the hosts, England and Brazil.

Camila, Nada; The 'Nshutis' of hamony in a creative imagination
of a soccer ball. Welcome Toronto FC

Togo; The tourists

Togo's Sheyi Adebayor; I hope he saves Africa's face

Michael Essen; Ghana's midfield maestro

Ghana's national team in celebration

Ghananian players posing at the Varzea Stadium in Ghana

Didier Drogba Ivory Coast's sniper

Hatem Trabelsi; Tunisia's defensive auditor

Angola's national team in jubilation

With the world cup 2006 anticipation and the census on-line forms to fill, I fizzle out like the bagabos from Angola.