My husband is unemployed. We fight about it often. The tension in our house is palpable and ongoing. I sit in a cubicle by myself five mornings a week to try and make some money to pay our bills as my husband collects E.I. Though the job is certainly not terrible by any stretch, I am lonely here and starved for creative collaboration with others who share my need to tell stories. The television and film industry in which I was once able to make a good living is no longer thriving and I honestly don’t know where I fit in to it anymore. It is depressing to think that I will have to choose another career to support my family and perhaps do my life’s work more as a hobby than as something that is a stimulating and invigorating expression in which I am able to share my ideas and gifts with the world through an artistic medium on a professional level. I’m just an ordinary person trying to make my way in life and maybe leave the world a little better off as a result of my having been in it for a while.
So imagine my comfort to hear that Stephen Harper is in my corner! He has emerged from his chauffeur driven car to speak for me, the “ordinary person”! My car is an 8 year old, 2-door Honda Civic and I bump my head every time I lean in to maneuver my ever-growing son into his car seat, which takes up a large portion of the back seat. Though my car is reliable and I am grateful for it each and every day, it was purchased in my days as a single woman and I am not sure how much longer it will serve my newly expanded family. Additionally, we are financially stressed every single month (I’ll spare you the details but the feeling of dread is a running theme as a result) and we are trying to lift our heads above water just to break even. Extras like a bigger family vehicle, a trip to Calgary at Christmas, or even a bathrobe without a necklace of holes littered throughout the collar are luxuries that feel agonizingly unattainable when we are struggling to cover the basics.
But thank God I have the Prime Minister looking out for me as was highlighted yesterday in this news article:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper cast his lot Tuesday with "ordinary, working people" and not with a cultural elite he characterized as government-subsidized whiners. On a day when Conservative cuts to certain arts and culture programs took centre stage on the campaign trail, Harper made an unapologetic appeal to working-class Canadians.
"I think when ordinary working people come home, turn on the TV and see a gala of a bunch of people, you know, at a rich gala all subsidized by taxpayers claiming their subsidies aren't high enough when they know those subsidies have actually gone up - I'm not sure that's something that resonates with ordinary people," Harper said during a campaign stop in Saskatoon.
I don’t know what I find more offensive: That the Prime Minister calls a $45 million cut to Arts programs “subsidies that have actually gone up” (shouldn’t basic math skills be a prerequisite for the leader of a nation?) OR that he then called me a “government-subsidized whiner” OR – and this is a real kick to the face - that a recent comment to this article in the Star from a mother of three stated that she did in fact support the arts in Canada, she just didn’t want to have to pay for them.
I would like to point out here, that I paid for this woman’s maternity leave benefits. As an actor, I pay taxes on any money I make which helps to subsidize the financial needs of other people living in this country. Despite my on-going contributions to Canada’s social systems, I did not receive any maternity leave benefits whatsoever when I had my son last year because I am self-employed. And, more appallingly still, I have also worked several “ordinary, working people” jobs since I was a teenager but because I didn’t meet the strict timeline criteria of when my last “ordinary, working people” job ended – this criteria determines who can receive benefits and when - I was ineligible to receive Mat Leave after I had my son.
SO I HAVE PAID INTO THE E.I. SYSTEM FOR 20 YEARS AND WHEN I NEEDED IT, IT WAS NOT AVAILABLE TO ME.
So Stephen Harper, please do me a favour and don’t speak for me. My life has enough stress in it as it is without you coming in to muck things up any further. I have never lived in an “ivory tower” as you stated I did in your recent Saskatchewan press conference in what was a blatant attempt to relate to those good old country folks over there. I have news for you: those ordinary folks are no different than I am. I am just as ordinary. I am dealing with ordinary circumstances with my ordinary family in my ordinary life.
But I crave the extraordinary. And so, I suspect, do the good folks in the prairies. I know this because that’s where I grew up. And it is my experience that we are, most of us, more similar than we are different. We just want to be happy and to make a good life for ourselves and for our children. And so I must insist that you halt in this terribly manipulative pattern you have of trying to divide us as Canadians where we stand. We all deserve success and happiness in life. And while it certainly isn’t the government’s job to hold our hand and provide us with every tool we need in order to achieve our goals, it would really be nice, Mr. Harper, if you and your government would stop knee-capping us with your nonsensical habit of categorizing and separating the citizens of this country in your efforts to garner support for your backwards policies. It’s embarrassing to watch you pander and we’re not falling for it. We’re smarter than that. We have a reasonable amount of intelligence.
And we deserve a prime minister who exercises a modicum of the same.