Food banks help the donor, but don't fix the problem: professor
A university professor in Nova Scotia says while turkey drives and food banks make the donors feel good — they don't fix a much larger problem of helping the poor.
Judy Haiven, who teaches in the Management Department at the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary's University, is also the chair of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives in Nova Scotia.
Haiven took exception earlier this year when she heard CBC Radio's Sunday Edition rebroadcast remarks on giving socks for the homeless, with host Michael Enright.
Haiven then felt compelled to write a response to the interview, and posted her article on the website, Media Co-op.
"After the Christmas rush here in Halifax, I began to think, 'What is it that people really need who are poor?' They don't need socks, they don't need a few more bus tickets so they can go to a doctor's appointment," Haiven told On the Go host Ted Blades this week.
"It made me cringe, because leaving food for the food bank makes us middle-class people feel good. It's not to say the food banks don't need food — but where and when and how is it going end? We seldom think of that."
Haiven maintains that what's needed instead is a guaranteed annual wage.
"Or a living wage. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives recommended a living wage of about $20 a hour. But certainly, a living wage is what they need, not hand-outs," she said.
Guaranteed annual income
Haiven said she doesn't see anything wrong with donating turkeys and tinned goods at Christmas, but believes that charity and gifts are different "than arranging for people to be self-sufficient."
She said in general, people want to work, and make a contribution to society.
"They want to not be humiliated, they want to hold their heads up, they want to think they're making a contribution for themselves and their families — and we don't give them a chance," Haiven said.
"The only way in our society that we can do that is by giving people a guaranteed annual income if they can't work. And a lot of people on assistance can't work because of physical or mental problems that they have, or maybe they have children and they can't be out in the workforce for as many hours as required."
They don't need socks, they don't need a few more bus tickets so they can go to a doctor's appointment.- Judy Haiven
Haiven said one of the problems is that higher-income earners don't pay enough tax.
"The upper middle class, or the people in the one or five per cent of the top income earners, have got to start paying more taxes, that's for sure," said Haiven.
"Growing up in the 1950s, richer people were paying a far higher percentage of their income in taxes than they are today. That's a real problem for us — we don't have enough people paying high taxes."