If you pull up the census from 2016, it is evident that low-income families make up a majority on the Island. Half of the families live under the poverty line, with a devastating number of 845 families making under $5,000 a year. Let that sink in.
And yet, the people on mass have not revolted. When your brain is preoccupied with getting the next meal to your family and keeping the electricity on, there is little time for getting involved with politics. And, the politicians and bureaucrats make well above the poverty line – their affluence is a form of power that can be seen as unattainable by the majority of Islanders living in poverty.
I am here to talk about the unseen and dismissed strength in the communities who live under the poverty line. The key word there is community. It is the communities that bring hope, love, comradery, sharing and growth to the Island – this island that has some of the highest rates of volunteers in Canada. Our small towns are filled with pancake breakfasts, legion dances and card nights. Our fundraisers and community events are packed and never ending all year long across every small town. This is my demographic. Their priorities are the same as my family’s – environment, growing food, playing games, feeling passionate and happy in our work, and feeling the joy it is to give back to the community. Doing what we love.
How are we, as the majority demographic on the Island, to make political change when the cards are so stacked against us? We are not seen or heard, we’re labelled and talked about only with mentions of crime and abuses and not for what really defines us in our communities. We have a chance to vote in the referendum for a proportional system, a system that could allow for more minority coalition governments. The majority governments delivered by first-past-the-post are labelled by the rich as “safe” – safe to keep money and power flowing in one direction. Safe to keep contracts on infrastructure to only go to the same companies. Safe from influence of the majority of Islanders who would change so much if only there were a change in whose voices are ‘allowed’ to be heard.
I got in some anti-MMP propaganda in the mail yesterday, as I’m sure all Islanders did. It was a large glossy sheet, the group had social media all set up, and a campaign heavy on fear mongering, and low on facts and education. As a community organizer, I have printed off many materials, I know how much it costs to print thousands of high gloss sheets. It’s not something I could afford to do. Volunteers alone do not run multi-platform social media accounts, marketers do. And yet, proper logic and references to back up your claims are hard to come by? This is propaganda designed by a ruling minority, for a majority that they imagine to be simple and illiterate. Newsflash: We aren’t fools. We know propaganda when we see it.
It will be up to each individual to decide if a change in the political air in P.E.I. is coming. We can only hope that decision comes from a place of consideration of what makes us up, our diverse communities who happily come together in every area of society. A future could be where those strong, diplomatic, community-driven traits are represented in our legislative assembly. Working together across the Island, we could get our roads back into shape, corruption out of our governing bodies, schools back in our rural communities, addiction facilities established and so much more. We know that we could drive back the all-consuming problems of a profit driven world. Community is where we will find answers to the problems of our day. It is time to reclaim the strength that already exists and allow our communities to be truly represented in the political arena. I’m voting ‘Yes’ for MMP.
Jessica MacFadzen-Reid, Summerside.