It would seem there is a need to bring a focus to bear on the issue of redistribution of wealth in this country.
Chartered banks now charge as much as $3 to dispense cash at ATM machines even though there can be no corresponding cost to them for doing such a basic computer transaction. Exorbitant service charges are being charged for the most basic services, and branches are being closed and staff terminated — all to enhance quarterly earnings.
Oil company charges for hydrocarbon products are transparently tied to periods of greatest usage, such as gasoline during family vacation season and heating fuel as winter intensifies. Airline flight fees double or more at Christmastime when peak holiday travel occurs.
What ties all of these things together is they are all geared to maximize shareholder returns no matter what the social cost and, even worse, to subsidize multimillion-dollar salaries and bonuses for CEOs and other senior executives. All of this is, of course, at the expense of the populace at large.
On the flip side of the coin, the recent edition of the weekend Telegram contained nine auctions of people’s houses and land due to an apparent inability to pay mortgages. In Ontario, a modest increase of the minimum wage to $14 an hour by the provincial government led to a series of unbelievable attempts by a Tim Hortons franchise to penalize staff by taking away tips and paid breaks in an unprecedented show of greed. For the sake of perspective, it is difficult to buy a steak or small modest roast of beef for $14 these days.
The recently proposed labour agreement between the provincial government and NAPE is being celebrated by groups like the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Newfoundland and Labrador Employers’ Council and the St. John’s Board of Trade because it contains provisions for wage freezes and an end to severance payouts while simultaneously being trashed because it has a no layoff clause.
This state of affairs is driving many citizens into the ground as the gap between haves and have-nots continues to expand. It is obvious that something has to be done to address economic circumstances in this country, especially in Newfoundland and Labrador, however this burden cannot all be lumped on the general public only — businesses, CEOs and shareholders have to shoulder a proportionate share of the burden, as well. To whom much has been given much should, indeed, be expected.
Before a flood of crocodile tears from the business leaders and CEOs about the pressures and taxes on their collective windfall ensues, I would wager that if we could see how they live, that should set the record straight.
There has to be a redistribution of wealth in our country such that employees are able to earn a respectable living and business people are able to realize a reasonable rate of return on their investment(s). There has, in other words, to be a balance if the potential in our country is to be reached.