What is the Occupy movement all about? Joe Flaherty would have you believe we have no reasons to protest, that all is ok in Canada. The Occupy movement does seem incoherent and without consensus but is it really all about a single point issue? Do Canadians really need a hook to hang their hat on?
Walking into the tiny camp and inviting myself into the conversations, I realize it’s not about a single issue at all, it’s about creating political dialogue when politicians want you to feel complacent, it’s about… well, I’ll let the people do the talking… passersby and the unhappy campers:
Mr. Wikman (passerby): “I’m a senior. My wife and I don’t make enough to pay income tax. They say we’ll give you income tax breaks. What good are they? They talk about how we are prospering. The increase in my house insurance is more than the increase in my pension. So where am I benefitting as a senior? The little guy has to stand up against the big cat.”
Cloudsley (passerby): “One of the things I was going to say about this. This isn’t just about the poor per se. This is also about the middle class in that wages haven’t gone up in proportion to the cost of living. A house in the 1970’s, you could buy a house here in Regina for 20-25 grand and the average family income in the 1970’s was about 30 grand. Today the average family income in Saskatchewan is 35 grand. The house costs 350 thousand dollars. I mean it’s insane the way things have changed and the way wealth has concentrated itself into the hands of a tiny percentage of the population. The wages and the populace haven’t really gained from the economic boom that we’ve had in the last 30 years… I’ve got a good job. I make a good salary, I make above average income in Saskatchewan but I can’t afford a house here.”
Peter Seel (Unhappy Camper): “We are putting out that it’s 99% against the 1%, the people (walking by) are realizing that it’s not just a bunch of bums on the street. It’s not like we are just there for a place to stay. They actually see what we are trying to. Since it is 99% of the world there are so many with us. There are people with good jobs who are staying here. Half of the people in the park have jobs or school. We are putting a lot of awareness out and people are responding well.”
So far the City of Regina has allowed the protesters to stay in Victoria Park but why make martyrs of them when the impending winter cold will drive them out soon enough? Will their strong convictions withstand a Saskatchewan winter? Especially the way the wind rips through the corridors of downtown buildings? We shall see.