Part YYY-001 April 27, 2020

I will be updating the content of this entire blog over the next few weeks, filling in the missing parts of the timeline and deleting some opinions. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted some of the holes in our social safety net; others are not so well reported. This blog will be a well documented account of the difficulties a tenant in Ontario faces in holding a landlord accountable for the condition of his rental accommodations and his behavior. A landlord and his agents (at least in this case), apparently has the support of Hamilton Police Services and Municipal Law Enforcement, can commit perjury, criminal harassment, assault, criminal mischief, public mischief and forgery with {so far} impunity, and waste enormous amounts of public resources by manipulating those {allegedly} impartial agencies.

The opening of this story features a Municipal Law Enforcement supervisor (in uniform) who is so high she can’t speak coherently, a 26 year veteran of the Hamilton Police Services who counsels my ex-landlord to commit an indictable offence (on camera), a city Councillor (Jason Farr, Ward 3) whose sole concern is for the “taxpayer” (and a hearty “F*ck you” to the mere citizen) and it goes downhill from there.

It’s a fucked up situation that happens to highlight a problem that is widespread but not widely reported.

However, today’s rant was inspired by a full page advertisement |I noticed earlier this week (Wednesday, April 22, 2020 page A7 of the print edition), in the Hamilton Spectator. See below:

The photo isn’t the best, but you get the idea. It’s a full page advertisement expressing the support of The Hamilton Spectator for local business, which has been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic (exactly how hard, nobody knows yet. But it’s hurting, no doubt abut that).

The text follows;

LOCAL BUSINESS MATTERS

OUR BUSINESS IS HELPING LOCAL BUSINESS

Local businesses are the engine of our economy, the anchors of our communities and the first place of work for millions of young Canadians and new Canadians. Sadly, most news coverage fails to reflect this reality; with businesses on Bay Street, not Main Street grabbing most of the headlines.

With reporters in more than thirty communities across Ontario, we know that local businesses have borne the brunt of this recent pandemic. Hit with the one-two punch of low or no consumer demand and difficulties accessing government funding, many small businesses have been forced to close and many more are fighting to stay afloat. This is our commitment to the businesses in our communities:

  1. WE WILL VOICE YOUR CONCERNS – Our reporters are telling the stories of how this crisis is affecting local businesses. Working with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business we have advocated for more financial aide for small and medium sized companies. At the time of printing, the Canadian government had delivered the most generous wage package for small business across all G7 countries.
  2. WE WILL HELP YOU KEEP THE DOORS OPEN – Our #togetherlocal helps readers support businesses in their local community with savings up to 50% on gift certificates. We are also actively supporting local food businesses by letting readers know which ones are keeping their doors open for takeout and delivery. Our marketing consultants are working with small businesses helping them find ways of staying connected to their customers.
  3. WE WILL HELP YOU NAVIGATE THE SYSTEM – We are devoting more of our coverage to identifying the problems faced by local business owners. And we are celebrating the creativity of small business owners who have reinvented themselves in the face of adversity.
  4. WE WILL TELL YOUR STORIES – Local businesses are run by family, friends and neighbours. Like the young shop owner, woken up at 3 am, about a break-in at her clothing store in the east end. Or the hard working restaurateur, owner of six businesses, and boss to 30, recently forced to lay off 20 of them. We report on their struggles, ambitions and realities.

The Hamilton Spectator

Like local journalism, local business both strengthens and serves the communities it operates in. That’s why we have made it our business, to help local business, stay on its feet.

This advertisement bothered me, and it took awhile to articulate why, exactly.

It seems to state that The Hamilton Spectator will be focusing reporting and efforts to inform the public from the perspective of business. There is a persistent theme of ‘What’s good for business is good for everybody’ running through the copy in this advertisement. There is a very emotional appeal to support local business interests.

It’s a familiar pitch to anyone who follows mainstream media for the last few years. It’s all about the “taxpayer” and the right to make a buck, even if the way you do it causes your neighbors harm. The Spectator has become an unabashed cheerleader for business interests in the last few years; I just didn’t expect to see it stated baldly in a full page advertisement.

And some of this ad copy is downright annoying. For example, “we know that local businesses have borne the brunt of this recent pandemic”. I really have to wonder what the writer had in mind when he or she wrote these words, because as far as I can tell the “brunt” of this pandemic has been borne by residents and staff at local long term care facilities and hospitals.

For the past few decades, it has been ‘good for business’ for long term care facilities to hire part time staff. Based on my (purely anecdotal) life experience, PSW’s are low paid, treated a notch above slave labour by many employers and have two or three part time jobs. There’s usually one or two private clients on the side in the mix. When it takes two or three part time jobs to make a living wage, and your rent alone is 40% or more of that living wage (as is the case in downtown Hamilton), you work two or three jobs. Hiring labour on an “as needed” basis is good for business. PSW’s are a dime a dozen. Why keep them on staff full time?

The answer to that last question should be obvious by now. What was ‘good for business’ turned out to be very bad for for residents of long term care and their families and health care workers (and their families physically isolated from them).

To my amazement, our premiere, Doug Ford, sounds a lot less like a cheerleader for laissez-faire capitalism these days. That was even before his 95 year old mother-in-law (a resident of long term care) tested positive for COVID-19. Ford is shaping up as a capable leader (I suspect mostly because he has, and is following, competent medical advise…but at least he’s enough of a leader to know when he’s out of his depth, and not enough of a sociopath to think he knows better than the experts). Or, maybe he’s enough of a populist politician to understand that rooting for the interests of business might not sit too well with the average voter right now. I guess the Hamilton Spectator is picking up the slack, leading the cheers for business.

Isn’t it time somebody started talking about what’s good for the citizens instead?

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