Economic class is absent when going to the grocery store or filling up gas in a vehicle. Walking through your neighbourhood, taking the LRT, and all the activities you choose to focus your mental and physical energy on, fail to provoke any meaningful sense of economic class. Instead, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, religion, and other intersectional identities overwhelm our senses. Even as a racialized woman, I struggle to disconnect from the highly touted liberal model of individuality.
What happens when we turn inwards? What happens when our households, families, and occupations are only ours? During hyper-individualization, we lose the sense of collectivity, the economic class of people we seldom reflect on. Instead of thinking of unhoused people as neighbours, one starts thinking of them as a burden. Our governments and institutions strongly impact how we think and reflect on our Edmonton neighbourhoods.
Inflation and Misinformation
As Canada steers towards a path of increasing unaffordability and crises, the lowest economical class is suffering. Edmontonians feel the severity of the mismanaged and corrupt governments and corporations from cutting food costs, selling their car, or moving to a low-income neighbourhood. Not only does the threat of inflation cause personal changes in people’s lives, but it swells into stress, helplessness, and despair. With no clear information, people are increasingly demoralized from the hope of affording to live comfortably.
Misinformation on Canada’s cost of living crisis strongly influences how we respond to unaffordability. All federal political parties have their tale. The Conservatives blame the Liberals, the Liberals blame the Conservatives, and the New Democrats blame the “rich.” In addition to this political theatre, social and news media publish thousands of articles, research studies, and opinion pieces daily that emphasize a new origin of inflation. As per the liberal-democratic model of individualism, the overwhelming majority of people tend to blame each other.
By blaming our neighbours and community members, we continue the legacy of atomization in our communities. Especially since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, comments like “go back to your home country” and the like are seamlessly espoused to racialized Edmontonians on the street. In blacking (im)migrants, certainly racialized ones, white Edmontonians detract from the governments and corporations perpetuating the cost of living crisis. In reality, a typical, lower-middle-income Edmontonian has more in common with an unhoused person than a millionaire.
Because governments and corporations monopolize, we have little to no capacity to reform the cost of living. We seldom get to speak with the top-level bureaucrats and executives regulating our industries. Accordingly, our housed and unhoused neighbours are not our enemies. They are doing their best to survive.
One example of individualized and reactive political responses is the announcement that the Valley Line LRT would be delayed. At the most superficial level, Edmontonians quickly blame this profound incompetence on Mayor Amarjeet Sohi. Even though Mayor Sohi was sworn in as recently as October 2021, as well as his decades-long bus driving experience, he is an easy target because he is the supposed figurehead of the city. Further, Mayor Sohi’s race builds on existing people’s prejudice, making people quickly deem him an inexperienced and ineffective bureaucrat.
Look at the Source
Moving beyond the callous jabs at Mayor Sohi, Edmontonians need to look at the source of the issue. At its core, the Edmonton Transit System (ETS) and its Amalgamated Transit Union are mismanaged and borderline corrupt; such statements result from explicit racial discrimination, mismanagement of public funds, misappropriation of taxpayer money, and the prolonging of meaningless bureaucratic paperwork. As a result, instead of making our city’s transit more accessible and affordable, we see a delayed LRT project and, paradoxically, the successful widening of multiple roads such as the Anthony Henday and Terwillegar Drive.
Mobilizing your Economic Class
However, what happens when a rally is not enough? Change cannot and will not happen overnight. The subsequent successes of a rally will emerge only over a prolonged period in which the government feels it cannot stay silent on the crisis. Therefore, mutual aid is another significant way to support your community members during the cost of living situation. Mutual aid emerges from the collective understanding that, as human beings, we have inherent needs that must be satisfied by producing enough cash to cover food, water, housing, hygiene, and other necessities.