We must stop treating the cost of living crisis as a failure of management. This is effectively a national emergency and an indictment of the status quo. My constituents are rationally looking for real systemic change and not just better management of the economy. The cost of living crisis is fueled by the monopolization of the energy sector by private companies and inflation, caused not by stagnant wages but by excess profits and supply problems. Like the 2008 banking crisis, this is a man-made disaster and we can choose how we respond to it.
In Edmonton, I see the human consequences of this crisis every day; food banks already running out of food, unable to keep up with demand; full-time working parents unable to feed themselves and their children; families falling further and further behind on their rent with the threat of homelessness constantly on the horizon. Before the cost of living crisis, there were parts of my riding where more than half of the children lived in poverty. Now those numbers are set to increase.
The picture is similar in much of the country. Ordinary people who have done everything right find themselves pushed into poverty. Squeezed on one side by ruthless corporations and unsupported on the other by a state that the Conservatives have spent 12 years dismantling. People have followed the rules and are suffering anyway. The social contract is broken.
After decades of an economic consensus that has fundamentally failed, the people I talk to on the doorstep aren’t looking for better management of the status quo. They want real change. They found that economic growth, although sluggish, has not translated into higher wages and better living standards. After being ripped off for decades by private companies, they know that the privatization of essential services tends to benefit the millionaire owners of these organizations and not the consumers. They know the status quo is not working for them.
As a party, we must not let this moment pass. It is crucial that we understand that we are at an inflection point where public attitudes have fundamentally changed. It’s not 1997, and it’s certainly not 2010. The current wave of strikes enjoys broad public support. by YouGov last poll shows its support for the return of energy companies to the public sector at 60% with only 13% opposed. The language of austerity has largely lost its value as austerity itself has failed. State intervention, triggered by the pandemic, was and still is hugely popular.
This is why ordinary working people, represented by the Labor Party, are taking it upon themselves to organize and force change. From a summer of strikes to a consumer strike against energy prices, the country’s mood is changing.
Unless Labor responds to this appetite for real change, we risk being left behind. Simply being an alternative to government is not enough. My constituents don’t just want a change of government, they want a complete change. End of the privatization of essential services. Real solutions to working poverty. Fewer sound bites and more politics.
After the 2008 recession, voters watched as banks were bailed out while ordinary people suffered. Now the government is bailing out the bankrupt energy sector while millions choose between eating and heating. Unless we make it clear that the experiment in privatizing our energy sector has failed, we risk fueling the same cynicism that pervaded the electorate after 2008. Today, voters are faced with energy bills they cannot afford to pay in October, and no alternative is presented to them. It’s not good enough. We need to do more than manage the existing broken system – we need to show voters that we mean to change it.
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