The announcement by PC Ontario to cancel the Basic Income project has evoked heated oppositions, prompting accusations that the "callous cancellation" throws those struggling with financial hardships under the bus. Amid widespread criticisms over the government’s move, many established immigrants --who came to Canada penniless-- believe that the solution to poverty hinges on hardworking and fiscal prudence, rather than government largesse.
Chinese immigrants set up an excellent example for Canadians to achieve financial success. While they generally suffer poverty in Canada as newcomers, they have turned things around and made it to the middle-class decades later. Struggling to make ends meet during their first years of immigration, many remained self-reliant and did not count on the government support or apply for welfare – a fact supported by statistics. Apart from dark-to dawn jobs, it was their money saving attitude and better financial behavior that has paved their path to economic victory.
Many financial struggles that immigrant families went through were not such a distant past. A friend of mine had $200 US in his pocket when he landed in Pearson airport in 1989. However, he managed to get by through a minimum income without begging a penny from the government. He pulled it through by living in a rooming house and relying on a pack of rice, a few boxes of eggs, and some vegetable, and ended up with some savings left in his bank account by the end of the month.
“You would never get starved in this resource-rich country,” says my friend as he compares to the Mao-ruled China in the early 1960s, when a famine left the entire population in starvation and claimed over tens of millions of lives. Indeed, with abundant resources, a stable political environment, and tremendous employment opportunities, Canada is the best country in the world for hardworking, money-savvy individuals to live a healthy independent life and to enjoy economic prosperity.
However, the frugal lifestyle of Chinese newcomers is in sharp comparison to that of local Canadians who live an extravagant lifestyle at the cost of massive debt and the excessive interest payments. Anecdotal evidence indicates some Canadians living in poverty today had made six digits or even several hundred of thousands salary in their peak and productive years. However, living beyond their means, gross mismanagement of their financial affairs and a lack of prudence strategy to save for the rainy day have led them into financial troubles after losing their jobs.
A recent Angus Reid report indicates many people in Canada are living with “notable financial hardship, with forty percent unable to afford dental care, and one-quarter being forced to borrow money for groceries or transportation.” However, against this backdrop, many Chinese immigrants have beaten poverty and successfully established their lives in Canada. My Chinese friend today is a typical well-to-do family and achieved financial freedom. He owns properties, has multiple cars in his garage, and sent his children to private schools.
Canceling Basic Income program – which was ill-fated at the outset -- is a right move of the Ontario government. It has never been the solutions for the poverty-stricken Canadians who face no language barriers and social challenges like newcomers do but who can’t pull themselves out of poverty like their immigrant- counterparts. If Chinese immigrants can fight economic hardship without becoming a freeloader, why can’t local Canadians?
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