In Canada, as in many other places around the world, governments are turning once again to austerity policies in order to reign in public spending believed to be out of control.

These cuts, however, are usually done in vital social programs, such as health care, education, social housing and unemployment benefits.

The victims of austerian economics are often the disenfranchised and the unemployed, whereas those who benefit from austerity invariably tend to be wealthier Canadians, through reduced tax rates and, in Canada specifically, through a panoply of boutique tax policies such as the recent doubling of tax-free savings accounts and income splitting.

Darren White serves as the mayor for Melancthon Township, but he knows what it feels like to rely on a food bank to feed his family.

After he was injured on the job more than a decade ago, White’s self-owned business was hit with a very large blow.

“I’ve tasted that. I don’t want to ever taste it again,” White said of his trips to the food bank.

New studies from the OECD and the United Way of Toronto are exposing how precarious work is hurting economies and blocking opportunity for an entire generation of young people.

Among temporary workers, close to half are under age 30 and almost 40 per cent of young workers in the OECD are in non-standard work, such as contract or temporary work, or involuntary part-time employment.

Opportunity to move out of low-wage, insecure employment as workers get older is becoming increasingly limited, the OECD found. Fewer than half of people on temporary contracts were able to transition to full-time work within a three-year period, it found.

Across the country, momentum is building around policies and initiatives that can create better health, better equality, and positive differences in the lives of Canadians living on low incomes. Here are some back-of-the-napkin reminders we jotted down at recent Maytree Foundation, Tamarack Institute, and Ontario Public Health Association conferences that we wanted to share with you.

Canadians have a deep sense of decency and our conversation on May 1 at the “Decent Lives” community forum conveyed the same sentiment in our local community “Everyone deserves to live a decent life”. People recognize decency and will support the collective stewardship of our shared resources to invest in healthy communities that create opportunities for everyone. Hear what our guests, Marvyn Novick and Peter Clutterbuck, offered for discussion and read how residents of Kitchener-Waterloo responded.

[S]ocieties can choose poverty. For poverty is a choice that we make as a society. It is constructed, not inevitable. It is constructed by the economic and social policies we choose, by which voices we choose to listen to, and by which rights we choose to support and which rights we choose to ignore. It is constructed by the choice we make about how well we fund the instruments we create to counter poverty, the safety net of public income supports.

I think this is an important idea, that poverty is something we have chosen to construct as a society, because if it is something we have built, we can also choose to tear it down. We can tear it down because we have decided to believe in human dignity for everyone, in healthy communities, in social justice, in moral fairness, and in shared economic prosperity.

Feeding hungry Canadians with donated, surplus food is a practice that was imported in the early 1980s from the USA and has become the primary task of charitable food banks. Yet, “food charity,” supported by the food industry and corporate social responsibility, does not work.

Framing food insecurity as a matter of charity is ineffective and ethically challengeable. It also disguises the true extent and causes of food insecurity, namely income poverty and underemployment. Furthermore, it stigmatizes low-income individuals and undermines their human right to adequate food and nutrition. Government looks the other way. Public policy is neglected.