COVER/SPECIAL REPORT

THE GROUP OF TWELVE

They came from all parts of the nation, with different ideas and backgrounds. The 12 citizens in the Maclean’s/CTVdeficit dialogue TOUGH were a determined group whose views were CHOICES shaped by their individual histories.

JULIE CAZZIN September 27 1993
COVER/SPECIAL REPORT

THE GROUP OF TWELVE

They came from all parts of the nation, with different ideas and backgrounds. The 12 citizens in the Maclean’s/CTVdeficit dialogue TOUGH were a determined group whose views were CHOICES shaped by their individual histories.

JULIE CAZZIN September 27 1993

THE GROUP OF TWELVE

They came from all parts of the nation, with different ideas and backgrounds. The 12 citizens in the Maclean’s/CTVdeficit dialogue TOUGH were a determined group whose views were CHOICES shaped by their individual histories.

BILL BARKER, 44 Livestock/grain farmer, Swan River, Man.

Bill Barker, a burly farmer who cultivates 1,600 acres in northwestern Manitoba, arrived at The Briars ready to defend Ottawa’s $2.4-billion agricultural subsidy program. “Subsidies work in the short term,” he explained, “but not in the long term.” Barker conceded that farm subsidies not only contribute to the deficit but create an artificial dependence on government. Still, the married father of four was willing to bargain them away, but only if others took a harder line as well. Said Barker: “My agricultural subsidies are no different from overpaying our civil servants.”

MARGARET BLACK, 51 Nursing professor, Willowdale, Ont.

Margaret Black, a professor at a Toronto community college and a married mother of six children, believes that all Canadians must learn to distinguish between their needs and their wants. “There are some things that have to go by the board,” she says. “We can’t be afraid to pull the plug on the excesses.” After spending 30 years in the health-care industry, Black says that she knows of its costly excesses. “There was a time when patients leaving the hospital would get a notice telling them what their medical care cost,” she says. “That’s one way of making people aware of costs.”

CHANTAL BIRON, 27 Unemployed computer technician, Montreal

Chantal Biron, a graduate of McGill University’s commerce program, has been receiving unemployment insurance for the past nine months. Still, Biron berated the government for making it too easy for people to “do nothing” and live on social assistance. “It used to be an embarrassment,” she said, “to be on welfare and UI. But this has all changed.” Biron favors UI recipients doing volunteer work or part-time work to keep active while continuing to job-hunt. And although she says that job prospects are bleak, she was one of the group’s most vociferous social-program slashers.

EVELYN GOODINGS, 67 Retired administrative assistant, Welland, Ont.

Evelyn Goodings, a former municipal government employee, remembers a time when Canadians had to pay $9 for any visit they made to a doctor’s office. “You would think twice before going in those days,” she says. “That charge was a good thing,” Goodings adds. The mother of four grown children believes that user fees—combined with a more judicious use of Canada’s social services—will help reduce the federal deficit. “Canada used to be the land of milk and honey,” she says, “but we’ve run out of honey and the milk’s gone bad.”

KEN HAYWOOD, 65 Car dealer, Edmonton

Ken Haywood, a Ford car dealer, is openly worried about the future. “I sell cars for a living,” he said, “but not enough of them these days.” Married with eight children and 16 grandchildren, he says: “These kids are going to have to pay.” To ensure that action is taken immediately to cut the deficit, Haywood advocates the introduction of a legislated deficit reduction taxpayer protection plan to ensure that the required spending cuts are made. And despite the fact that he is an independent businessman, Haywood endorses a review of government subsidies to business.

3CRAIG LEWIS, 26 Lawyer, Etobicoke, Ont.

Craig Lewis, who graduated from Queen’s University law school two years ago, is just beginning his career as a litigation lawyer in Toronto with the law firm Shibley Righton. For him, the budgeting process is a new experience. “I know how much is spent on the deficit,” he says, “but is it spent wisely?” While he favors cuts in public spending, Lewis is wary of levying excessive taxes on the wealthy to reduce the deficit. “There’s a perception that the higher income earners should pay more taxes,” he says. “But I’m content with the tax rates we have now.”

KIT KRASEMANN, 45, Technical communications specialist, Dartmouth, N.S.

As the group indulged in a smoked Atlantic salmon that he brought along for the weekend, Kit Krasemann voiced concern over what he sees as Canada’s principal financial problem. “Loss of sovereignty is what bothers me,” he said. ‘We will no longer have control over what we do. We will have to jump through [the financial community’s] hoops.” Married with a two-year-old son, Krasemann acknowledges that governments sometimes waste money in an effort to boost regional employment.

ED LIM, 33, Municipal computer specialist, North Vancouver

Ed Lim could not believe his luck when he arrived in Canada 12 years ago from the Philippines. “I got a job at a [federal] grain elevator where I was paid $16 an hour for sweeping floors. Those wages paid my way through university,” he said. Lim argues that Canadians must become more self-reliant and adds that the country’s generous social assistance programs encourage complacency. Still, he says that he is prepared to pay even higher taxes to maintain those programs for those who really need them—as long as other measures are taken to lower the deficit.

FRANK OLIVER, 76, Retired CN Railway union leader, Brampton, Ont.

Frank Oliver, married with three children, has experienced firsthand what self-sufficiency and sacrifice are really like. Raised by his grandmother on a farm in Saskatchewan during the Great Depression, Oliver lived through Canada’s harshest economic times. We need government,” he says, “but as individuals we also need to learn to look after ourselves.” Oliver adds that government and corporate layoffs are aggravating Canada’s fiscal woes. “It’s like a landlord having an apartment building with a huge debt and telling his tenants to leave,” he says. “It doesn’t solve the problem.”

CAROL MEREDITH, 47 Computer consultant, Knowlton, Que.

Carol Meredith and her companion used to have two cars. Now, economic circumstances have reduced them to a one-car couple. “It doesn’t make any difference,” she says. We found that the second car wasn’t very important to us.” Meredith, a former computer science teacher who now runs her own small computer training company, is convinced that all Canadians must make similar choices. But Meredith’s main concern is the lack of communication between governments and ordinary citizens. This led her to question whether The Briars session would have any impact.

SHEILA SIMPSON, 48 Gift-shop owner St. Andrews, N.B.

Although frugality and balanced budgets were priorities for most participants, gift-shop owner Sheila Simpson questioned whether that approach can create wealth. “If the whole country was worried about being frugal,” she said, “I’d be out of business.” Simpson, who is the mother of two teenagers, enjoys being her own boss, but laments that “you never get away from your work.” And although she believes that cutting the deficit will help business in the long term, she feels the group must be careful to make the right cuts.

RUTH WILLIAMS, 54 President, All Nations Trust Co., Kamloops, B.C.

Ruth Williams, a member of the Shuswap nation in central British Columbia, is president of a trust company owned by 185 native shareholders. Williams, who grew up on a reserve in a family of nine, is also a mother of two children. As a child, she absorbed her family’s approach to budgeting. “Unless you could afford to buy it, you just didn’t borrow for it,” she said. And although her view on borrowing money has changed, she feels that Canadians are “so busy giving to their kids what they didn’t have that they fail to give them what they did have.”

JULIE CAZZIN