The Harper government has so effectively eliminated the word citizen that it only seems to be used in the context of denying citizenship rights to people like child soldier Omar Khadr, stripping citizenship rights from others, or using it as bait among ethnic voters.
Keeping an eye on debt and deficits is important. But governing means more than just balancing budgets, as citizenship implies much more than just being a taxpayer.
To be a citizen means to belong, to have responsibilities, rights and shared values. It means having a stake in the future and, in democracies, a voice in determining what that future might look like.
In Canada, it means having the guarantee that laws will be applied fairly to every person and every institution (including governments), as well as the right to an education and health care.
That is why we pay taxes. It’s the cost and the duty of belonging.
As the terminology has shifted from citizen to taxpayer over the past three decades, maybe it is only coincidental that the gap between rich and poor has widened.
Perhaps it’s also only coincidence that voter turnout has spiralled downward as the poor and the young (too many of whom are unemployed or under-employed and often burdened by huge debts from post-secondary education fees that have nearly tripled in the last two decades) decide not to bother exercising their franchise.
A growing body of economic research confirms that wealth isn’t the best predictor or guarantor of happy or healthy societies.
What matters more is feeling connected, belonging and having a say. In other words, being a full citizen.
So, as the teachers’ strike drags on and as we head into November municipal elections and a federal one in 2015, let’s reinstate “citizen” and all that it implies.
Let’s insist on it, if only as a reminder that we aren’t just taxpayers, and politicians ought to be more than just bookkeepers.— Daphne Bramham: We need citizens, not just taxpayers and bookkeepers (via justdreadfuldarling)