Austerity protestors barricade Cabinet Ministers' office with canned food

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Photo: Vanessa Lorraine Phillips

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Yesterday morning six young people used approximately 300 cans of donated food to barricade the entrance to the Conservative Cabinet Ministers' regional office. The action was taken in protest of the federal budget which failed to meaningfully address economic inequality. The gap between rich and poor is now accelerating at a rate higher than it is in the United Statesforcing 23 per cent more people to rely on food banks than in 2008 and leaving 4 million Canadians without adequate access to healthy food. The majority of the protestors were 35 and under, a demographic that is experiencing an unemployment rate nearly double the national average.

"Canada's top 100 top CEOs earned an average of 171 times what the average Canadian worker hopes to make. A third of all food bank users in Toronto are 18 or under, 20 per cent of those using food banks have graduated from high school or university. The Conservatives promised to create jobs, but food banks are witnessing the devastating impacts of rising income inequality," said Vanessa Lorraine Phillips, one of the protestors and a 25 year old bartender working in Toronto.

According to the CCPA Conservative corporate tax cuts have allowed corporations to hoard $572 billion -- over half a trillion dollars in taxpayer subsidized profits while increasingly shifting their workforce to precarious jobs.

The Minister's office refused to speak with the group and had four security guards take down the nutritious obstruction. Security also attempted to prevent photos from being taken of a large poster that read "Dear Conservatives, It is your job to help feed your neighbours' kids." The sign was a reference to a controversial quote from Minister of Industry James Moore who said "Is it my job to feed my neighbour's kid? I don't think so."

"The Minister of Industry's shocking statement revealed the true heart of the Conservative agenda. Their real interests are in making the rich richer and ignoring the needs of everyone else. On average, women in this country are still paid 32 per cent less than men despite the fact that addressing such inequality would help the economy and benefit the vast majority of the population," said Hailey King one of the protestors and 21 year old university student.

According to the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives women on average earn 32 per cent less than men and the majority of minimum wage earners are women. The CCPA states that closing the gap between women and men's employment in Canada could boost GDP by as much as 8 per cent in the next two decades -- contributing an additional $3.9 billion to the economy in 2014 alone. Similar inequality exists with racialized Canadians earning only 81.4 cents for every dollar earned by white Canadians.

The group is demanding a drastically different approach to economic policy, including more progressive taxes and initiatives that cut to the root of growing inequality, such as universal childcare.

The canned food was donated by supporters across the greater Toronto area who were excited by the idea that their charitable donation could make a political impact on its way to the food bank. 

"It's amazing the impact we can have when we organize as a community, we are realizing this more and more as we approach the next election," says Shane Richard a marketing professional and SHD volunteer.

In May 2013, the community raised over $11,000 for Food Banks in Nunavut and Alberta during a successful campaign to air political ads during CBC's Hockey Night in Canada. During the 2013 playoff season, the group's 30-second spots mocked the Harper Conservatives' controversial taxpayer-funded advertising campaign for the Economic Action Plan.

 Vanessa Lorraine Phillips started out during the 2011 election, as a few artists. Now they have become an unprecedented national community of people speaking truth to power. They have reached millions of people.   

Photo: Vanessa Lorraine Phillips

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