I came across a creative panhandler on the streets of Winnipeg the other day. He held up a sign that said “I need a slurpee”. He obviously believes the 7 / 11 propaganda that Winnipeg is the ‘slurpee capital of the world’. His sign and his pleasant smile made me laugh and I gave him 50 cents.
I also thought to myself, “Maybe next week he’ll be outside a high end steakhouse and his sign will read “I need Chateaubriand or Filet mignon”.
Beggars have been with us for thousands of years, and since the turn of the millennium there’s been a greater effort in many communities to get them off our streets and sidewalks.
Aggressive panhandling can be frightening and dangerous, but a few more young police officers on foot seem to get the job done without too much stress.
We’re told that most of the money we might give to a panhandler is used to buy bad things like smokes and booze, and illegal drugs. But if they didn’t get the money that way, maybe there would be more petty crime and someone would definitely get hurt.
Beggars on the street are an easy target. If you’re worried about them, and don’t want to drop coins in the hat, maybe think about giving to your local food bank instead.
But perhaps it’s time we worried more about more troublesome big shots like Tony Merchant who move millions of dollars to tropical islands where the Canadian tax collector can’t get at it.
A few months back Ottawa was huffing and puffing about big league tax cheats, saying it’s time to close loopholes because the rest of us have to pay more taxes to make up the difference. After making headlines for a couple of news cycles, that issue has gone back on the shelf.
Don’t hold your breath waiting for it to resurface.
I’m Roger Currie