Why British Columbia may not be the best place on Earth

Andrew MacLeod’s new book, A Better Place on Earth: The Search for Fairness in Super Unequal British Columbia, is a fearless stab at our province’s social, political, and economic institutions that simply don’t consider impoverished and homeless people enough. It was a shocking and deeply personal read: the cities and streets it talks about are so familiar. It’s unbelievable how much we don’t know.

MacLeod pushes aside the  curtain that conceals the staggering numbers involved in impoverished, addicted, disabled, or homeless citizens and how their needs (mental and physical) are not nearly being met.

It’s more than any one person living on the street, or even the crowds on East Hastings. MacLeod interviews individuals who are directly affected by these issues, and their heartbreaking stories point towards a very unequal British Columbia. This practical examination is a call for privileged citizens to raise our influential voices to represent those who are too often ignored.

The majority of the book is a critical exploration of what is held back from the impoverished citizens of British Columbia. I will admit that it is not an easy read, nor a quick one. The topic is upsetting, and the statistical, political, and economic conversation is hefty to take in. But MacLeod takes up a pattern throughout the book that makes the points much easier to process, following a political or economic fact or theory with a personal story from a local who has experienced the issue firsthand.

This technique enables readers to make the direct connection from numbers and politics to human neglect and suffering. MacLeod isn’t afraid to point fingers at politicians and powerful people who let our most vulnerable citizens down.

My favorite thing about this book is how practical it is. I love the “Seeking solutions” chapter, and the way MacLeod restores hope after breaking down our faith in responsible politicians and organizations. He lists and expands on ways to reduce inequality in British Columbia: create well-paying jobs, raise the minimum wage, reform the tax system, provide affordable child care, and so on.

The book ends with a couple of hard-hitting statistics on inequality. As MacLeod lays out, the percentage of the world’s total wealth owned by the bottom half of the global population is just one per cent, yet the percentage of the world’s total wealth owned by the top 10 per cent of the population is 87 per cent.

MacLeod’s A Better Place on Earth is a well-researched, cautionary call for great changes to be made by each of us, to “pull back stratospheric incomes and create a fairer society.”