Church debates market economy impact on homeless & poor in Canada

Tom Boland (
Sun, 21 Mar 1999 12:38:55 -0800 (PST)

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FWD  Toronto Star - March 15, 1999


     By Natalia Williams - Toronto Star Staff Reporter

 The market economy has emerged as the new god, the fix-it to the country's
struggle with homelessness and poverty, says the moderator of the United
Church of Canada.

 And before the gap between rich and poor widens, Rev. Bill Phipps hopes a
cross-country discussion, headed by the church, will have some answers.

 ``The market, capital M, has become god,'' said Phipps during a recent
news conference at the United Church of Canada's Bloor St. offices.

 ``Get governments out of the way and the market will solve issues of
poverty, solve our health-care problems, our education system's problems.
It will even protect the environment.''

 That thinking, Phipps said, has swept through society over the last 20
years, while traditional Canadian precepts, favouring strong government
social safety nets, are eroding.

 In response, Phipps, who was elected moderator in 1997, and the United
Church have launched a year-long Moderator's Consultation on Faith and

 It's an effort to stimulate a Canada-wide soul-searching about the
direction of the country, and how a moral economy can play a role, he said.

 Government and academic leaders aren't attempting projects like 2this, he
said, so now is the time for the church to reassert its historical role of
influencing public debate on economic and social justice issues.

 The United Church, formed in 1925, is Canada's largest Protestant
denomination, with more than 3 million members.

 ``We live in a society where it's legitimate for people to outride each
other, and those that are left behind - too bad. You'll get chewed up by
the system. You'll get chewed up by an economy that doesn't care,'' he said.

 But this is not exclusive to Westernized societies, he said.

 Across the globe, countries are caught up in the concept of cutting
education and health-care spending to pay off debts.

 ``People are dying in the process,'' he said. ``They are being sacrificed,
literally, to the god of the market.''

 Phipps said over the next year, dialogue from a new Web site along with
discussions among local congregations and community groups, will start to
come to conclusions about what needs to be done about reappraising the
collective good in the country. Phipps also encouraged corporations,
minority groups, and other religious faiths to join to the discussion.

The Web site can be found at


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