We need to continue using cash as a form of payment in order to include low-income folks in our society

As we go about our lives, you may have noticed that we are going increasingly paperless. Whether it’s spending money on your morning coffee, buying groceries or making a purchase online, many people opt for their debit or credit card as opposed to cash. In the world of Apple and Google Pay, it’s as easy as pressing a few buttons on your phone and holding it over the card machine.

However, going cashless isn’t easy for everyone as it excludes a large number of low-income folks and especially, houseless people.

To own a debit or credit card, you need to own a bank account. To do this, though, many Canadian banks, if not all, ask you for an address. It’s clear how this can be an issue for houseless folks or people who do not have stable housing — what address are they supposed to put?

In light of the Defund HPS protest that occurred this past November, it’s evident that lack of permanent housing is an issue that hits close to home. Additionally, banks often require you to deposit up to $100 in order to start a bank account, which can be a huge cost for some.

However, going cashless isn’t easy for everyone as it excludes a large number of low-income folks and especially, houseless people.

So although it may be convenient for many people to use their cards, not everyone is able to have a debit or credit card. Then, this leaves us with the problem of a society that is growing increasingly cashless: what do low-income folks do when they are unable to pay for groceries and other necessities because they do not have access to an electronic payment method?

Although many places still accept cash payments, there are many notable changes that have occurred that suggest that one day, we may no longer be able to use cash as a form of payment.

Even bus fares have become electronic. The Hamilton Street Railway stopped selling paper tickets and passes and all paper tickets expired by the end of 2020 in order to promote the use of Presto. While the HSR still accepts cash fares, they are $0.75 more expensive than a one-time Presto fare and your fare must be exact as no change will be provided.

Although you can refill a Presto card using cash, you can face issues loading your card. In addition, a Presto card costs $6, which is an additional financial barrier.

During the pandemic, the desire to rely on our debit and credit cards is even higher, as many people do not want to risk catching COVID by handling cash. Some stores even refuse to accept cash as a precaution. Even if you are able to use cash, many stores prefer electronic payment methods.

Even though I understand why this precaution is in place, the Centers for Disease Control and Contamination have highlighted that it is unlikely that COVID spreads often from touching surfaces, such as money. Thus, it should be safe to accept money, especially if that is the only form of payment someone has. If you want to take extra precautions, you can sanitize the money to make sure that you minimize the risk of COVID.

Even though I understand why this precaution is in place, the Centers for Disease Control and Contamination have highlighted that it is unlikely that COVID spreads often from touching surfaces, such as money.

Despite our movement towards a cashless society and despite the pandemic, we should still be accepting cash. Low-income folks already have so many barriers they have to face. At the very least, they shouldn’t have to worry about whether a store will accept their money.

It’s caring about more than just convenience. It’s caring about low-income folks and houseless folks that have no other option to pay with but cash.

By relying on students to work overtime in their MSU roles, low-income students are being barred from MSU jobs

The McMaster Students Union provides over 300 part-time job opportunities for full-time undergraduate students. For many students, MSU jobs can be incredibly convenient as you don’t need to travel far — either you can do your job from home or complete your shift on campus. 

Additionally, MSU jobs can also be up your alley if it relates to something you’re passionate about. Whether it’s running a first-year mentorship program, editing for the student newspaper or running a food bank — there is plenty of space for you to pursue your interests.

However, it’s important to note that many of these jobs are contract jobs. While you can get a part-time job at Union Market or TwelvEighty Bar & Grill where you work on an hourly basis, a lot of MSU jobs state a range of hours in its contract. For example, the Student Health Education Centre Coordinator’s job contract says that they will work 10-12 hours a week, whereas the Women and Gender Equity Network Coordinator works 14-16 hours a week. However, despite what the contract says, many student employees find themselves working overtime — for free.

Students overworking their contracted hours are especially noticeable within the peer support services. For example, the Student Health Education Centre coordinator wrote in their Oct. 8 Executive Board report that they work 25-40 hours a week instead of their contracted 10-12. They then explained in their Nov. 5 report that although they have been logging their hours, they will not gain approval for many of them because then they would be considered a full-time employee. 

The Pride Community Centre, Women and Gender Equity Network and Maccess coordinators also wrote similar concerns in their reports. All of the coordinators highlighted the issue of having to pre-approve overtime hours with the vice-president (administration) that may not even be approved. This is difficult to do, considering that many tasks and meetings pop up that are hard to anticipate in advance. 

Students overworking their contracted hours is especially noticeable within the peer support services. For example, the Student Health Education Centre coordinator wrote in their Oct. 8 Executive Board report that they work 25-40 hours a week instead of their contracted 10-12.

Many of these part-time managers are then left to decide whether to fulfill tasks of their role adequately and work overtime or work their hours but not complete the tasks they need to do in their role.

The Maccess, SHEC and PCC coordinators have also highlighted that they are the only paid staff members of their service, so when a volunteer executive cannot complete their work, they often have to take over the role. The reports highlight that volunteer executives often work well above their hours in addition to being unpaid, so it seems unfair to task them with even more work than they currently do. As a result, the extra hours of work fall onto the paid part-time manager.

This is a systemic issue within the MSU. By forcing undergraduate students to overwork their contracted hours, we are telling students that to do a good job at your role, you have to work over your expected hours. That you have to do unpaid work to be a good MSU employee. Because of this implied expectation, low-income students are often barred from MSU jobs. 

You can even take the Silhouette as an example. The Sil’s section editors, like myself, are paid for 10-12 hours per week. But oftentimes, we work a lot longer than that. Last year when I and a few other editors logged our hours, we worked upwards of 15-20 hours per week on average. This is because in a week, we have to attend three to four meetings, find contributors to write for our section, write our own articles, edit anywhere from three to six articles, correspond with contributors, provide our contributors feedback and layout two articles. Sometimes, issues or complaints can pop up as well that we have to deal with.

Our workload is often impossible to complete within 12 hours — 12 hours per week is less than two hours of work each day! If we don’t do extra hours, though, we simply wouldn’t be able to publish the amount of content we do currently. The same goes for many other roles in the MSU — if you don’t work extra, you likely won’t finish the tasks you need to do for that week. But because we do so much extra work, low-income students are less likely to hold these jobs because they can probably find a job that doesn’t overwork them. As a result, students who are okay with doing a little bit extra for their job are the ones who end up in these MSU roles.

Our workload is often impossible to complete within 12 hours — 12 hours per week is less than two hours of work each day! If we don’t do extra hours, though, we simply wouldn’t be able to publish the amount of content we do currently.

If only privileged students can afford to be part of the MSU, there is an inherent lack of representation in the MSU — the student union that is supposed to represent all undergraduate students. The MSU relies on our ability to “put in the extra work” and if you aren’t able to do that, they’ll find someone else to hire. 

What’s worse is to be a competitive applicant for an MSU job, you often have to volunteer and do a lot of unpaid labour to appear more qualified. For many paid positions in the MSU, it is an asset to have volunteered or contributed to that service in the past. With the Sil specifically, it is an asset to have written or volunteered with the Silhouette if you want to be considered for a paid role because it shows that you have an understanding and passion for the Silhouette.

However, because volunteering is looked highly upon when applying for a paid role, people who have the ability to spend time volunteering — instead of working — have an upper hand in the job application process.

It’s clear that this is a systemic problem within the MSU. The MSU is something that should serve all of us. I’m lucky enough to be able to hold a paid role in the MSU, but I still find that time after time, the MSU has harmed me and many others because the “higher-ups” tend to be upper-class, privileged, white and overall, out of tune with the rest of the student body.

Graphic by Sabrina Lin

With International Women’s Day just behind us, several Hamilton organizations are taking the time to show their appreciation for the women in our community. One such organization is Never Gonna Stop, a youth initiative that is hosting Empower Me: A Women’s Appreciation Brunch on March 16 at the Hamilton Plaza Hotel and Conference Center.

In addition to brunch, the event will feature games, raffle prizes, a variety of visual and performing artists and speakers. The event is open to all ages and genders. It was important for the organizers that this communal appreciation of women be done by not just other women.

“[I]t's really important to have men to support women in our community. Men's voices are heard a lot more than just women’s [so] we're trying to get men to align with women… [W]hen we hear [about] domestic violence, usually it's men doing violence towards women, so… that's what I mean when I say we try to align men with women to support each other,” explained NGS member Gonca Aydin.

The brunch, which is now sold out, is free of cost. Making it free allowed the event to be accessible to everyone in the community. Reducing financial barriers is important for this organization, which is catered towards helping low-income youth.


NGS was created by David Lingisi, Saifon Diallo and Joshua Kiena, all of whom come from low-income backgrounds. They wanted to create an initiative that would provide physical and mental health-related activities for youth from the ages of 13 to 29.

“[W]e've seen how there's a lot of older people… that have talent basically wasted because they didn't have an opportunity… [A]s the younger generation, we basically want to help [youth] out to make their dreams come true. I want everyone to provide a platform for them, to give them an opportunity to… go to the league, allow them to become doctors and [whatever] they want to do,” said Lingisi.

Lingisi was born with sickle cell anemia and has spent his life in and out of the hospital while still working towards his dream of being a music producer. Each of the co-founders have underwent personal challenges, which fuel their desire to help others overcome obstacles. Growing up in immigrant families, they all faced culture shock in addition to financial barriers.

The initiative hopes to provide the support for low-income youth that they feel is missing in Hamilton. They want to support the artistic, athletic and academic talent of today’s youth by providing them with opportunities and the knowledge to succeed.

Since the creation of the initiative last summer, NGS has hosted a youth panel, a holiday food drive, an All-Star weekend basketball tournament and a talent and fashion show for Black History Month among other events. They are continuously planning new events in partnership with other organizations in the city.


They took on the Women’s Appreciation Brunch because it fits within their goal of creating community. NGS is proud to call themselves inclusive to all genders, races, religions or economic statuses. Setting aside space and time to celebrate women and promote the resources that women can access within the city fits within that mandate.

Most importantly, the Women’s Appreciation Brunch delivers the message of persistence directly to Hamilton’s women. They named the event Empower Me because they want women of all ages to know that they can accomplish any goal that they set out to reach.

“[K]eep following your dreams, whatever it is, don't ever stop, don't let anything stop you. You are able to make it no matter what you're going through, it doesn't matter the situation, just keep going as long as you get one more day… I just want to [say] that everybody's a part of NGS. I'm NGS, you're NGS, anybody going through anything but still fighting is NGS,” said Lingisi.

That is why they named themselves Never Gonna Stop. More than a name, it is a movement and source of encouragement for those involved. Knowing how hard life can be, NGS is focused on motivating others to work hard in order to achieve their wildest dreams.


[thesil_related_posts_sc]Related Posts[/thesil_related_posts_sc]

Every year, Canadian postsecondary students are eligible for tuition, education and textbook credits that cost billions of dollars in funding. But, as it turns out, students from low-income households are least likely to benefit from the credits during school despite needing the money the most.

A recent study, conducted through the C.D. Howe Institute, found that tax credits “disproportionately” benefit students from well-off families in a given tax year. Most students from lower-income households benefit from the non-refundable credits only after they finish school and start earning enough taxable income.

Christine Neill, an associate professor of economics at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., authored the study. She found that the tax credit savings amount to about $2,000 per year for the average Canadian undergraduate student.

“For youth from relatively high income families, a couple thousand dollars per year may not change their decision to go to university or college, but it might change those from low-income families. The problem is, they tend to get the money later,” Neill said.

In 2012, households with family incomes below $30,000 used only 7 per cent of education credits transferred to parents in 2012, but made up about half of tax filers.

Households with an income above $80,000 used about 42 per cent of education credits transferred to parents but made up just 10 per cent of tax filers.

Neill recommended that simply making the credits refundable would vastly improve the program. Students not earning enough taxable income would then get a cheque in the mail for what they couldn’t claim on their taxes, instead of having to carry the credits forward.

The same recommendation has been made in the past by the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) and the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA).

According to Neill’s study, undergraduate students in British Columbia save the least from the tax credits, followed by students in Ontario and Newfoundland. Students in Alberta save the most out of all the provinces, but by a small margin.

A 2010 study found that college students save a larger proportion of their tuition from the credits than university students. However, college students end up with a smaller dollar value from the credits because their tuition is, on average, lower.

Last year, the federal government spent $1.6 billion on tuition, education and textbook tax credits — more than the $0.7 billion it spent on the Canada Student Loan Program.

Tuition and education credits were first introduced in 1961, and the option to “carry forward” unclaimed amounts was introduced in 1997.

“Before the carry-forward was introduced, kids from low income families may never have been able to claim the credits — after 1997, the program became more expensive but it became better,” Neill said.

In 2006, a textbook credit was added, raising questions from the academic community on the efficacy of the program.

Whether to stimulate enrolment in postsecondary education or to distribute wealth to students from lower-income families, the purpose of the tax credits hasn’t been clearly articulated.

Neill argues that the credits currently fail on both efficiency and equity principles. She also made a point that the credits aren’t well-advertised on university and college web pages that display tuition fee information.

“One major issue is that many people don’t know about [the credits], and they don’t know before going through postsecondary education,” Neill said. “If you don’t know something exists, how would it affect your behaviour?”

Infographic by Ben Barrett-Forrest / Multimedia Editor

Subscribe to our Mailing List

© 2023 The Silhouette. All Rights Reserved. McMaster University's Student Newspaper.