Listen to this track by Canadian art-rock doyens Rheostatics. It’s “Bad Time To Be Poor”, a crunchy and ragged Neil Youngian study in short-sighted economic policy on the part of the then-Conservative provincial government around the time the song, and the album off of which it comes, The Blue Hysteria, was released in 1996.
The band was made up of four guys hailing from the outlying Toronto-area, specifically the City of Etobicoke (the “k” is silent for you out-of-towners). As writers, they had always worn their cultural context on their sleeve, even if some of their music explored the gamut of the rock spectrum. Here, it turns to life in the province of Ontario, under the Mike Harris provincial government in the mid-90s.
This was not an era (1995-2002) known for support of the arts or social welfare to say the least. It was a time when policies arising out of right wing ideological stances (known in this context as the Common Sense Revolution) were beginning to run rampant internationally, even before the age of George W. Bush. This was certainly the state of affairs in Ontario, in Canada, a country known for its sturdy social safety net held, very simplistically, in opposition to American neo-conservatism.
It was clear that the safety net was wearing thin, or more to the point it was being worn thin by a government who wasn’t interested in funding it. The Rheos submitted this song to address that trend, during a time when writing about oppressive policies was a matter of course. And they even got radio play! But, where did it lead them otherwise? Read more