Sunday, December 30, 2007


I don't give to many charities, except those that have demonstrated an empowerment philosophy or preserve the lives of innocent animals.

Unfortunately, in order to legally become a charity, empowerment of others cannot be the mainstay of your organization's objectives. Further, using your organization's voice as a tool for advocacy is also severely restricted, which only results in further covering up the real problems your organization may be trying to address. In particular, if you want to become a charity that assists low-income people, you can't predicate your mission on reducing and/or eradicating the root causes of poverty. You can only propose to provide band-aids. You can become a food bank, a second hand clothing distributor or one of those organizations where you can "sponsor" a child in a Third World country. Most of these charities have existed in this country for a very long time, yet the rate of poverty among people - including those who have jobs - has increased by leaps and bounds.

There are some people who actually believe that if we eliminate government support services to people living in poverty, they will no longer be poor because either the "market" will fix their situation or "families" or "charity" will step in. Let me repeat that point I made in the above paragraph. The number of charities geared to serving the poor have more than quintupled since 1980, yet our rate of people living in poverty has almost doubled since. The rate of poverty has particularly increased after cuts to social programs began. Contrary to what some people say who believe that social programs lead to poverty, their reduction has actually caused a spike in poverty and an increase in the number of homeless people over the past twenty-five years. After Mike Harris cut welfare rates by 21.6% in 1995, a large number of people "disappeared" from the social services statistics. When they were contacted (or an attempt was made), many had their phones disconnected or have been evicted from their housing. Yes, a few people found other housing, but it is offices like the legal clinics, advocacy paralegals like myself, and others, who have only seen the spike in the number of slumlords and unsafe, Third-World conditions many of these people were living in. As I stated before in these posts, more than half of my OW to ODSP clients are homeless or have had spells of homelessness while living on OW, prior to getting onto ODSP. Some others went into shared housing situations, only to find the shared arrangements were destructive: their "roommate" moves out suddenly leaving them holding the bag only to get evicted for non-payment; the person buys food and others in the household eat it; items are stolen from the person by "roommates" and sold to pawn shops and to others on the "street"; and so forth. If middle class dictates make you feel these kinds of conditions would not be good for you, why are they good enough for others?

At Christmas time and Thanksgiving, there is often an explosion of media coverage about the need to give to food banks, women's shelters and so forth. People do tend to give more at these times. However, I am a bit of a skeptic in some ways, particularly when it comes to some of the businesses in the region that give large amounts to these charities at Christmas time. My questions to these businesses are obvious: (a) Do you employ low-income people and pay them decent wages that get them out of poverty? (b) Do you pay your existing workers decently enough so they will never have to rely on the services of charities to which you are donating?; and (c) Does your business have a social conscience, whereby you do not continue to push for more and more tax cuts, which you know will only translate into a reduction of services to low-income people? Don't believe that? Well, even when Mike Harris cut personal taxes by 30%, grants and pay-offs to big business did not stop; however, services in health care, education and social services significantly deteriorated. To me, if I were a business, my "charity" would begin at home first ... hire and pay my employees well, offer some benefits and a certain level of job security and where possible, growth within the company. To further exemplify this point, did you know that stores like Wal-Mart donate to a lot of charities, including poverty band-aid programs, while they continue to pay their own employees so little that they often have to use these very charities for basic survival? To me, this is not acceptable.

This ethic is charity by example. I would show respect for people by offering wages that a person can survive on, as after all - it is these very employees that are making ME money. Therefore, these employees deserve a decent pay package. Some businesses argue against minimum wage increases, saying that less jobs get created as a result of legislated pay hikes. There are plenty of arguments that have proven this wrong. If this was the case, wages would have remained at the same rate of pay as it did in the 1920's ... a few pennies a day, perhaps. As the cost of living increased, so did minimum wage. Some people would argue why should they hire relatively low-skilled workers for more money? It doesn't matter ... if the job needs to be done and you can't get chimpanzees to do these jobs for free, then you need to hire human beings. If a person doesn't work out, you can fire them. No big deal. Also, if you were literate in business as I am, you can get hold of numerous publicly traded company reports and learn that many of these companies that earn substantial profit are those that pay its workers minimum wages or close to them. Yes, some of these profits have to go to the executives and shareholders and there is nothing wrong with that (but I do question multi-million dollar pay packages), but a large portion of these profits go to GROWTH strategy. They keep wages low, shaving themselves more and more money, so they can put it towards more and more stores .... call centres are developing this strategy as well. Why else do you think they are sprouting like weeds in communities all over Canada, especially in economically depressed regions?

While the shrewd executives of these stores would argue that they are creating a lot more jobs by building more and more stores, there is a point at which this reaches saturation. That means, there will become a point where Wal-Mart, Starbucks, Tim Hortons and other similar franchises simply cannot serve more people ... and if more of the jobs in their serviced communities are on the lower paid end of things, less people will have large amounts of disposable income to spend at these kinds of places. Further, these franchises will have to fight harder and harder to find and retain workers, particularly if people can't afford to live on what these franchises pay. With an aging population, there are less workers available that are able and willing to work at these wages, particularly if they still have offspring living at home or are still paying off a mortgage. Statistics Canada has found that the average age that a child leaves home has increased substantially over the past twenty years. At one time, we were all ecstatic to leave the nest at the age of seventeen or eighteen, but today - it is quite possible for children to still live at home until they are in their late twenties. This places financial pressure on their often older parents, who cannot afford to earn only minimum wage at Wal-Mart or Starbucks and to compete with their children for the same jobs ... this is a reality created by governments that have a drive-down philosophy. While governments will speak out of one side of the mouth to say they are reducing its expenditures, the only areas that are actually cut are those that impact the most vulnerable people.

To me, there should be no reason for people living in Canada to be relying on food banks, homeless shelters, clothing assistance places and similar programs. If a charity were to be proposed, I would rather see it developed with the goal of eliminating poverty for every person that uses the charity. Recipients of charity do not benefit from the use of charity over the long term. However, those who operate and manage charities often make very good salaries. Because of this, there is no incentive on the part of charities to eliminate their purpose and reason for being. The more "need" there is, the more these charities will crop up. There can be hundreds of these charities in a large urban area, while absolutely none of their charges ever gets out of poverty. The charitable sector sadly admits this, though not directly. A reading of many of Toronto's United Way reports tells you the increased depth of poverty and the minimal impact charities actually have. When a charity tries to be more pro-active in its purposes, they get shut down by by Canada Revenue Agency for failing to promote "charitable objects". See the recent case of ICAN and a former case re the National Association of Minority Women. More on the charitable sector as a whole later ...

During their early development, food bank leaders did not want to become a permanent part of the landscape. They did not ask for government funding and hoped that the need for their programs will diminish over time. Graham Riches wrote an excellent history on the development and growth of food banks and the growth of food insecurity. However, as time went on, United Way and other community-based funding came available to these organizations, and they were able to grow and thus, have less incentive to shut down. This is not an evil conspiracy; this is a reality of the charitable sector. I was executive director at one time of a national charity and had no other goals than to assist the organization in its growth and breadth of services. It is only natural and that is what your Board of Directors wants you to do. However, we had a bit more leeway as a charity as our focus was on public education, as opposed to providing direct services. However, I have sat on boards of other charities, where there was almost a sense of competitiveness in terms of providing more and more services, while not necessarily studying the impact of such services on its recipients.

Because charities are not licensed or regulated outside of their fund raising methods, nobody knows if anything is getting better because any particular charity is at work. At this point in time, there is no rule against hiring somebody to run a charity that has a grade six education and is a convicted felon. While some charities require police checks for their staff and volunteers, these are usually only for those who are working directly with children or the elderly. There is also no rule about how much compensation the charity's executive staff get paid, not that there really should be, but when you consider my earlier posts about the number of well-educated people who are unemployed or under-employed, the education and skill level of the staff and administrators in all charities should be examined. I am aware of several charities operating in my region, which I will not name, who have high school drop-outs at the helm of these organizations, or who are directly involved in dealings with vulnerable persons. Many of them have not undergone police checks. In a private business, for example, I can *choose* to hire somebody who is a high school drop-out, or even a convicted felon, as it is my risk if this person makes a serious mistake in judgment. Only I lose money if this person does not work out. However, charities and publicly funded non-profit organizations are putting the public's money at risk whenever a hiring or spending decision is made, and to some extent - the well-being of vulnerable people served may also be compromised with poorly qualified workers.

If the same government that throws multiple units of billion dollar checks to hundreds of thousands of these organizations, decided to regulate people like me who deal directly with vulnerable people, why are these people working in the non-profit sector also not similarly regulated? I think in many ways, taxpayers would feel a little better about how their tax dollars are being spent if they knew that well-qualified, dedicated and motivated staff that adhere to a Code of Conduct are working in these organizations and that the services provided are regularly monitored to ensure that they are producing results. I have seen lots of publicly-funded poor results, and so have many other people, hence the frequent calls for tax cuts. In many western European countries, citizens pay way more taxes than we do in Canada, but rarely complain of their burden. Why? It's likely because they see results from the goods and services funded through their taxes.

Further, the definition of charity needs to be broadened to allow organizations that have as a primary purpose to empower their clients to lift themselves out of poverty, for example, as well as organizations that choose to advocate directly for or against government policies. For example, I should be able to register as a charity an organization that focuses on providing financial and mentoring assistance to persons with disabilities (or other low-income groups) to start and operate a small business, advocates for these same people to all levels of government on how social assistance rates MUST be raised and regulatory claw backs must be removed to aid such persons to reach their goals. OR an organization that invests its money on behalf of its "consumers" to purchase goods and services they may need to escape poverty, e.g. pay for a college course, obtain an up-to-date computer system, help somebody access a driver's license, or provide start-up funding for a small business. The reason I say this is there is a charity that I provided consulting advice and services to from time to time that WANTS to be an empowering agency, but ever since I assisted them in getting their charitable number - their advocacy efforts have waned. I asked them at one time about this and their concern was they did not want to cross the line on this, as they benefit substantially from their fund raising efforts in town here. The same concerns came from other charities I respect in town here.

As a result of this thwarted freedom of speech and in some cases, lack of specific direction towards actual results and empowerment of disadvantaged persons, this same group of people have no voice except their own. Given what gets written in the media about "homeless people" and "low-income" people, it would take a very brave person from this disadvantaged group to speak up and demand respect for themselves and their peers. They are forced to prove they are innocent of typical stereotypes, such as aggressive panhandling, so-called mental illness and/or addictions first (yet when CEOs and respected middle class people suffer from the same issues, they are not viewed as 'incompetent'), as well as have access to resources to empower themselves and get themselves to the next rung on the ever rising ladder out of poverty. I am talking about people who do not drive, therefore, they cannot get a job they can otherwise do. Or people who don't have ID, and can't get a bank account. Or can't get a home outside of a homeless shelter, which has not historically been effective in moving people into their own housing. Or getting their OWN income so they can purchase their OWN housing, their OWN food, their OWN clothing, etc. Charities are forced to continue to do for, as opposed to do "with" - leaving their charges forever dependent on them.

In my own informal studies of people who have used the various band-aid charities, as well as the limited academic research that has been done in the community psychology community, I have found that those who had to use these services more than once tend to have lower self-esteem, and continue to lack resources to empower themselves ... in other words, a charity may feed them for one day, but they are still hungry the next. More work has to be done towards making their services unnecessary. I don't think the charities can do this on their own because they will always lack enough money and volunteers to do what is truly necessary. Government policy must be changed to enable all of us - working or not - to live decently. Some of this can be corrected through a change in business ethics, whereby salaries truly reflect the area's cost of living and worth of an employee to that business, as well as increased income supplements to those that either cannot work or who have trouble securing work due to some type of disadvantage. Workplace barriers need to be identified and removed for those that may be otherwise employed. And finally, an economy CANNOT and SHOULD NOT be predicated upon bringing in more big box stores like Wal-Mart, Starbucks, etc. as the "answer" to the region's economic woes. Workers come from a variety of skills, education, career aspirations and economic requirements ... when programs are set up to assist folks with these issues, the individual's needs should be the foremost objective in achieving financial goals for them.

So, in conclusion, contrary to the neo-cons that seem to want less and less government spending, to Hell with the consequences, we should instead be demanding better results for our tax dollar and be asking for equal dignity being afforded to all persons in the community, regardless of their economic circumstances. People should not have to beg for their bare necessities of life or receive them from "sympathetic volunteers", whose services may not be a reliable and consistent effort, or delivered in a non-partisan way. Everybody has a right to feel they are contributing to the community, and not always be the recipient.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Dear Dalton McGuinty:

Last year about this time, your government extended its sitting in the House to ram through a substantial 27% pay increase for yourself and other MPPs. Your argument was that if this did not take place, the legislature would have difficulty attracting competent candidates. At the same time this raise was being debated, a Private Member's Bill was in the house, which if passed, would hike the minimum wage to $10 per hour. Certainly, it was no coincidence that no debate took place on that minimum wage Bill, while the rest of your Government took the raise. Personally, Dalton, I would do your job for the salary it was prior to your raise without a complaint. So would millions of other Ontarians, many of whom also are skilled, competent leaders and professionals.

You may respond to this by saying that in October 2007, Ontarians gave your Government a second mandate, somehow excusing the fact that your pay raise was "approved" by the public. I dispute that. Of the total number of eligible voters, only 52% of them bothered to cast a ballot, and among these people - only 42% voted for candidates in your Party. This is hardly a majority mandate, but then again - very few governments have been elected on a true majority basis. However, given this fact, please note that I read the polls differently, and I certainly hope that as the Leader of the Province, you do too and will govern in the interests of all, not just those doing financially well. I am referring to the Poor.

An interesting proposal came from your recent Throne Speech on your Government's plans to develop and set targets with respect to the reduction of poverty in Ontario. Some might have referred to this as the 25 in 5 Plan, which was promoted by groups like Campaign 2000. If your intent is to reduce poverty by 25% in the first five years, please tell me where I can get in line and be among your first. I am well-educated, highly literate, possess excellent organizational and communication skills, and have held senior level positions in various organizations in the past, holding titles including Executive Director, National Coordinator, Policy Analyst, Policy Facilitator, Organizational Development Consultant, Senior Moderator, President & CEO, as well as at present, Independent Paralegal.

I know the English language quite well, and can speak and read passably in French (though I am by no means bilingual). I read three newspapers a day, listen to two news broadcasts a day and read a novel or two every week. I have also been published numerous times in forums, ranging from street newspapers, newsmagazines, academic peer review journals and daily newspapers. I work with people ranging from those living on the streets to people who are presidents of their own companies. I treat everybody I work with well, as well as deal respectfully with parties my clients have concerns to address with. I also moderate several Internet forums on a range of topics; my reading audience from all of my moderated groups exceeds 10,000 readers.

I have no criminal record, nor have I ever had any civil judgment against me. The last time I checked, I had a good credit rating. I have managed budgets in the multi-million dollar range, as well as those budgets of only a few hundred thousand. The audits of these organizations have always indicated my management skills were excellent and accurate. I am also the type of person who could find a purse or a wallet, bearing hundreds or even thousands of dollars ... but my only interest would be to return it intact to its owner.

So, why Mr. Premier, am I seeing people who have poor qualifications, inadequate education and/or have some criminal record being hired in responsible positions, where they have some control over money, or worse, people's lives? Don't tell me this doesn't happen - while this is not the forum to name names or to "out" any organization, but legal actions have been filed against organizations repeatedly because of decisions the organization made that hurt somebody, or has had legal implications. In none of these actions were any of the people responsible ever fired or charged with anything; even when they have proven themselves to be serial workplace bullies, or just plain incompetent, they are still the ones that get to stay in the organization, not the person or persons they have hurt. The decisions to hire these people in the first place are purely political and have nothing to do with that specific person's actual ability to deliver. Yet, while this is going on, many people like me, as well as those people who were bullied, are sitting in the sidelines, receiving ODSP or other forms of assistance, wanting nothing more than to work in a decently paid job that we know we are capable of handling.

Most members of your caucus are university graduates, whether that be in law, medicine, education, business or social work. Pre-election jobs range from Lawyer to Nurse to Business Owner to Administrator; however, I have yet to see somebody get elected whose last job was working at McDonald's flipping burgers. At some point, when you folks either leave politics behind or get voted out, whatever happens first, I can bet my whole life that none of you - absolutely NONE of you, will be seeking work at Starbucks, McDonald's, Wal-Mart or one of the numerous call centres that are set up. Why should you? You are educated. You are experienced, and you have many other skills. I can't argue with that. But, what makes somebody like me, as well as many of my cohorts, who also have advanced skills, any different? We have the same skills, many with even a higher education than I have, but we are all shuffled off to work for Starbucks, McDonald's, Wal-Mart and many of the call centres. Why is it good enough for you folks to demand and be placed in a post-political career that suits your skills and salary needs, while it is not good enough for us to expect and want a similar career - and have help obtaining it?

If your answer is that somebody has to do the scut work, then why does it have to be us? There are many people who do not have skills, or who just need a temporary job while they upgrade their education to the point they can accept a higher paid job. There are others who have dropped out of high school, who do not have the motivation to learn or to finish their education, for whatever reason, who can probably do this type of work until they either climb the corporate ladder, learn a trade or decide to further their education. I am often accused of bias, but then again - I ask why am I being discriminated against in the workplace because I am overqualified, while the jobs that are out there that I can do and pay well tend to value somebody with a driver's license more than a university degree? It is my understanding that if driving a vehicle is not a bona fide occupational requirement, then they cannot require a candidate to have a driver's licence. This is done all the time to people with disabilities, and then study after study is done asking why people with disabilities have a lower workplace participation rate than people without disabilities. When is that going to change?

I certainly hope that it will in MY lifetime.

I note your Government is making efforts at recognizing the credentials of many newcomers who have earned various degrees and professional skills outside of Canada. However, it is time that your Government begins to recognize the credentials of people with disabilities who have earned them, usually here in this country, and will work with them to obtain work that resembles their chosen field, thus getting us truly out of poverty.

If your Government does not want to see newcomers with high level skills working at driving taxis, cleaning hotels, working at McDonalds, etc., which is a fine goal that I also agree with, why is it okay to push people with disabilities in this direction regardless of how much education, how many skills and what our career aspirations are? When are we going to be heard?

Once again, when your Government starts to reduce Ontario's poverty rate, I want to be first in line. Just tell me where to sign up.

Friday, November 23, 2007


During the provincial election that sadly passed without a whimper from the public ... a story was published in the Toronto Star that stated Dalton McGuinty promised to deliver a time line and action plan on the reduction on poverty within a year of his re-election. After he was elected and his re-elected government was sworn in, he announced the appointment of Deb Matthews, a progressive Liberal from the London area to head up a Cabinet Committee of sorts to lead the government's anti-poverty strategy.

I like Deb Matthews. A few years ago, as Parliamentary Assistant to then Minister of Community and Social Services, Sandra Pupatello, she traveled the province to talk to different people about what needs to be done to address the inefficiencies and punitive regulations in the Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program Act. A number of her recommendations were eventually implemented, which many anti-poverty activists saw as a good thing. These changes were positive; however, on the backdrop of all this, the elephant of needing to raise the rates substantially still remained in the room. At meetings with anti-poverty activists, she was empathetic but non-committal about the rates issue. However, Ms. Matthews is known to be one of McGuinty's more progressive thinkers in his coterie.

While it may appear that McGuinty is determined to develop and implement an anti-poverty strategy, the cynical part of our population wonders if all this hoopla really means anything at all. During McGuinty's last term, his government passed the implementation of the Ontario Child Benefit (OCB), a benefit through which they have already lied to the public about its overall benefit and impact on the pocketbooks of the poor. First, Dalton is telling everybody that once the OCB is fully implemented, the hideous and much disliked clawback of the National Child Benefit Supplement (NCBS) will be ended. While the OCB does look good on paper and it will benefit the working poor more than those on social assistance, it is not really what it was marketed to be. As I stated in an earlier post, McGuinty and his gang has tried to woo us all with BIG numbers ... to make it look like they're digging in deep to provide a spanking new benefit for the poor. A full $2.1 billion worth! How can anybody fault them for that?

The problem is that the funding to cover this $2.1 billion promised over five years is going to be paid for in part by issuing yet another clawback against people on social assistance. The Liberals won't tell you this, of course, as they would rather disguise this new clawback under more attractive language, such as "restructuring of social assistance benefits" and "getting children off welfare". All this sounds absolutely attractive to an unknowing public, who has by now assumed the child poverty problem in Ontario just disappeared with the stroke of a pen in Ontario. After all, nobody is marketing those commercials showing young children with fat bellies and flies all over them, as they proceed to labour at a dollar a day anymore .... oops, this is not supposed to be about Ontario. But then again, Ontario's child poverty problem is solved, is it not? I noticed the Toronto Star which is sometimes viewed as progressive from an anti-poverty stance substantially reduced its coverage of child poverty as soon as the ink dried on the 2007 budget presentation.

In fact, I spoke to members of the so-called public about the budget shortly after it was made public. Almost all of them actually believed that people who are on social assistance that have children will be taken out of poverty ... end of story. That's what McGuinty wanted us all to believe. However, come July 1, 2008, a number of changes will be made to the social assistance benefit structure for those recipients that have children. Singles and childless couples will not be affected by these changes. One way to determine the difference is to look up the regulations over the web ... they are publicly posted on a site called e-laws under "source law". Under this section, each regulation that gets passed can be read under its respective Act. The first one shows what the budgetary table will be for families on ODSP (just to make it simple ... for OW, the changes are similar, but the numbers are different). The first one shows how much people will be getting for their "basic needs" portion of their budget as of November 1, 2007; the second one shows what people will be getting as of July 1, 2008. See the difference? Like, about a 30% drop!

But no, Dalton and his gang will argue. Nobody will be hurt by these new regulations. What this "restructuring" essentially does is take money out of the pockets of families on social assistance to help pay for the OCB for both the so-called working poor and to a lesser extent, themselves. Most of this $2.1 billion talked about is just an expensive shell game at best, moving money from social assistance cheques to be put back on later in the month for the OCB. At the same time, one's entitlement to the OCB will be determined by their income. Not taxable income, it seems, but income - period. So, if your family is on ODSP, pays full rent, and one or more member(s) of your family receive special diets, medical transportation, mandatory medical necessities or other disability-related income, it will count against you in spades. Those that will benefit the most from this newest contraption will be those families that have taxable earnings of $20,000 and under and have no social assistance, particularly if this same family also lives in social housing. Those with less expenses and less costs will get more money! Does this make any sense to you? The OCB and NCBS gets clawed back by a certain percentage for every dollar of "income" you have above $20,000 - regardless of what this income is for. Do I smell a disability discrimination case coming on? It would be a lot simpler to base this all on TAXABLE INCOME ... because the more taxable income one receives, their OW and/or ODSP cheques are clawed back substantially anyways.

The writers of this policy did not seem to relate to the issues of families on ODSP, particularly if they are getting their full shelter allotments. If this is happening, it is likely that most of their "basic needs portion" is also going to shelter as well. Remember? Dalton and his gang thought that rents and housing costs stopped going up since 1975! That's why we're stuck in the 1970's with the very low shelter rates that are provided for families on ODSP, or anybody really. So, what does that have to do with the price of eggs? Okay, the first cheque that is going to be "affected" by this dog and pony show of Dalton's is the July 31, 2008 cheque for people on ODSP and the July 1, 2008, cheque for people on OW. Immediately, there will be a 30% drop in the 'basic needs' part of the budget. That means for those who spend the average rate of 73% of their total income on housing will have to wait until July 20th (for OW recipients) or August 20th (for ODSP recipients) to eat! Each month after that will be on a constant spiral of catching up. For example, if you had to go into your overdraft to afford to purchase groceries for your family on the 1st, your cheque on the 20th will simply bring your account back to zero ... but then again, you still have to eat from the 20th until the end of the month, don't you?

Further, the 30% drop is right away. This applies to all families, regardless of whether they are only receiving a partial OCB/NCBS benefit or the full amount. This new hard maximum will also reduce the threshholds for families that have earnings before they are in danger of working themselves off benefits altogether. Moreover, the more earnings, the further the OCB/NCBS will also be clawed back ... It will certainly not encourage people to earn as much as possible, particularly if the family has an able-bodied worker that can work, but is not a high enough earner to be able to take on the family's finances on their own.

Okay, okay. Maybe it's not all doom and gloom. Maybe, as some anti-poverty activists say, people will be a bit better off. Calculations that I heard about at their most optimistic would give a social assistance family an additional $51 per child per month once the whole show is rolled out in 2011. This is in 2011! That means, between July 1, 2008 and July 1, 2011, rent increases will be approximately 6 - 8%, electricity will likely go up (as the Liberals want to squeeze every dime from ratepayers to help them pay for those golden parachutes of the fallen hydro executives), gas prices will likely go up (particularly if these wars in the Middle East persist and they will), inflation will go up approx 6 - 8%, as will the cost of food, clothing, etc. I actually believe people at that point will be losing money, not gaining any! So, where did the $2.1 billion promised for this benefit go? It was taken from the social assistance budget to divide it up unevenly between the so-called working poor (who will get almost twice the net benefit) and back to those on social assistance. I know a scam when I see one, but unfortunately, too many voters actually believed McGuinty wiped child poverty off the map.

But what about the rest of McGuinty's anti-poverty agenda? Did he not promise the anti-poverty groups a reduction of 25% of the numbers living in poverty over the first five years? To me, I believe this plan would be modest and it is certainly possible, but will the Liberals actually do it? Policy analysts say if a concerted effort is given towards the reduction of poverty, many areas must be covered ... not just hiking social assistance rates or playing shell games with child benefits. To me, poverty must be attacked at its roots, not at its symptoms ... in order to do this, we have to ask the hard questions that need to be asked, particularly of businesses - many of whom give generously to the coffers of the Liberal Party. For example, are businesses prepared to pay a living wage to its workers? Are employers prepared to hire people - regardless of disability status or ethnicity - based on their abilities and not other characteristics, such as where they got their work experience or whether or not the person has a driver's license. It seems to me that employers don't care if you're a PHd or a high school drop-out, but if you can drive, you're in ... even if you don't have to drive on a regular basis as a bona fide occupational requirement. Keeping up this charade maintains a "nice" certain middle class culture and keeps out the riff-raff, such as people with disabilities, people who are from another country or people living in poverty. The way employers think, plan and act has to be completely changed in order to move more people out of poverty ...

Further, the government needs to draw a line in the sand. If employers are bitching that they can't get local people to work for them, governments need to STOP catering to them and subsidizing them either directly or indirectly ... unless these employers are willing to pay a living wage. If employers are found to continue using policies that are discriminatory to certain groups, thus resulting in a disproportionate number of members in these groups to live in poverty - then these employers need to be fined heavily as a cost of doing business this way ... with all the proceeds from these fines to be applied directly to those persons who have to continue living on OW or ODSP for a longer period of time as a result of repeatedly being turned away from jobs for these reasons ... and get a top-up, like at least $500 more per single individual and $1,000-$1,500 more per family (on top of what they already get)! To me, employers will never learn until they have to dig into their own pockets as a consequence of their continued discriminatory practices. If an employer harbours workplace bullies or protects them, those that own the company as well as those doing the bullying should pay out of their own pockets - any compensation - that is awarded to their targets. Any organization that receives government funding or is licensed in any way by any regulatory body would lose its funding and/or license if it continues ... otherwise, we will continue to be raising "issues" about workplace bullying well into the year 2525 without any resolution in sight.

For those individuals and families headed by people who are unable or unavailable for work, their net income must never fall below the floor upon which one can pay for an average home (rent or buy), eat well, transport themselves and their families, as well as supply themselves with clothing, heat, electricity, reasonable recreation, health care and other "human needs". People living in poverty are tired of eating less per day than is given to prisoners, while they are forced to remain in their homes day after day after day with nothing to do. People who are too disabled to work for example are punished instead of supported in a dignified, independent lifestyle, while prisoners eat well, are given a trade and are guaranteed shelter during their time "inside". Politicians should not be the ones that determine what people need to live on. I sincerely believe that given their upper middle class backgrounds, they don't have a clue what low-income people need to make ends meet. If you are in your own home, you should be able to remain in it and not have to keep moving to cheaper and cheaper and less and less safe accommodations until you hit rock bottom and end up on the streets.

Yes, a true anti-poverty plan is going to cost money ... money that most politicians would rather give to their wealthy friends in the form of tax breaks and corporate welfare. To truly have a plan to eradicate poverty, politicians have to change the way they think and act ... they need to stop giving millions of dollars to cricket clubs and ethnic organizations allegedly linked with executive members of Liberal riding associations and former Lberal candidates/elected members (or their spouses). They need to directly involve people living in poverty to assist them in understanding some key issues, such as how much it really costs to live (e.g things have changed a lot since 1975), what people really need to escape poverty and what people's skills really are ... the politicians might surprise themselves! After all, one out of six household heads that are on ODSP have completed university. Many others have college or partial credits. ... the old Liberal solutions of teaching people how to read, giving them their grade twelve and helping them with their resumes is not entirely effective anymore. Getting people jobs at Wal-Mart and Starbucks and call centres is not going to cut it for many of these people ... that will only transform somebody from the welfare poor to the working poor and the poverty situation doesn't change a bit! Get real!

Some sacred cows may also need to be fried ... for example, building more rent-geared-to-income housing is NOT going to get rid of poverty. It just makes it more invisible and insidious. If you want to keep somebody trapped in a no-win situation, that is the way to do it .. claw them back every time they move an inch and don't let them progress! It is actually better to find ways to help people keep the homes they have or get better housing if they are presently in substandard housing. This can be done through a variety of fiscal measures, including refundable tax credits, shelter allowances for OW and ODSP reflecting real costs as opposed to the costs in the 1970's and various incentives to help people purchase their own homes.

Do I think Dalton McGuinty is going to meet his 25 in 5 target? Of course not. He may have appointed Deb Matthews to head this committee, but how much power will this committee really have? Will there even be a budget for this next shell game? Will there be real and meaningful consultation with those who live in poverty, as opposed to talking to all the food bank directors and Salvation Army platoons? Will all Ministries that directly or indirectly impact on the poor be held to certain targets and made accountable if they fail to achieve them? For example, the Ministry of Finance is a big player on this team and should be ... it is going to cost money, especially in the first few years. It is only after poverty is truly reduced or even eliminated that we will actually notice something unusual ... we will be saving lots of government dollars in just about every Ministry. There will be less need for health care dollars to go to treat preventable diseases, less money necessary to crack down on crime and pay for corrections, less money on long-term disability and worker's compensation (which is where the private sector will see a direct benefit) and more money will be available to provide for cultural activities, education, research and all the good things we want out of our communities ... and we can even help people in other countries ... yes, but that comes after we look after our own backyard first!

I would like to be still alive when the United Nations issues its report ranking Canada as Number One in terms of its poverty reduction strategy and economic/environmental sustainability. Your thoughts, people?

Friday, November 2, 2007


Welcome to the new economy!

It seems that more and more people today are becoming or desiring to become entrepreneurs. There are whole sections of newspapers, news information shows and small business fairs going on to try to encourage and guide those that wish to become self-employed.

First, if you have never been self-employed, you probably think being self-employed is wonderful:

  1. You believe that self-employed business people can deduct almost all of their business expenses and hardly pay any taxes. For the self-employed, that is true - but you have to EARN then money first before you can deduct it. If you are in business and have all of these expenses, the bills must be paid whether or not YOU get paid.
  2. You can work when you want, how you want and for whomever you want. Again, nice in theory, but doesn't work in practice. For every hour I can bill a client for, there are at least two or more hours of work that I can't bill that client or anybody else for. In my line of work, I have to maintain three business-related accounts, including a trust account. The trust account must always draw off to zero after subtracting the monies clients put in for advance payments. If you are a penny off, you better find it and reconcile the accounts, including all client sub-accounts. While employed people clock out and go out for a beer, I am still trying to balance the trust account and do transfers/reconciliations in the general account. There are lots of other bureaucratic disasters to prevent and look after too: GST, PST (for some businesses), invoicing, collection, marketing, production of marketing materials, attendance at various networking functions, as well as client record keeping and filing functions. This does not include the endless phone calls, many of which do not result in business ...
  3. You can work from your home. Do you REALLY want to work from home? Do you really want to be sitting at home watching the hockey game, cracking open a beer and then receiving a phone call from an angry customer? If you run the type of business where customers come to see you, do you really want to have to keep your home sparkling clean all the time, fearing prospective clients will walk past your dirty laundry, the kitty litter and a sink full of dirty dishes on their way in to see you? Also, in some types of businesses, if you are dealing with individual situations (e.g. personal counseling), do you really like the idea of some of your less balanced clients knowing where you live?
  4. You can charge whatever you feel your worth, or what the market will bear. That's true. You CAN set your own fees; however, many critical factors go into setting that fee. What are your competitors charging? What are your suppliers charging you? How much does it cost you to engage in your business? Do you live in a region like I do where people expect you to work for nothing, or next to it? Are there aspects of your business that set you apart from your competitors? If so, you can set your fees accordingly. However, while you can set fees all you want, ten percent of your clients will cost you eighty percent of your time ... and these people may not want to compensate you for it. There are also others that may bounce cheques, skip town or otherwise refuse to pay you. People who are not self-employed do not understand that if they engage your services, they have to pay for them - period. Doesn't YOUR boss have to pay YOU the wages that YOU signed up for, including any benefits and bonus?
  5. Customer service is all you need to worry about ... it's a free market. Forget this one - period. My business is highly regulated. It is expensive to operate because I have to pay regulatory fees, licensing fees, related practice fees, continuing education, conference fees, membership dues, insurance (errors and omissions, liability, commercial, etc.), office, transportation, search/court/filing fees, subcontracting fees, professional fees, etc. This adds up to a "pretty penny" (and oh boy, a penny is nothing!). Add this to the regular business fees of office supplies, telephone, advertisements, stationary, computer technology, reporting service, etc. Without any profits or paying any salaries, I am already $40,000 - $50,000 in the hole! I have to pay these costs whether I get paid by my customers or not. If you are employed, after some taxes, the rest of your paycheque is YOURS! I still haven't paid ME yet!
  6. What about benefits? If you are employed, you probably get medical and dental benefits, and possibly long-term disability benefits and/or retirement. Guess what? I get NONE of that. First, I am un-insurable on my own (as individual coverage is very hard to get unless you are perfectly healthy, young and are as free as possible of other health risks, such as being a non-smoker and your work being relatively low risk). In a workplace, your health history usually doesn't matter. Second, even if I could get this type of insurance, I don't have the cash - period. I have ZERO retirement savings.
Still want to be self-employed? I am because the region that I live in does not have the jobs available that will pay me much more than minimum wage and will totally discount my entire education that I paid over $50,000 for and my work history, which was most recently at the executive and mid-management level. I don't mind what I do or the people that I work with at all, but I NEED to be paid for it too.

I hope that those that are reading this that use professional services at all in any market begin to understand where I am coming from.

Your thoughts?

Sunday, October 14, 2007


The Liberals are back with another majority, this time with more seats predicated on even less popular vote.

It doesn't matter how much somebody lies, breaks promises and continues to ignore real issues, the sheep keep going back again and again and voting for the same old, same old. Maybe the 42% who voted Liberal are among the ones who are doing well, or maybe some of them got spooked over John Tory's proposal to bring faith-based schools that meet certain standards under the public system. A non-issue to me, but it is amazing how many people get spooked over what actually amounts to 1 - 2% of the tax paying population.

Doesn't the arrogance of voting themselves a 25% increase within the space of eight days sway people? How about the billions wasted at "year end" surpluses given away to so-called Liberal friendly organizations? How about McGuinty's originally signed pledge not to raise taxes, only to be broken in the first breath of his newly-minted government with a huge health tax, which not only took from higher income folks (which can truly absorb more taxes), but also low income workers making as little as $20,000 a year? What about McGuinty's phony-baloney feel-good pledges to help those living in poverty? There is still as much poverty, if not more, than there was at the time McGuinty first sailed into power in 2003. How about McGuinty's attacks on numerous professions, including my own? With this next four year mandate, one should ask themselves if their OWN profession is next. They mentioned nothing about their attack on paralegals while campaigning in 2003, so don't be surprised if other professions will be held to the fire during this next four year term.

From the day McGuinty got into power until today, I am: (a) financially worse off; (b) in poorer health; and (c) for the first time in my life, facing serious money issues. I know I am not alone because many of my own clients, even in the regular fee-paying category, are facing lay-offs, bankruptcies, foreclosures and other situations where many of them are feeling their backs are to the wall. A typical client who was able to regain employment after lay-off would move from a $25/hour job to a $10/hour job, yet still be saddled with the same expenses they had while earning $25/hour. The key issue that has been ignored in this election is that prices are going UP, not down. These 'regular fee-paying clients' are not the clients our office gets for financial or disability cases. These people are usually those who are trying to start businesses (and need a business plan), are involved in a Highway Traffic matter, or need assistance in a regular legal action (e.g. somebody owes them money, somebody damaged their property, a business owner has difficulty with a commercial landlord). These people can typically pay our fees, but more and more of them are having to borrow in order to do so.

Yet throughout his election campaign, McGuinty told the Toronto Star and anybody else who would listen that over 340,000 new jobs have been created under his watch, 90% of which paid $19.50 per hour or more. If this is true, Mr. McGuinty, maybe you can tell me where these jobs are so I can direct my clients who are losing their jobs as to where to find a new one ... Give me the names, addresses and telephone numbers of these employers who are now hiring at this rate (over $19.50 an hour). Don't tell us you can't do that, because if you were telling us the truth during your whole election campaign, somebody on your team was able to contact these employers and gather these statistics in order for you to make this wildly, ludicrous statement. Unfortunately, Mr. McGuinty, I am going to hold you accountable for every word you uttered during this election ... I need the facts, the names, the addresses, please ... my clients are looking up to you.

How about people with disabilities, Mr. McGuinty? Not much was said about them on your election trail. No promises of increased income. No promises of new job opportunities. Just more of the same old, same old. I worked with thousands of people with disabilities throughout Ontario, many of them through the Internet and others in person. Only a small fraction of them voted for you in this election. Why? Because, when you had nothing to offer them in your first four year mandate, why would these people expect you to offer them more in the next four years? I know what your response to this allegation will be ... that your government had given them a 3% and a 2% raise in 2004 and 2006 respectively, and another 2% in November. That is not good enough, sir. Inflation has eaten away at their benefits to the tune of 30 - 35% since their last increase in 1993. This is especially not good enough when you saw fit to increase your own salary at the stroke of a pen by $40,000, despite the fact that at that same time - a report was published that stated people are falling further and further into deepening poverty and that food bank use was at an all time high since October 2003.

I know many of these people. Our health care system and its costs are skyrocketing not necessarily because of our aging population, but because of realities that exist OUTSIDE of our health care system. Health care economists believe our aging population may contribute only a percentage point or two in difference in health care spending, but as there are MORE people living in poverty - many of these people are getting sicker and requiring much more expensive interventions at a much younger age. In my own office, in the past six months alone, I have encountered the following:

1. A man, 42, diabetic, cut back on his special diet allowance to the point that after his housing costs, he did not have anything left for healthy food. He is now blind and completely unemployable.

2. A woman, now 54, suffered from a particularly brittle form of diabetes that she inherited from her father. When she began to experience complications in her late 40's, she was unable to afford an insulin pump. She has now had both legs amputated, suffered two heart attacks and is going blind in one eye. Her kidneys are failing to the point she may soon require dialysis as well. Good money going after bad, all for the want of an insulin pump.

3. Another woman, 59 or 60, I am not sure. She was diabetic and obese from many years of improper diet and poverty. After housing, she had $75 a month left for food, transportation and clothing. She just had a major heart attack which her physician attributed directly to her diet, and because he was afraid that if she was discharged back to living on her own, she will likely have another heart attack, so he placed her in a nursing home, likely costing taxpayers at least double the amount of her disability pension itself, plus the continued payments of her ODSP which also go towards the costs of the facility, let alone the expensive health care she now needs.

4. One family, with three children, had two of their children removed by Children's Aid (which is still before the courts but their chances of winning are slim). The reason the children are in care relates to the health of the kids, which was too expensive to manage by the family, as it turns out. As a result, this family's shelter and basic needs allowance under ODSP was cut back, leaving this family very short of money to feed the remaining three. At the present time, our taxes are paying at least another $2,300 a month to care for these children elsewhere - money these parents will never get to see. They had a recent visit from a Children's Aid worker who told the family that if they cannot find better and healthier accommodations, they will not get the two children back and they may even lose the third one. The last time I checked, landlords do not decrease the rent for families when there are less people living in the household, nor do utility costs go down by very much.

5. Other people are dying young and of illnesses that middle-class families have never seen or if they did encounter them, they would not likely die of the conditions. Two of my clients died in the last month or so, one of a perforated ulcer (at age 42) and another of a staph infection (at age 37). These people got to this point after living very difficult lives. It is not that these people were not fighters - one in fact had recently attempted to lay a suit against a facility he was in where he was recklessly beaten up. A recent column by Dr. Gifford-Jones bemoaned the return of scurvy, a deficiency of Vitamin C. This doesn't shock me in the least, as I had at least one client come through my door that had that diagnosis.

Poverty is a NATIONAL EMERGENCY, Mr. McGuinty! It is not something that can be dealt with through a network of homeless shelters and food banks. I know these same organizations supported you throughout your campaign because for sure, it is known you'd keep them in business. The director of a food bank or homeless shelter does make very good money, many earning over $80.000 a year! Why would I want to put myself out of business if I am making that kind of money? Of course, that's why they supported you.

You also spoke on national TV about a specific business plan you intend to have in place to reduce poverty in Ontario. You said you did not have the specifics, but promised to have them within a year. I will be watching you, and I will also be watching for your specifics as well ... as you know, creating more low-income housing does not eradicate poverty, so I would expect this would not be a cornerstone of a true business plan for poverty eradication/reduction. Because 87% of those on assistance live in market housing or even in owned housing, it would make sense from my standpoint to ensure they all have enough money to cover their shelter expenses (including utility and telephone costs) WITHOUT dipping into their basic needs budget. This is particularly important for people with disabilities, as many of them cannot work.

I would also expect a substantial investment in economic development, as well as some use of public service jobs to get filled by persons with disabilities at reasonable wages. If people work forty hours a week, year round and still cannot support themselves and their families, a job is not necessarily the key cornerstone in anti-poverty policy. There should be more high paying jobs, as well as procuring people from disadvantaged sectors to work in these higher paid jobs, where qualified. It is good to see your government is trying to assist skilled immigrants who have trouble getting their foreign credentials recognized to get work in their fields, but what about people with disabilities, many of whom have university and college education that they are still paying for ... how come their credentials still go unrecognized and they are supposed to be enthralled with the prospect of having a job stuffing envelopes, packing boxes, answering phones or working in a low-paid office position? If you want to eradicate poverty, you have to be serious about it ... your Ontario Child Benefit does not cut the mustard for families on ODSP, particularly for those that have more than one child and pay market rent ... as after your planned "restructuring", they will be getting less, not more. Do the math. It will be better for your government in the long run to skip the restructuring bullshit and just issue the OCB and base it on taxable income only - similar to how the "working poor" will be dealt with. Because if you insist on this "restructuring", you are simply replacing one clawback with another clawback and that will not even make a dent in the poverty rate for these families! If ODSP recipients work, their earnings are clawed back and taxed anyways ... so why do you want to penalize ODSP recipients for reasons of their disability due to being on the higher paid ODSP, and having added benefits such as special diet, disability needs, etc.? If this is done, it is illegal and it will be challenged.

Tell me, Mr. McGuinty, what do I have to look forward to in the next four years? What do my clients have to look forward to under your leadership? How is the next four years going to be different than the last four years for me and the people I represent? Will my people REALLY notice a difference at all, or will the suffering continue? If you believe you truly have a majority mandate, which indeed I find debatable at best, then you must represent the interests of ALL Ontarians, not just those who drive the SUVs, could afford to take their kids to hockey practice, live in the GTA suburbs, have $500,000 homes and earn over $100,000 a year. If you need to hike taxes, hike them on people who drive gas guzzling vehicles, earn more than $80,000 a year and lower and/or eliminate your health tax for the working poor. If I had a job and made over $80,000 a year ... and I did at one time, I would not worry so much about taxes, because being a high earner is a privilege in itself. Just give me a chance to be a high earner again and then you can see how much more I can do for Ontario, as would the rest of my clients ...

... because TRUE anti-poverty initiatives will pay back big time in economic and political rewards, higher taxes paid to your government, more jobs in the private sector and more money for the things we all find important like health care, the environment and education. You will also earn my respect and that, Mr. McGuinty, can go a long way ... because I write for many publications, speak at many conferences, and have many e-lists that I work with ... and my clients. I have the capability of reaching many people with my words. I would love these words to be supportive of your leadership, as opposed to feeling more of the same old, same old. Ensuring the needs of my clients - including those 2/3rds that do not come to me for economic or disability issues and pay full fees - would also go a long way towards your continued popularity and legacy for your government. All I want is to see an end to this suffering ... soon, well before I am too old to enjoy it.

Friday, September 21, 2007


Want to know what really ticks me off? People who don't vote in elections.

I recall people going to wars and risking their lives and sometimes even paying with their lives to give us this freedom. There was a time when women and blacks did not have the vote. When this was the issue, many women engaged in violence and civil disobedience to prove their point. Later on, another woman took her fight to the Supreme Court to argue that women were "persons" for the purposes of accepting an appointment to the Senate. Other women had to dress like and pretend they were men in order to engage in a profession of their choice ... this was during a time when women were not traditionally admitted to the higher paid professions, such as medicine, dentistry and law. It was sometimes found out only after the person had died and the mortician came to take the body, when it was learned that the "he" everybody believed the person was, was actually a "she".

One thing having a higher education did for me was to make me understand the history and the struggle behind things that too many people take for granted today. In one particular course I took, we were shown films that documented the lives of people who gave so much of themselves, including their lives, to a particular cause. As I continued my education, I did some studies in the historical and social psychological relevance of key events, such as the suffragette movement, the Holocaust and the French Revolution. While historical in their nature, understanding these issues helps us learn about the importance of similar struggles today. To me, these issues are all of the same fabric, but the technology is more advanced as we age as a human species.

There are a lot of people today that are trying to protest the war in Afghanistan. They say we should withdraw and bring our troops back home. Because of my learnings about the early struggles of modern humankind, I am not entirely against war. It was war that put the Nazis to their knees and freed the many European nations that Hitler attempted to take over. It was the Civil War in the United States that started the path to freedom for African Americans who were held there as slaves. I live in a part of the world where many slaves came to after the "underground railroad" was built as a means for many of them to escape before and during that war. Today, I still think the work we are doing in Afghanistan is worth something ... I think the people who should be answering whether the war is accomplishing anything are those that are involved, the thousands of soldiers and civilians who are on the grounds protecting the citizens of that country against the ravages of the Taliban and their remainders. I am one of those people who believe that Remembrance Day should mean something and that the veterans who return from these wars should be respected and their lives celebrated.

To argue that voting is a waste of your time, or that your vote doesn't make any difference doesn't persuade me. I can only envision the veterans of the first and second world wars, the leaders of the suffragette movement and those who built the underground railroad turn over in their graves as you casually disregard your duty. If you are truly disenchanted by the array of candidates presented on your ballot, the thing to do is take your ballot, fold it and return it to the Deputy Returning Officer at your polling station without marking it. This is called "rejecting your ballot", which still means you voted and your presence is recorded - even though you did not visibly support anybody on that ballot. At one time, I served many Elections as a poll clerk or deputy returning officer and we would always encounter one or two people throughout the day that did just that - rejected their ballot. We were required to strike out the voter's name and count that ballot as "rejected".

In addition to voting, I always believed in keeping active and keeping our leaders accountable. In modern days, elections are run quite differently than they were when I was directly involved in the the elections ... during this part of my life, I did everything from canvassing for a political candidate, raising funds for a political campaign, traveling throughout the riding to deliver literature and knock on doors. During one election, I was on crutches for a broken ankle, but I still hobbled my way door to door to speak to voters about the issues and to encourage them to vote for "my" candidate. I've also been involved with enumerations, which helped create the voter's list before every federal or provincial election. We would go door to door in pairs to ascertain the names of each resident who was eligible to vote in each household. We would often have to return a second or third time if a voter was not home to provide this information. I would then go home and actually type up voter's lists and submit them to my local Returning Office for posting. At the Advanced Polls, or on the Election Day itself, I also served a number of functions, whether that be scrutineering for a political candidate or remaining "neutral" and sticking to clerking at the polls.

In other functions, I actually met personally with political candidates or sent them surveys for various community groups I was involved with during the time. I would record the candidates' replies exactly as they delivered them and publish this information for people that wanted to know the positions that different parties took on issues. I would be involved with political parties - I was a member of two different parties at two very distinct and separate periods of my life. For one of the parties, I served on its executive and attended most party functions, such as policy and leadership conventions. For this party, I also served for a time as its riding association president. Much later in my life, I worked with and became part of regular political fundraising and social events for the second political party. Today, I am non-partisan, although I will attempt to serve and provide information to whoever gets into power. I've voted at least once in my life for all the major political parties, including one time when I voted for the Green Party.

Outside of electoral politics, I have served in a lobbying capacity on behalf of community organizations or my profession(s), a protester especially when I was young at heart and idealist in my culture, as well as a consultant to whatever Ministry or government department needed the type of services and advice I can offer. In my later years, after becoming non-partisan (from the radical centre, as I always like to call it), I provide consultation and assistance for community groups with respect to their communications with government or at times, as a direct consultant on specific projects. The one thing I know that doesn't change much in government is the function and role of the permanent bureaucracy. These are the people that are charged with carrying out decisions made by the government in power and in many cases, designing programs and services in response to Cabinet directives. In my working life, I enjoyed working in jobs that have occasionally brought me in contact with Cabinet Ministers and even the Leaders of political parties or Government. Through these functions, I have learned quite a bit about how democracy works.

I can't say I ever met a Cabinet Minister of any stripe that I intensely disliked. Individuals that achieve these positions of power are usually well trained to deal with a diversity of people and organizations. Most of them have also achieved a level of respect from the people who elected them in their own ridings. In fact, there were a number of them I actually liked and enjoyed meeting with. One thing to note, however, is that meeting any of these political leaders in real life is far different than reading about them through the media or hearing about them through the perspectives of others. You do develop a type of knowledge one can never obtain from any of the courses I took in school or from dealing with issues from the "outside". Despite the political affilitations and positions of many of these people, I do know that serving in their positions regardless of whether or not I like their policies is actually very difficult work. I remember attending a function that included the full Cabinet and Premier of one of our past provincial governments and meeting several of them. To me, these are all just people ... many of which are carrying a very high level of burden and responsibility.

Not only are these people responsible and accountable for everything that comes out of their respective offices, serving in the highly public capacity that they are in often creates friction with people on the "outside". If anybody thinks these conflicts do not impact on any of these people personally, they are dreaming in technicolour. Politics is a very public, as well as a personal responsibility. One mistep can cost a person their job. A major mistep that may not affect you or me either way can cost a politician their reputation and career. Think about Brian Mulroney. Many people remember this man as the "most hated Prime Minister in the history of Canada". I even remember one time when my husband and I went to visit with one of his relatives and a young girl (his niece?) was there watching television when a news story involving then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney came on. This girl turned to the TV and told us loudly that she "hated that man".

Can you IMAGINE what it is actually like to be a man in Mulroney's position which held a great deal of responsibility and certainly a need for caution, when a lot of people - including eight-year old little girls - are all pointing their fingers at you to say how much they hate you? My husband and I met Mulroney before. In real life, he is actually shorter than I envisioned him to be when I watched him on television. What I have learned at that time and in subsequent years is that these leaders are all just people ... much like you and me. I also had the occasion to enjoy a dinner function where I sat at the same table as Bob and Arlene Perly Rae while the NDP held power in Ontario. Again, these people are far different than they have ever been portrayed by the media. One thing all of our leaders have, regardless of political stripe, is the belief that they are truly doing some good. They don't want to believe they may sometimes create harm by some of their policies ... some of them are deeply sensitive to this type of attack, even though they have been trained not to show it. When something clicks in the minds of voters and these folks are literally tossed out of office, they all feel personally attacked. In fact, both Parliament and the Legislature provides a service to politicians who are tossed out of office to aid them in their career and personal transitions as a result of being voted out.

This brings me on to my next topic, which is the best way to "do" politics. Ontario had 42 years of what was referred to as a Progressive Conservative dynasty, which ended abruptly in 1985, upon the promise of extended funding for Roman Catholic schools in Ontario. I was around at the time when folks had to pay tuition at Roman Catholic schools after the eighth grade. The promise of extended funding was controversial, for sure ... as many people, as they are thinking right now on the subject of faith-based schools ... believe that support for Catholic education to the exception of all others, is discriminatory against other faiths. This is becoming even more of a key issue today, particularly with the growing diversity of our province and the richness of our multi-faith society. What may have worked in 1985 may not necessarily work today. This is the issue that threw the Progressive Conservatives out of power after 42 years of moderate (and often "bland") leadership. Since 1985, Ontario had become a more volatile political landscape, including a single term for the NDP in 1990 - 1995.

I sense voters do want to see "change", but radical changes scare people and as proven in the past, is very risky to the political careers of those that implement change too far, too soon. In many ways, our current Premier - Dalton McGuinty - has tried to represent to the voters that his leadership was the antidote to what voters got tired of with the former administration of Mike Harris/ Ernie Eves. In some ways, McGuinty did put some brakes on the ideological push and pull involved with the so-called "MUSH sector" (municipalities, universities, schools and hospitals). When Harris was in power, many of his ideas were good - but like most politicians, he wanted to do all of this in one term of office. This is what eventually did his administration in and possibly could continue to turn some voters off the Progressive Conservative party. However, there were many hot spots where McGuinty could have taken a more cautious and consensus-oriented position, but chose not to. Like Mike Harris, McGuinty had his own ideas of how things needed to be done and given the short-term view of politics, he too needed to get some of these things done in THIS term. Need I name these "changes"? Lifting the "cap" off hydro, terminating the "employment" of highly paid Hydro employees with golden parachutes, radically altering the payment structure and rate of pay for MPPs, adding a major health tax, smart meters, banning pit bulls, cutting the special diet allowances (as well as some other less known ODSP benefits), forcing paralegals under the Law Society, etc. were in his mind decisive moves, but in the minds of many voters - maybe not good ideas. I don't think the McGuinty administration actually wanted to hurt anybody with these moves; however, many of these decisions have cost jobs, businesses and hurt the working poor.

I think what most voters want is to be left alone, to be availed of work opportunities, increased income and a reasonable social safety net in the health care and social sector. They want somebody managing the good ship Ontario with a moderate, yet consensus building role at the top. People do not want to fear the loss of their livelihood or to pay more for essential services. When politicians start pulling manoevres that put some of these things at risk, they make voters nervous. People don't like strikes, major protests, long waiting lists for services that taxes should be paying for, and so forth. The machine should be well-oiled and running smoothly, while ensuring that regardless of who you are in Ontario - there is a sense of predictability and safety. This is something that unfortunately I feel I was not getting from the McGuinty government ...

While not everything that went wrong in Ontario is McGuinty's fault, voters needed to see that some effort is being made to reduce or ameliorate the negative impacts that changes might bring. With the hike in hydro, the loss of my own government contracts and the sense that paralegals are being regulated out of business, I have lost that sense of security and safety I should be receiving from my government. I have therefore lost confidence in the leadership and direction that McGuinty's government is going. I don't want another four years of suffering the way I am right now. I want access to opportunities, access to more work ... I am well over forty years of age and this is the time of my life that I begin to worry about if I will ever be able to retire. If things keep going the way they have under the present administration, I might as well forget it.

However - what if Mr. McGuinty still made the same decisions that he did, but somehow took other steps to ameliorate the negative effects of some of these policies (so people like me can stop feeling targeted)? For example, his government could have provided "seed money" to the Law Society of Upper Canada to pay them to regulate us and reduce some of our costs ... while allowing eventual economies of scale (with more paralegals eventually becoming licensed) to be the taper-off point of this funding, so that regulatory mechanisms are at least affordable to the first set of guinea pigs going through licensing (a.k.a. "grandparented" or "transitional" candidates) can actually afford to continue and the public can continue to afford to access our services. With respect to the other contracts, if changes were made to the Employment Support program, could there have been a way to negotiate some other type of related contract with my office to ensure that: (a) clients receiving my service can continue to receive services; and (b) my office can continue to serve some type of role with ODSP clients - maybe a different role, but still a role that will pay me to continue working? Would my attitude and my feeling of predictability and safety under McGuinty's watch be different? Absolutely! If things were different in this way, I may instead be campaigning for one of their people instead of wasting my time on this blog "educating" voters about my life and attitudes toward it.

In this post, I have come full circle in expressing my concerns about people that don't vote (but still complain nevertheless), to the directness of much of my life and work experience in the political and government sphere, to my knowledge of how government actually works, to my knowledge of how governments can at times unintentionally put "outside" people in precarious or difficult situations - which can and should cost them not only votes, but possibly a majority government. I often wish the powers that be could actually read my letters and my articles and get a sense of how they went wrong for me and let me have the opportunities that they speak of so frequently, but somehow seem so elusive to me. In 2003, many of us including my husband and I did vote to "choose change", but it appears this time around, we're going to have to do it again - except this time for real.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


The election is still a few weeks away. I'm already telling people not to vote Liberal.

Many people are planning to vote Liberal, because to say the least, the Liberal leader - Dalton McGuilty - is *warning* people that a vote for the NDP is a vote for the Conservatives. He is trying to get people to vote strategically to avoid what McGuilty is referring to as another era of "Mike Harris conservatism". All he can do is remind people about Mike Harris and the cuts they made to various programs, etc. This is to avoid reminding voters of the cuts and problems that Dalton McGuilty himself either created or did not fix while he had four years to do so.

Let's put the "Mike Harris theory" to bed right now.

Mike Harris has been out of politics for many years now. Most of his key Cabinet members are also either out of politics or involved at the federal level under Stephen Harper. Ernie Eves is also out of politics. Anybody who *warns* you that a return to a Progressive Conservative government in Ontario is a vote for Mike Harris is stupid, ignorant and playing mind games with you. The new leader of the Progressive Conservative party is John Tory, who was more involved when Bill Davis and other moderate conservatives were in power, not as much with Mike Harris or his government.

Further, if this is the Liberal party's key reason for you to vote for them, they are in BIG TROUBLE. Vote for me or you will get the other guy, the worse evil. Is the Liberal Party really the lesser evil they are claiming to be?

Not really.

Since they've been in power, I noted they talked nicer than Mike Harris/Ernie Eves and company, but their actions were really no different. Disability payments under Dalton McGuilty were cut back, as well as benefits reduced. Inflation took care of the rest of it. If you asked the Liberals what they are doing for people with disabilities, they will go on about how they increased benefits by 3% in 2004, 2% in 2006 and plan to increase benefits again by 2% in November of this year. Note this 2% is after the election. One wonders if this is contingent upon voting for these people.

The reality is much more stark. Disability payments were last increased in 1993, and it is now 2007 ... which means people only received a 5% hike since 1993. Further, many people on disability benefits also received special diet and other benefits. These were cut back substantially in 2005, which forced many recipients into the hospital or into ill health as a result. One man in my practise went blind in one eye as a result of being forced to cut back on his eating if he wanted to keep a roof over his head. Another one is now on dialysis. It's time to let McGuilty know how happy you are that he's spending much more on health care, although the wait lists haven't gone down one iota.

Both the NDP and Progressive Conservatives have been pointing out problems with the economy in Ontario. McGuilty replaces one lie with another by saying that 340,000 jobs were created since he took office, 80% of which are full-time and 95% of them pay $19.50 per hour or more (Toronto Star, September 12, 2007). If there were so many jobs like this, perhaps McGuilty and his boys may want to tell us where to find them, because all I see around here are big box stores and telemarketing jobs that pay $8 - $10 per hour. This is far from what is needed to feed and shelter a family in this region.

McGuilty and his boys did a lot to destroy jobs and job opportunities. In my mind's eye and personal experience, I lost between $60,000 - $80,000 in funding to operate my employment supports practice when his government decided to end my contract for no good reason (or any reason given). His government further ruined my economic integrity by ramming through Bill 14, Access to Justice Act, which is described in further detail below ... making the legal side of my business more expensive to practice, as well as less accessible because many clients can no longer afford my services. I am advised to pay to Caesar to what is Caesar's until the time comes, I suppose. I still don't blame the Law Society, as they were legislated by law to do this and were originally in agreement, believing they would be receiving "seed money" to set up our regulatory processes. One year later, regulation is in effect, but still no seed money ... but the Law Society is still expected to fund our regulation. For this reason, I place all the blame for this at the feet of the Dalton McGuilty government. If you cannot access the justice system because even paralegal services are too expensive, or if the kind of services you want or need can now only be provided by a lawyer, blame the McGuilty government for this.

In addition to the contraption that McGuilty and the boys (and girls) have set up for people with disabilities, Ontario is becoming a society where there is workfare for those that cannot work - by stealth. The Liberals don't even have to pass legislation to impose workfare on people with disabilities. They have already done so, by leaving them thousands and thousands of dollars below any given poverty line - making many so desperate to both feed themselves AND keep a roof over their head in the same month - that they HAVE TO go to work and do ANY job ...

Yes, the Liberals have made it easier to work and keep more benefits. However, the Liberals did very little to ensure that the disabled poor do not simply become part of the new working poor. Their new employment supports program for persons with disabilities almost ensures that people will be forced into taking any job, if they want a job at all. The Ministry officials tell us they are not making people take specific jobs, which may well be true, but are the service providers adequately compensated to assist somebody with a disability to attain a job that is more suitable and better paying, particularly if they have post-secondary education and at least "mid-level" work experience? Further, what have the Liberals done to ensure the "new" jobs are ones that carry with them labour board protection and job security? It is said that at least one third or more of the jobs coming onstream are "self-employment", "dependent contractor" and "independent contractor" positions that lack any legal protection. One can find this out for themselves by contacting the Worker's Action Centre in Toronto. It is no different in Niagara than it is in Toronto. Being pushed out the door by stealth because otherwise there is not enough money in ODSP to pay the rent and feed the kids is one thing; having no real job protection in the job you do eventually go to is also another thing.

The Ministry of Community & Social Services is actively encouraging and directly or indirectly subsidizing low wage employers to take on persons with disabilities or who are otherwise in receipt of social assistance. For example, in Niagara, we have the Job Bus. This is a program that the Region received $200,000 for from MCSS in order to partner with low-wage employers throughout Niagara to provide transportation for workers to the jobs these employers offer. There is no requirement on the part of these employers to provide full-time work, or even sustainable wages. The employers can pay people $8.00 an hour if they wish, with no benefits ... I particularly noted that when Canada Border Services Agency was hiring several cross-border guards at at salary of at least $55,000, the Job Bus administrators did not even attempt to engage with this employer to connect them to potentially qualified workers. The Job Bus, unfortunately, is like anything else that is band-aid ... another excuse for Niagara Region not to set up inter-municipal transit for the rest of us that want to select our own jobs, thank you very much ...

How about other things that peeve me off about the Liberals? When they were campaigning in the 2003 election, they promised voters they would not increase taxes or lower them. Almost as soon as they were sworn in, McGuilty and the boys immediately passed a health tax on almost all working people. Anybody who makes over $20,000 a year in wages, which is not a whole lot, considering that housing costs almost that much in itself for many people, starts paying $300 in health tax. Those earning over $60,000 a year pay the maximum of $900 - so whether you are earning $60,000 a year or $300,000 a year - you still pay $900. Another promise of McGuilty's to make the poor pay once again for their misuse of taxpayer's dollars. If they wanted a health tax at all, only those making over $60,000 should pay and it should start off low and get progressively higher as one's income increases.

Another issue that burns me is before Christmas last year, the Liberals held the Legislative session on overtime to ram through a 25% wage increase for themselves, while they could not do the same for people on disability or minimum wages. The Liberals have repetitively claimed the cupboard was bare when people with little or nothing asked for their right to survive, but when people approached them for comparatively frivolous things like a cricket tournament, they are not only glad to provide, but to give them even more ... remember the cricket players only asked for $150,000, but instead received a cheque for $1 million. There was at least another $32 million from this pot that was given to Liberal-affiliated organizations, many of which did not even apply for this money. While the Auditor did not seem to think that partisan politics played a role in this, he did agree that adequate controls were not in place. I suppose some people don't have to tighten their belts, while others do? One wonders how many other pots of money like this existed, but I presume steps were taken to hide this information when the election was called ... so nobody will ever know.

I presume a new government coming in will only learn that the Liberals left an unclaimed deficit of a few billion dollars, so they can't hike disability rates either. Too many cricket tournaments, I presume ... while my clients go blind or are forced on dialysis or into nursing homes, etc. I should have thought about this. I follow the wrong sport.

I've read the Liberal election platform. There is really nothing there for people with disabilities. There is no mention of continuous increased payments to ODSP/ OW recipients or better programs to improve job opportunities and outcomes for those disadvantaged in today's labour market. There is not even anything said about the work that has been started with Bill 118, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Many voters who will vote blindly for the Liberal Party will only assume these things will continue, but I do not. The reason being is that McGuilty is on the hot seat for being a "promise breaker", so he is certainly not going to do anything he doesn't promise in his platform.

If the Liberals are re-elected to a majority, I suspect the following will happen:

1. A 2% increase for ODSP/ OW in November 2007, but nothing after that;
2. Implementation of workfare lite for people with disabilities by 2008;
3. More uncontrolled spending of millions or even billions on special interest groups that don't need any help; and
4. No more assistance than is already given to create GOOD PAYING JOBS.

I cynically worry that people who are doing well will vote blindly for the Liberals, almost believing everything they say - particularly about how these so called 340,000 jobs paying at least $19.50 an hour were created. The unfortunate thing with politics is that people who are doing well are usually shielded from those who are not, and if they encounter anybody in the latter category - it is too easy to assume these people are few and far between.

All I can say is that I practised as a disability issues and administrative law paralegal, starting early under the term of the Mike Harris government and it is only the past few years (Dalton McGuilty years) that I've noticed large increases in the number of my clients awaiting appeals for various benefits falling into spells of homelessness, suicide, family breakup and other signs of commiseration. It is not that this did not happen under the Harris government, as it certainly did, but under the Harris government - if I had this type of concern, my local MPP was empowered to deal with it and they actually did something about these issues most of the time.

Nowadays, it is getting harder to do my job, as my clients appear to be more desperate and experiencing a lot greater degree of financial hardship imposed, because Ontario Works - under the present Liberal government is now the resource of first resort, as opposed to last resort. Injured workers, disabled persons, recently separated spouses, recently laid off persons, EI exhaustees, etc. are all now referred to Ontario Works, as opposed to getting what used to be "interim assistance" during any appeal process. Readers of my posts, as well as others who are familiar with Ontario's lack of social safety know, that when Ontario Works becomes the resource of first resort, that means more people lose their homes, end up at the doors of food banks and more families split up.

Is this the kind of Ontario you want to have? If you don't mind the widening gap between the rich and the poor, escalating costs of health care (which are not driven by the ageing population but by poverty) and increased taxes, then vote Liberal. If you sincerely want to choose change for the better, vote strategically on October 10th, 2007, to help bring about a minority government of any stripe that will need to work with other MPPs for once to pass any new legislation. Maybe and only then will we stop having majority governments ram any legislation that want down people's throats ... legislation that is having major and negative consequences on the people it affects, as well as increased costs.

I invite you to join my ABL (anybody but Liberal) campaign. Thoughts?

Monday, September 10, 2007


You would have to be hiding in a cave if you live in Ontario and were unaware of an election taking place right now. Officially, Premier Dalton McGuinty kept one of the many promises he made during his 2003 election bid - he promised fixed dates for elections and the next one is coming October 10, 2007. Today, he paid a visit to our newly minted Lieutenant Governor, the Honorable David Onley, to "officially" call this election.

Alright! The gloves are off! Political junkies like me are back in the ring to observe this circus and urge every one of you to buy a ticket! This is going to be the best show on Earth. Dalton McGuilty apparently shorn the size of his election promises from over 250 down to about 140 this time. The chances of him keeping most of them are relatively slim, although I am glad he kept the ONE promise about the upcoming vote ... if he reneged on that one, he surely would have known there would be a BIG price to pay. (To be honest, I was waiting for the apologies and a *sad* excuse of an announcement from Dalton McGuilty about why we weren't going to have a vote this October ... polls, perhaps?).

I don't stick to any particular political party, although my politics best fits in as a RED Tory. The so-called "red Tories" in Ontario don't really have a party, but John Tory - ironically embraced as the Leader of the Tories in Ontario - has hinted that he is attempting to steer the direction of his party back to the moderate 'blah' days of Bill Davis, which fits RED Tories just fine, which means there is more room in the Tent of a political party that has been traditionally moderate in Ontario. That doesn't mean I always vote the same. I've voted for all three major political parties and I believe I even supported the Greens at one time. This time, my loyalties tend to be personal, not political. I am voting for Peter Kormos, the rabble-rousing once fully-clothed Sunshine Boy, who posed for the Toronto Sun during his party's only and last reign in Ontario and doing this not only got his hands slapped, but he got thrown out of Cabinet over the "ordeal". People who reside where Peter does wonder what the big deal was, but anyways ... Peter is getting my vote this time around!

Yes, I like Peter Kormos. He supported my concerns on a large number of personal issues I had about the Liberals this time around. He is also the first MPP and is part of the ONLY political party that did not support this 25% raise the Legislative Assembly voted for themselves last Christmas. It is only too bad that the Liberals didn't stop playing grinch and grant ODSP and OW recipients a similar raise and as quickly. This raise was really the moment of arrogance I am using when I actually felt like taking off my gloves and putting up my dukes to fight this ... which is exactly WHY many people don't vote and WHY many people do not get politically involved. The Liberals create an open and shut case for arrogance as a result of that stupid raise they rammed through last year, particularly when at the same time, a Private Members' Bill by one Andrea Horvath (sp?), a relatively new NDP MPP, was on the table to raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour. The Liberals gave the working poor the finger last Christmas while they voted themselves a raise that in all cases in itself equals more than double what people earning Minimum Wages earn in Ontario in a year or even more .... I heard Dalton McGuilty took an extra $40,000 home himself.

The reason the Liberals started this stupid raise was because they appointed a committee to look at Legislative salaries and how poorly they fared against what federal Members of Parliament were earning. My response to that? Too bad! Maybe the federal MPs are earning too much, as opposed to our own politicos making too little. So, one of the groups I work with - the ODSP Action Coalition - which includes legal clinics, community organizations, disability groups, advocates like me that can't be classified anywhere, as well as people who are the victims of ODSP - turned around and is now demanding a similar "independent" body to study and establish what social assistance and ODSP rates should be, as we all know - the current rates are not based on any rational criteria. Somebody just went eeny-meeny miney mo and reached into a hat and ta-da ... that's how the present rates were set. Anybody with any modicum of intelligence knows that shelter costs alone (let alone taxes, utilities and all the other junk most of us also have to pay to keep a roof over our heads) FAR exceed what people actually receive for this expense by hundreds of dollars, even in the cheapest community in Ontario! So, we assume that if the Liberal-appointed independent committee that recommended their raise was looking at things objectively and these poor politicos were truly overworked and underpaid, maybe a similar committee can study what ACTUAL shelter costs, utilities, food, transportation, clothing, etc. actually costs for people who rely on ODSP, for example, and may otherwise be unable to work .... maybe such an independent committee might recommend a raise of 25% or even more!

However, the Liberals - knowing the Big E-Day was coming, passed a so-called anti-poverty budget last March, giving people on ODSP another freaking 2% (which they must theoretically wait for until AFTER the current ship of fools, er ... government is hypothetically re-elected), while just three months earlier they rammed through their own raises ... and tried to give the public yet another snow job. One of these "initiatives" is the Ontario Child Benefit. The government made it sound so good by giving it a BIG number ... how does $2.1 BILLION sound? ... spread over five freaking years! They supposedly gave low-income families a "down-payment" of up to $250 per child this past July. I spoke to many of the low income families I know, including many of whom are only getting ODSP. Guess what? Many of them got ZERO! That's right! Others got perhaps $41 for one child; another got $100 for a grand total of four kids ... wow, does this make you wanna vote Liberal now? The thing is the Liberals have counted all income, including any ODSP, special needs money, medical travel, etc. as INCOME for the purposes of setting the Ontario Child Benefit rates. The losers in this ordeal are, as follows: ODSP families with more than one child (as the clock starts ticking and docking 8 cents for every dollar after total income is calculated past $20,000 annually), families that pay market rents, families that have as one or more of their members who are medically disabled or who have special needs, such as dietary, diabetic, travel and so forth ... The winners in this ordeal are: single parents with one child on Ontario Works, particularly if they live in subsidized housing ... theoretically, people who are able to work. I smell a discrimination suit here! Any takers? Get in line!

The next thing the Liberals did is blow more money on subsidized housing. I differ significantly from many anti-poverty activists where I do not support subsidized housing, while most anti-poverty activists do. Ironically, the most outspoken, most vocal and most visible "spokespeople" for so-called subsidized housing are people that do not have to live there, but I didn't say that ;-). But even if I was a believer in this, the amount they put into this system will barely make a dent in the alleged 122,000 families on the so-called wait list. The other 118,000 families must still continue to wait ... and wait .... and wait. And the illusion, of course, if that people are moving up the waiting list, so therefore, some who have given up even being there in the past will now join the rest of them at the back of the line, thus netting no less people on this hypothetical waiting list. If the Liberals (or anybody else, for that matter) ensured that people always had enough money to cover what they need, I suspect the "demand" for subsidized housing would otherwise drop to a trickle. 'Nuff said.

Again, the Liberals promised another 2% raise for ODSP and OW. I agree with my detractors in that party that it is better than nothing, but it certainly is not better than inflation ... it is not even as much as inflation. With our so-called "growing economy", which I fail to see in this Region, with plant after plant shedding its workers onto low-paid service industry jobs, the economy can only promise galloping inflation! In general, people on Ontario Works are lucky if they can snag a room for their $536 a month. Those on ODSP may be able to do better than that, but as I said in this tome before, eating is another story. This is exactly why our health care dollars are going up and up and up! The Liberals are going to tell us they are spending more on health care. That is true in a twisted sense ... but let me show you why they are spending more on health care.

One woman, Gina, inherited a particularly virulent form of diabetes from her paternal side of the family. By the time she turned 30, she was on 4 needles a day. Her father and a paternal aunt suffered through amputations and others on that side died of heart failure. For the want of a freaking insulin pump, which the government of THAT day, could well afford, Gina ended up now a double amputee, a sufferer of two major heart attacks and she is slowly losing her kidney function. Dialysis doesn't come cheap. Another person, Annette, who had about $100 left on her ODSP after her housing costs were paid was also insulin-dependent diabetic and supposedly receiving maximum assistance. Nevertheless, Annette lost control over her diabetes because she couldn't afford the proper food and lose weight. She had severe heart attack and is now living in one of our finer nursing homes at $2,500-$3,000 a month ... yes, the government is spending more on health care. Finally, Jim, yet another diabetic in his 40's, once managed a one-bedroom apartment that was finally his after we found him an extra $250 on his ODSP cheque for 'special diet'. This new apartment did not come with pets, like his last one did -- roaches, fleas, bedbugs, lice, the whole gambit. Moving was good for him. Nevertheless, the Liberals, then under the stewardship of Sandra "let them eat cake" Pupatello, swiftly and deftly cut the 'special diet subsidy' to a mere trickle of what it was ... and now, Jim is paying 90% of his ODSP cheque towards his apartment, plus hydro. His diabetes got worse and now he's going blind. Yes, the Liberals are spending lots more on health care! These are mere examples of the total I am aware of ...

The Liberals are promising to spend even more on health care. Concurrently, I see absolutely nothing in their platform that would indicate that ODSP rates will increase more than the promised 2% in November 2007. To me, more health care spending + little or no increases to ODSP = more sickness, misery and disease. We need to be frank about this political party before any of us believe any of them when they say they were a friendlier replacement for Mike Harris, or Mike the Knife, as they called him. They just stab you in a different way and smile at you while they do it - that's all.

Finally, most of the polls I am reading appear to show a Liberal minority government. After this particular government has given short shrift to the NDP when they refused to lower the 'official party' status funding for them when they came up one seat short last election of this particular threshhold, and only after enormous public pressure, the governing Liberals relented a little bit - I don't think the NDP should be propping these boys (and whatever girls are left of this party after so many women resigned en masse this time around) should there actually be a Liberal minority. I think a good way for the NDP and anybody else that wants to vote anybody-but-Liberal this time around would be to witness the greatest shift of events of all time -- let thy trapeze artiste swing to the right and allow the NDP to prop John Tory and a minority Progressive Conservative government for a few years in exchange for a centre-based, trustworthy party and bigger tent for everybody. Maybe David Onley might suggest this arrangement given what happened when Frank Miller's PC government self-destructed in 1985 over Catholic school funding and the NDP chose to dance with the then Peterson Liberals for two years. We need a government that for once listens to the voters - a government that may need to be a minority in order to prevent it from even wanting to ram anything down our throats anymore like 25% raises while pretending and not actually doing anything about poverty.

So folks, off to the races! I will see you October 10th or perhaps, before that, with more rough and tumble reports of the radical centre! I may talk about the referendum the next entry, another very important piece of this election puzzle.