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.