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.