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.