Monday, April 5, 2010


This is not a good year to be poor, nor is it a good year to be disabled.

Personally, I don't know if there ever was a good year to be poor or disabled, but 2010 seems to be representative of a retrenchment or backward movement on any minor achievements we might have achieved in years prior. This time, ignorant Joe Taxpayer is getting his way in his spiteful attacks on the poor and disabled, considering that "his" money is supposedly being "wasted" on the same ... I suppose Joe Taxpayer will also win when the number of indigent funerals go up in every municipality in Ontario as a result of Joe Taxpayers uneducated and unsophisticated understanding of our obligations as a community ... while I would love to be a fly on the wall when Joe Taxpayers' taxes go way up after our health care costs, correctional costs, educational costs, and everything else goes up in the face of society's backwards flowing attitudes, this is not the topic of this particular entry.

This entry is about rights, obligations and privileges. This is being framed from the lens of a human rights perspective. Let us define our terms first: (a) Rights are variously construed as legal, social, or moral freedoms to act or refrain from acting, or entitlements to be acted upon or not acted upon. While the concept is fundamental to civilized societies, there is considerable disagreement about what is meant precisely by the term rights. It has been used by different groups and thinkers for different purposes, with different and sometimes opposing definitions, and the precise definition of the concept, beyond having something to do with normative rules of some sort or another, is controversial. Nevertheless, the concept of rights is of vital importance in such disciplines as law and ethics, especially theories of justice and deontology. (cited from Wikipedia).

Rights can be further divided into "natural rights" and "legal rights". Natural rights are rights that exist regardless of law and are constitutional in nature, and cannot be taken away from anybody. Everybody has these rights, whether they are black, white, rich, poor, male, female, gay, straight, etc. After many years and many forms of government, countries got together in 1948 and formed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Although most countries are signatory to this document, thus agreeing in principal as to what natural rights all persons have, the actual document is not necessarily enforceable but forms the basis of each signatory's own constitutional and quasi-constitutional approach to human rights. In Canada, we brought this document into our Constitution in the form of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and in 1985, three years after the rest of the Charter was signed, the equality provisions under s. 15 were passed, thus entrenching existing Human Rights Codes and making them broader and more inclusive in terms of the definition of equality under the Charter.

Natural rights supercede any legislation. No government is allowed to take rights away from persons who are resident in countries that have signed on, and who have ratified these rights. For example, our Canadian government cannot suddenly declare a police state, where people's homes, cars, vehicles and other personal space, can be searched and anything and everything within being taken and used against us, without due process of law. "Due process" over the years has gradually meant something and provided various guidelines to police services and the courts, but in light of it, people have this natural right and it must be upheld.

Legal rights are rights that are granted to citizens as a matter of law. These are sometimes granted to certain citizens that qualify, such as citizens over the age of 65 being entitled to an Old Age Security pension, or persons who have legal residency, citizenship or a special work visa, to take a job in this country. These rights are doled out by legislation, which when passed must also meet constitutional standard as well. In other words, rights passed by legislation cannot be contrary to what the rights in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms say, except in certain circumstances (but these over-ride sections are not the topic of this entry). These rights can often be tested and reviewed by the courts, and once a decision of the higher courts is made, it becomes binding on all lower courts. Many of our legal rights are also privileges, such as the privilege of driving. In no province of Canada, does anybody have a right to drive a vehicle. However, the law states how any person can become eligible to be granted driving privileges, and how they can be revoked.

Another sub-topic of rights is positive rights and negative rights. Natural rights, as deemed under our Charter include both kinds of rights, as do rights deemed under legislation. Positive rights are rights to a benefit, a service or a privilege of sorts. For example, legislation might spell out under what conditions a person has a right to receive welfare. Natural rights have been ruled in many regards in respect of accommodation issues, such as the Eldridge decision and the Tranchemontagne decision. Both decisions here, as well as others, prescribe certain obligations on the part of government to provide certain types of accommodations and entitlement to persons. Negative rights are the rights to avoid or to have officials refrain from doing something to you, such as search your person without any lawful reason, or to detain you without any lawful purpose. These are the most common rights that most of us recognize, especially if we watch too much American television. While many of these same rights apply in Canada, they are not the same design and scope as those in the United States. For example, some people think we have unfettered freedom of expression, which is a natural right and included in our Charter, but there are more limitations on that right in Canada than there is in the United States. Even our libel and slander laws differ in terms of our absolute and qualitative defenses as well between the two countries.

An obligation is sort of the other side of the rights coin. This is what the rights-holder's responsibilities are as a citizen. An obligation is a requirement to take some course of action, whether legal or moral. There are also obligations in other normative contexts, such as obligations of etiquette, social obligations, and possibly in terms of politics, where obligations are requirements which must be fulfilled. These are generally legal obligations, which can incur a penalty for unfulfillment, although certain people are obliged to carry out certain actions for other reasons as well, whether as a tradition or for social reasons. Obligations vary from person to person: for example, a person holding a political office will generally have far more obligations than an average adult citizen, who themselves will have more obligations than a child.[citation needed] Obligations are generally granted in return for an increase in an individual’s rights or power, also cited from Wikipedia.

In general obligations are legal obligations, often set out by legislation and would include any duty or responsibility a person has, usually in exchange for certain rights, such as the right to vote or own land. Such obligations might include payment of taxes prescribed by law, as well as maintaining one's property in accordance to city ordinances. In terms of natural law, one might think of mores or normative conventions any society would hold, such as an obligation not to commit murder, steal anything that doesn't belong to you or to infringe upon another person's bodily integrity (e.g. don't rape another person). Normative conventions and mores are usually prescribed in law, but in terms of social convention, they tend to be followed by most people. When those few fail to adhere to these norms, every society has a way of dealing with the offenders, whether by specific or general deterrence, and how this applies to any specific society is usually prescribed by legislation. Again, models for punishment must also meet standards set out by our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as any punishment a state can mete out to an offending individual must not run afoul of the Charter. The Charter also prescribes how a person can be heard, represented and even appeal to the courts when they feel their punishment or conviction of an offense was unfair.

This is a very general picture of how rights and obligations are actually set out in law. However, societal prejudices continue to exist against the poor and persons with disabilities. With regards to persons with disabilities, the citizenship model has not been ratified by the general public yet. Members of the general public fall into two main spheres of thought about persons with disabilities: the charitable model, and the punitive model. In general, the public does not understand the difference between the "welfare poor" and the "disabled poor"; henceforth, those that do tend to lean more on the charitable model. I will explain each model as each lies with respect to natural rights, legal rights and obligations.

Under the charitable model, societal proponents view the individuals as "deserving" of entitlements. They understand there is some obligation on the part of society to provide limited entitlements to those they deem "deserving". Different spheres of the charitable model provide certain indices as to how much of this obligation should be on the "state" and how much should be on the "community" (meaning volunteers and family). In my view, those proponents have been moving slowly away from state obligation to charitable obligations, while continuing to fail to understand there are still natural laws to which apply to either situation. For example, our federal Conservatives provide no direct benefit to persons with disabilities, other than the Canada Pension Plan (Disability), which is limited only to those who have paid sufficiently into the program, and even then, the allowance is insufficient to pay for subsistence. The assumption that is made with the Conservatives by its unspoken nature of this program is that "family and friends" would make up the difference. The Conservative proponents have all grown up in kind, middle class upbringings and have "family and friends" who are not only willing, but are also capable of providing a top up should the need arise. This is based on an ethic that all families and friends help one another in times of need, a fantasy for most persons with disabilities that I know.

To further this, and the Conservatives clearly understand there is not a forever component to "family and friends", so they invent the Disability Tax Credit and its tie to the Registered Disability Savings Plan. They have been convinced by some family groups such as the Canadian Association for Community Living and Schizophrenia Society of Canada, that some provisions must be made available to their kin should the disabled kin survive them. This is based on the assumption that the person with the disability is unable to do anything for themselves, or to become independent. Again, this is not a citizenship model, but a model based on charity. With the closure of institutions, families do have some reason to be concerned, and even those like myself that reject the charitable model do understand there is a need for transition. Families now have a way of setting up a Registered Disability Support Program (RDSP) for their siblings or kin who have "severe" disabilities. Again, this also implies a dichotomy between persons with disabilities that are "severe" (meaning they can't do anything for themselves) and other persons with disabilities (who are now moving towards the sphere of the "undeserving").

This is seen with regards to the eligibility criteria for the Disability Tax Credit, which must be applied for and approved prior to setting up an RDSP. It is easy to understand why somebody with a physical disability can qualify. Sam, aged 40, is the CEO of a financial consulting company. Ten years ago, he got severely injured in a skiing accident and now relies on a power wheelchair for basic mobility. Sam had modifications done to his vehicle, and is able to transport himself to most places, but does require the assistance of attendants for basic personal care, such as feeding, toileting and shaving. After Sam's rehabilitation, he moved slowly back to his position by gradually taking on more responsibility after he re-learned his functional tasks, and has been able to resume his high-paying job as the CEO of a financial consulting company. Because Sam has high disability related costs, and will continue to rely on personal attendants for the rest of his life, he qualifies for the Disability Tax Credit. This Tax Credit is worth thousands of dollars of non-refundable tax deductions that Sam really could use to help offset his expenses. Further, Sam is able to set up an RDSP, which would benefit him substantially should he ever become disabled enough to have to leave his job. His retirement income is intact, as he is eligible for at least three "marked restrictions" outlined in the application. If his income drops below a certain amount, the federal government will also add contributions until he turns 49 years of age.

On the other hand, Jean, 35, has bipolar affective disorder and is a chartered accountant. She can function most of the time, but does have periods of time that she has to take off from work to either go into hospital or to adjust to new medications. She works at a private accounting firm as an associate and at the present time, has been attempting to move up the ladder to "make partner". Jean does not qualify for the Disability Tax Credit, because if she did, she would have to at least 90% of the time, be "markedly restricted in performing mental functions necessary for everyday life". This is defined as:

Mental functions necessary for everyday life include:
Adaptive functioning (for example, abilities related to self-care, health and safety, social skills and common, simple transactions);
Memory (for example, the ability to remember simple instructions, basic personal information such as name and address, or material of importance and interest); and
Problem-solving, goal-setting, and judgment, taken together (for example, the ability to solve problems, set and keep goals, and make appropriate decisions and judgments).
Important – a restriction in problem-solving, goal-setting, or judgment that markedly restricts adaptive functioning, all or substantially all the time, would qualify. Examples of markedly restricted in the mental functions necessary for everyday life (examples are not exhaustive):
Your patient is unable to leave the house, all or substantially all the time, due to anxiety, despite medication and therapy.
Your patient is independent in some aspects of everyday living. However, despite medication and therapy, your patient needs daily support and supervision due to an inability to accurately interpret his or her environment.
Your patient is incapable of making a common, simple transaction without assistance, all or substantially all the time.
Your patient experiences psychotic episodes several times a year. Given the unpredictability of the psychotic episodes and the other defining symptoms of his or her impairment (for example, avolition, disorganized behaviour and speech), your patient continues to require daily supervision.
Your four-year-old patient cannot play interactively with peers or understand simple requests.

According to this definition, even if Jean was only capable of holding a job at McDonald's, she would not be eligible! If Jean tried to apply for this benefit and qualify, her peers and her professional association would certainly try to force her to attend a "fitness to practice" hearing to see if she was even capable of acting in her profession. Yet, even though Jean functions in her profession, she spends thousands of dollars a year on medications (because the firm does not have a good drug plan for its employees) and spends other monies on psychotherapy, alternative medicine, Tai Chi and other therapies that help Jean keep balanced and able to do her job. Because she is not able to qualify for the Disability Tax Credit, she has excessive disability-related costs that would only be covered in part by other provincial plans (such as Trillium Drug Program). Because Jean is unable to keep as much net income as her peers, despite earning it (and having to put more into her care costs), she is unable to put much away for her own retirement. Therefore, she would not benefit from the RDSP either, and would probably retire much like many of us do ... or not retire at all.

But this is a charitable approach, because it implies the family and friends once again can and will contribute to the person's RDSP, and if that person were on provincial government assistance or some other income where they would not benefit from tax reductions, these tax reductions can be transferred to their "caregiver". Sorry, Mr. Harper, some of us do not want or need "caregivers" and while we are capable of caring for ourselves, we do need help with the expenses - something that is not available to persons who, for disability-based reasons, are not able to drive, or who require other types of services. The cost of living for non-drivers in a region like mine are at least 30 - 40% greater than for those that have access to their own vehicle. The Conservative types would endorse "volunteer drivers" to drive persons with disabilities to medical appointments, but certainly not to work-related appointments or to the office, as required. Again, this assumes the person is completely unable to contribute. If they are, they are edging towards not being among the "deserving".

This means that in the language of rights and obligations, the person with a disability under the charitable model has few, if any, obligations, and "special rights" which are different than citizenship rights in many ways. "Special rights" means they become a Timmy or a Tammy to their family and are worthy of pity and charitable consideration only, but are not expected to think for, or act for themselves. This translates essentially into somebody else making key decisions for them, such as medical decisions, residential decisions and possibly even handling their money. This would be particularly key for those that actually manage to qualify for the Disability Tax Credit under any type of invisible disability, and a bit less so, if the disability is purely physical (although there are charitable aspects to the treatment of these persons too, particularly in their portrayal as not being whole persons).

Monies for hiring or retraining persons with disabilities have diminished over the past few years. At one point, the federal government was making lots of efforts to reach out to the disability community and hire qualified persons from within its ranks, under the assumption that persons with disabilities were citizens like everybody else, but who just required adjustments in their job descriptions to ensure they can fulfill the essential duties. Monies for Opportunities Fund, for example, have been pared back over the years, no longer providing start-up costs for self-employment proposals, or substantial amounts for a college or university level education. Even some of the Canada Study Grants and other federal bursaries for persons with disabilities have become more restricted in their applications. If a person with a disability cannot do it "like an able bodied person", they don't get to do it at all. Provincially, the employment supports programs for persons with disabilities exclude training altogether and rely on a person's employer to cover these costs, where possible. The model for funding was found to be most applicable to those seeking low-wage, entry level positions, and not necessarily those that would qualify for higher paid, professional work. As one person told a forum I manage online, "the job of ODSP is to keep people on ODSP". This would keep the essential dichotomy between "severe" (deserving) persons with disabilities and soon-to-be "undeserving" persons with disabilities. Issues of retrenchment have been reported by the Council of Canadians for Disabilities.

Further retrenchment has been noted at the provincial level, where persons with disabilities are continuously being swung between the charitable model and punitive model (which will be explained below). Its primary income support program, Ontario Disability Support Program, remains thousands of dollars below any known poverty line and is impossible to maintain a modicum of dignity by living solely on it. Its shelter allotments imply that all recipients should and must go to live in subsidized housing, something which I commented earlier on in this blog - and is not necessarily an empowering environment. ODSP, of course, provides for up to $6000 a year in "charity" or "gifts" from family and friends, yet they ruthlessly claw back earnings from employment sources. Again, Ontario wants to present persons with disabilities as Timmy and Tammy for the "family and friends" part of the community that have pity on them. In tune with the federal government, the provincial government has exempted all assets in an RDSP, yet will not allow one to keep an RRSP, or even start one without major clawbacks. In a recent Toronto Star article that focused on a private members' bill by Toby Barrett, a Progressive Conservative MPP, that would allow ODSP recipients to keep up to $700 a month clear before clawbacks, increase their allowable assets, exempt RRSPs, as well as several other positive moves, Madeleine Meilleur said she could act only on welfare rules concerning gifts, shared accommodation, financial windfalls and suspensions. The council’s other proposed changes – including asset and earnings exemptions—would be too costly for a province facing a $21.3 billion deficit, she said. It is cheaper to treat us all like charity cases, but too expensive to allow people to move towards independence and live in dignity.

Further on this same budget, Madeleine Meilleur has cut what was known as the Special Diet Allowances (SDA) that was given as a "top up" to both Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program cheques from the budget. This "top up" helped persons with serious medical conditions to pay for proper foods so that their health conditions would not become worse. She called this move appropriate because it was "unsustainable", given that the program cost $6 million in 2003, and in 2009, cost over $200. Contrary to what the Minister says was the cause for the increase, it was not fraud that increased its cost, but awareness (simply as a result of the provincial government keeping this program under wraps for years before it was "discovered"). This retrenchment is more deeper than this, which will be discussed further in the "punitive" section of this rights and obligations discussion. However, to be "charitable", Meilleur proudly announced that the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care will be offering a "nutritional supplementation" program that she had stated on several radio and news articles will be much more narrow than the existing SDA program.

The Ministry of Health in Ontario has not been known for demedicalization, community living and promotion of independence of persons within the health care system. Persons who have fought for community-based mental health programming have noted that over the past several years, less funding and not more has been given to this portfolio, again assuming those with mental health problems are either completely incompetent and need to be in hospital or are well enough to do without any care at all. Given my knowledge obtained through ten hard years of lobbying in that industry myself, I do not see this "nutritional supplement" being given to those who are living independently or in any way as a health promotion or prevention initiative. By cutting this special diet, I can assure you that there will be increased demands on hospitals, nursing homes (yes ... younger people on ODSP are frequently sent there when they are unable to eat well in the community ... I have had clients this happened to), and psychiatric hospitals. The move is away from independent living and demedicalization whatsoever. Retrenchment also removes the right to make choices. I wouldn't be surprised if some people (with mental health problems) will some day have to show up for their needle in order to continue to collect their ODSP cheques, which is the case in many U.S. jurisdictions.

The next set of problems fall under the other perspective that Jean and Joe Public share besides the "charitable" model. This is the punitive model. More and more people in Ontario are prepared to write anonymous comments in newspapers, letters to the editor and in blogs about how "the majority of people on disability aren't really eligible", and how people on ODSP are really just lazy and tried to qualify for ODSP because "it pays more". This article and subsequent comments is just one example of how Jean and Joe Public think. According to Robert J. Lifton's analysis in his book, Nazi Doctors, when the German government under Hitler began to experiment and then euthanize persons with disabilities as "life unworthy of life" and "useless eaters", there wasn't a major groundswell of public objection over that either, so I'm really not surprised. At least with the charitable model, disability is not seen as your fault. Under the punitive model, it is.

Under this discussion on rights and obligations, persons with disabilities under the punitive model have a whole array of obligations that other citizens do not have, but very few rights. Jean and Joe Public believe they should have the right to police the spending of everybody on social assistance. They should not have the right to cable TV, a telephone, new clothes, a car, a beer now and then, or even the right to order a pizza. "People in need", according to Jean and Joe Public are supposed to have it as rough as prisoners under house arrest do. They should have a right to a roof over their head, but just that ... maybe a room for single people, and small apartments for families. If they are pushed into living among drug addicts, criminals and so forth, so be it. People "living off the system" do not deserve to choose where they live. They are not entitled to cable TV, Internet, a cell phone, etc. They are literally supposed to remain a prisoner in their own home, in order to be considered legitimate in Jean and Joe Public's eyes. On top of this, those getting "social assistance" have to look for work and accept ANY job, no matter how poorly paid, how insecure, how abusive or how unsafe ... if other Canadians do not want to take these jobs, so be it ... people on the system should be forced to. While Jean and Joe Public can demand and wait for jobs that meet their middle class needs and qualifications, the lousy jobs they don't want to take and will never take themselves should be reserved only for those on the system.

The ironic thing is Jean and Joe Public say people "on the system" should be working by picking up litter for the city, cleaning toilets at bus terminals and doing whatever nobody else will do, but yet if they do, how come any "employer" that agrees to take such persons to do these things is not asked in turn to pay them the same union scale wages that Jean and Joe Public would expect? When the question of workfare is raised, one must ask about what the MUTUAL obligations of employer and employee are in these circumstances ... if one is obligated to find work, an employer should be in turn obligated to hire and pay decent wages. If Jean and Joe Public won't work for low wages, why should anybody else? Unfortunately, people like Jean and Joe Public do not see the connection here, and what are mutual obligations, as in their mind, the only party that has any obligation is the one "on the system". In law, this is impossible, as these conditions cannot even form the basis of a legal contract, let alone any kind of fulfillment of any obligation on either side.

Further, because Jean and Joe Public reserve the right to judge, proscribe and stigmatize those "on the system", what impact does this have on the natural rights of the person being judged, proscribed and stigmatized? Remember, in our earlier discussion, I pointed out that natural rights cannot be taken away by anyone, even the police without due process. This includes the right to privacy. Do I as a nosy and rambunctious writer have the right to enter into Jean and Joe Public's home and during their dinner time, tell them they should not be smoking because I have to pay taxes to cover their health bills, or they should not be drinking any wine, because I might have to later pay for addiction treatments, and so forth? Maybe I should have the right to give Jean and Joe Public a drug test every once in awhile to make sure they are not "using"? Of course not! Joe and Jean Public would object to this being done to themselves, because they have a right to privacy. Yet, I am paying for their choices, so why can't I have a say about them? Why does this not work both ways? If it is good enough for somebody on social assistance to be held in literal house arrest, and having to give in to drug tests whenever somebody else wants to be nosy, why isn't this good enough for Jean and Joe Public? Justice works both ways.

The same thing applies to Jean and Joe Public's delusions that driving is "free" and covered entirely by their own pockets. This delusion holds no further weight than bus riders believing they are paying the full freight whenever they drop a few dollars in the fare box. Let us put this into the perspective of charity and rights, and see how drivers would accept this. Drivers take driving for granted so much that they actually believe they should not be paying for public transit "because we never use it". That is fine, if again it worked both ways. These same people may agree that some charity like the Lion's Club should be fund-raising and paying for buses and drivers for "disability" transit, but that's all ... of course, people with disabilities are all charity cases, remember?

How about the proposition that I bring forward that we ask the Lion's Club and other charities to start raising money to pay for roads, highways, pothole filling, parking lots, and other things that drivers take for granted? Drivers would say, no way, because we pay for the privilege of driving! Well, researchers like Todd Littman and the federal Department of Transportation disagree with Jean and Joe Public. Yes, drivers pay for gas, insurance, car loans, etc., but they do not pay for ALL of what they use ... in fact, non-drivers like ME are paying for all of this as well, to the tune of over $6,000 per driver!!! Maybe all of us that do not drive should withhold our taxes, and then demand that Jean and Joe Public fulfill their obligations in paying their own way in driving, by paying the full freight, in much the same way they expect the poor and disabled to do.

Don't worry, Jean and Joe Public, if you can't afford it, we can get fundraisers to cover the cost of roads, parking and other infrastructure that you cannot personally pay for ... after all, you are a "deserving" couple, aren't you? Even then, you understand, Jean and Joe there will be times you will not be able to use the roads after 7:00 p.m., take any routes out of town, or travel down your own boulevard, simply because we couldn't raise enough funds in order to allow you to do so. There is a huge provincial deficit, you know, so we all have to practice restraint. If you are reading this, and have any ounce of intelligence, the price of restraint is usually borne by the poor and lower working classes.

As bizarre an example as this, this is exactly what people in the public want to do to persons with disabilities and the poor. To Hell with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. To Hell with orders from Human Rights Tribunal. To Hell with what is right, and to Hell with what is true justice in passing policies ... As I once stated here about the philosophy of Immanual Kant, the categorical imperative, in order for a policy to be just, it must be universal. If I make a law or a rule, I cannot always assume that I will end up to be in the position of the rule-maker, and as such, I should expect myself to be in any position whatsoever, and be as subservient to such a rule as any other. As such, if I have natural rights under the law, and nobody can take them away from me, why is it that some people feel there should be only obligations and no rights or only "special rights" to classes of people that they themselves distinguish themselves from, or feel they will never be a part of?

My own opinion through hard experience with this whole special diet thing is simple. The government knew they would lose the case entitled Ball, et al v Minister of Community and Social Services, even before it started getting heard. This is part of why they hired these $3,000 a day consultants to advise them of what to do. It wasn't all E-Health; these consultants had other jobs throughout the business of government. Part of this job was to help the government dig itself out of this embarrassing decision (before it happened, of course), draft the rote correspondence that would be received by anybody who queries the Minister about the special diet that was about to be cut, and to decide the next move. The government of course timed the Auditor General report carefully, and provided the materials to the Auditor General upon which he relied, it was planned ... the Auditor General is usually more careful about his homework, and would check with people for definitions of "over-payments", policies on "special diets", etc. and would not be commenting on things that are not law, such as how many people spend more than a certain amount of time on welfare. I know this discussion is next. I would not be surprised if this government's next step is to put a stopwatch on the amount of time people can allegedly spend receiving financial assistance ... or else what? Life in the streets? Death akin to the way Kimberley Rogers died?

The government knows that when a bombastic report that is riddled with errors and misconceptions comes out to the public, that brings very small numbers into seemingly large numbers, pasting every single person on assistance and most on the special diet as "frauds" and that somehow a very substantial group of people are all collecting $250 per month from this "special diet", the uneducated, unsophisticated and pardon the prejudice, readers ... the very stupid members of the public respond like Pavlov's dogs did to those bells ... they salivate at the thought of making other people suffer. Of course the government knows a large contingent of the public will believe these fairy tales, and will support this move to make the poor pay once again for the sins of the deficit. The decision by the Human Rights Tribunal is handed down. There is a 90-day period of case management by the Tribunal for the lead cases to see how the government reacts, so cuts will not be made during this period of time. After? A different story altogether!

The Ministry of Health has its program already designed. Nobody is going to convince me in a million years that there will be an equivalent or better program through this Ministry, when I know there are very limited measures that Ministry can "envelope" its funds. There are transfer agencies (e.g. hospitals, health centres, agencies, nursing homes, etc.), OHIP fees (e.g. doctors, nurse practitioners) and drug benefits. Funding requests are measured in number of beds, full-time equivalents, consulting fees (e.g. psychiatrists). There is no set up for individual transfers in this Ministry whatsoever, unless you are a direct consultant to the Ministry of Health and employed on a contract basis (e.g. such as one of those alleged $3,000 a day types). The Ministry will not be cutting cheques to individuals for "special diets" or even nutrition supplements, as the case may be. They will be providing these "supplements" through their transfer agencies to people in long term care, in dialysis, cancer wards, homes for special care, as well as persons requiring CCAC (e.g. people with feeding tubes) and to some extent, some people may get Ensure supplements and the like by special prescription only.

The government wants to wait until diabetics go blind, lose a limb, have a heart attack, lose their kidneys, etc. before they will offer a single penny in supplementation. This is the same for any other condition, unless the condition is marked weight loss. Obesity will get no support, as the public thinks these people have enough to eat anyways, because most people have absolutely no knowledge that cases of obesity are just as much about malnutrition as those with severe weight loss. As few as 10% of those that currently receive the SDA now will get it when the program changes Ministries. The cost of health care in this province will certainly rise, so the McGuinty government can then tell Jean and Joe Public that its government is spending more on health care ... is this not a great thing for something most Canadians value?

What makes me laugh is the implication that there will be several months to "allow for transition" for those currently in receipt of this program until the new program is in place. What are the other people (who will be cut off) supposed to do? Save up from their measly, paltry cheques for the future needs of their nutrition? Please don't even humour me. This is the same excuse the Minister gave after she cut the Winter Clothing and Back to School Allowances from ODSP and OW families, by saying the new Ontario Child Benefit will be more money overall allowing these families to "save up" for these things ... I laughed so hard then, I fell off my chair then because I also knew most of the OCB was also being clawed back from OW and ODSP benefits, so there was very little gain compared to families that did not get social assistance. The problem now is I am not laughing, because I know certain politicians do not understand the history behind what they are doing and are bound to repeat it.

Yes, work at Tim Horton's and never get out of poverty. God will bless your soul.

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