As we hear more about cross-continental evictions of occupy sites in the hundreds of cities and towns across North America, the Occupy Movement is shifting into Occupy 2.0. There are reasons they evicted the occupiers from their sites, and it had little to do with neighbours and others being uncomfortable with tent cities and people wandering in the parks after midnight. If this was the case, this by-law would be enforced year round, even when homeless people obviously sleep in these parks, particularly the summer time. Think about the synchronicity in which the various sites were being evicted; nobody denied being in conference at the same time to plan to stop the camp sites. But in many ways, by doing the evictions, the powers that be did the Occupy Movement a favour.
Like Niagara, we moved into Occupy 2.0 ... The occupiers haven't gone away; they just went underground. They are reaching more and more people. Tonight, I attended the monthly Philosophy Cafe that gets held in a downtown coffee shop. About ten to twelve of us at any given time talked about the significance of Occupy Movements across the continent, and whether we felt this was in for the long term or short term. Only two of us present have actually participated in an Occupy Movement; the fellow next to me was involved in the camp at St. James Park in Toronto, and I am sort of involved here. Of course I invited all the people there if they can come, to come to our next general assembly to see what Occupy Niagara is about. Occupy Niagara is on Facebook and anybody can keep track of it to learn when our meetings are, and who is involved with what ....
The people involved in the Occupy Movement are not ragtag hippies, drug addicts and homeless persons, although a few in some sites have been homeless. However, the key here is that even the homeless persons contributed to the sites in a meaningful way. They taught the rest of the folks how to live outside. Others like myself were not in a position to do so, but many people were eager to do so, but as other Occupy Movements have shifted to the next phase, we did too. Most people involved in these communities are working people, a lot of them young, but many are very old or middle aged as well. Many are students, and others are seeking jobs despite a hefty student loan and a poor job market. At the last general assembly, I spoke to a man who had two university degrees, and a college diploma, but was stuck on ODSP. He was recently terminated from a job that he enjoyed and excelled in.
Others I spoke to are business people or working people, many of whom had financial resources of their own to contribute to the cause. Others are like me, who can stand on the hilltops and tell people where the Emperor is walking, and what he is not wearing. In the meantime, the mainstream media is trying to track what the Occupy Movement is doing. We have had mixed coverage in our own region, but the Toronto Sun, both the print and broadcast version, painted those involved as being over-entitled and looking for handouts. Well, I had once written here that about many wealthy persons before, because many of them are over-entitled and seek handouts, but we don't hear about too many of them in the Sun Media, do we?
The Sun Media, as well as some other networks, try to make unionized workers into the demons that caused this recession, when in fact, they fail to recognize that there is a top 1% of the population, which likely includes the ownership of the same media they work for, that earn millions of dollars per year and likely work less hours than most of you do. In my view, nobody is worth millions of dollars per year. I don't care what they do. The government, who acts as their puppet, continues to dish out corporate welfare and tax cuts to this bunch under the delusion that somehow this wealth will trickle down to the rest of us. As someone once said, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. If it worked in the U.S., their economy would be booming, and there would be such a shortage of workers, that they'd be taking way more immigrants than they are and among its own citizens, anybody that wants a job would have one.
Our politicians say that the Occupy Movement makes sense in the U.S. because of their over-entitled bankers that crashed the economy, and then rewarded themselves with multi-million dollar bonuses after they were bailed out. While Canada might not have the SAME problems, it is as somebody else once said, "Same shit, different country". This video tells the truth about Canada's banking systems, and how the producer claims that part of our deficit is also attributed to high interest rates from the PRIVATE banks that the government borrows from to pay its bills ... What? Did you actually think the Bank of Canada did this? Of course not! Take a look!
While all of this is happening, people living in Ontario who care about poverty and disenfranchisement should note that a commission headed by Don Drummond, an economist, formerly of the federal Minister of Finance, and the TD Canada Trust, has been set up to help the provincial government implement its own range of austerity measures. These cuts and costs will most certainly hit the poor the hardest, as once again, the Premier has promised that only the Health and Education ministries will be spared cuts, but not social services, housing or transportation, etc. that help protect the poor. Given this alone, it is easier to know that the death by a thousand cuts McGuinty government has set deliberate policy decisions to hurt the poor, hoping that maybe they will all die off sooner to save their corporate friends a few bucks. They cannibalized the special diet program, and have kept both OW and ODSP rates well below the real rate of inflation. People receiving these benefits are moving into less and less safe housing, if they can find any at all, and many eat so poorly as to suffer the strangling effects of long term malnutrition. All this, whilst, Don Drummond gets his $1,500 a day consulting fees, and advises his comfortable friends in the government, most of whom just quietly received raises of tens of thousands of dollars each (by appointing almost every non-minister a parliamentary assistant or committee chair). Sneaky, sneaky.
At the same time, we watch sign posts from other countries, such as Great Britain, where they are radically culling their rolls of the Incapacity Benefit (similar to the disability benefit here), which would cut their monthly living allowances and expect them to find non-existent jobs. They did the same thing in British Columbia a few years back only to see at least one suicide a day of persons being reviewed for disability benefits eligibility. It makes me wonder where people get their intelligence from, or more particularly their math skills, when it comes to dousing people like this with a substantially lower income (as costs continue to skyrocket) and then to push them out the door to look for jobs that no employer has any obligation to hire any of them for.
Unfortunately, this ideology may become closer to Ontario than we would like to believe. Last year, Frances Lankin, former head of Toronto's United Way, and Munir Sheikh, former Head Statistician who resigned when Harper made his bone-headed decision to cut the mandatory long form census in 2010, were appointed to head Ontario's Social Assistance Reform Commission. Ontario's largest civil service union, Ontario Public Service Employees' Union, recently published their concerns that Lankin had hinted that one of their recommendations would be to allow municipalities to administer BOTH OW and ODSP, which would spell disaster. This would be a way to help cull the rolls of ODSP, and force many more on the lower paid and more punitive system of Ontario Works, which is certainly not going to serve the majority of people who have major barriers to employment. One wonders when our lovely government who thinks there are so many jobs out there will begin to force employers at gun point to start hiring qualified persons with disabilities, particularly when so many able bodied people are out of work.
Henceforth, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out now that by doing this, the two programs will now be closer integrated, and persons with disabilities won't have a hope in hell of escaping many of the punitive rules that now impact Ontario Works recipients, such as asset stripping, family as a benefit unit (when this should have been set to individual a long time ago), unreliable delivery of cheques to guarantee one's homelessness, etc. Somebody out there ought to occupy the offices of Frances Lankin and Munir Sheikh if indeed they are planning to recommend this bone-headed idea, which will only set us back by decades.