According to me…..

Posts tagged ‘poverty’

Life seems to have gone crazy…

Trigger warning:  I haven’t been here in a long time.  I’m still doing all I did before… Only two jobs and one volunteer.  The long distance relationship.. well, it’s busy and painful and beautiful.  It might not end well.   I do love him.  The police tell me they have arrested my dad… I guess he isn’t allowed to leave the country and has to go to court to set a date.  This will take a long time.  I wonder if he will live that long.  Thing is… if he just admitted it… I’d have closure.  I guess … him being charged again, same charge – is a bit of closure.  It’s the world saying ok, we know it happened and the process has begun to make amends.  But no one can make amends for what he did.  No one can fix it.  17 years of abuse… I’ve been living with / through… I kid myself if I think it hasn’t affected my world.  What do I want?  I never wanted jail time for him… just help.. but there is no help for that.  So I don’t know.

I’m living in a warehouse.  I’m probably going to be homeless at some point.  The city says we aren’t allowed to live here.. but I love it here.   My day consists of biking to an apartment to shower… handwashing dishes in cold water, carrying buckets of water up and down.  Of wondering when I’m going to be homeless .. and my cat too.  I wasn’t stable enough to have a pet.. but she was left to me, so I have her and love her.

I’m really shitty with money.  It’s not the end of the month yet and I’m broke. lol

I drink too much.  I think I have to quit.  I’m destroying myself.  I’m destroying my relationships.  I’ve decided to look up Al-anon meetings tomorrow… it’s my first step.  I should be in AA and IA… but one step at a time.

Basically I’m a mess and I don’t even know why I’m writing except to get it out.

It’s been a horrid week… I saw a dog get killed and my friend’s mom died on her birthday and all the rest. I don’t know.

That’s all for now.  Maybe later I can write something more important.

I Have a Question for you, McGuinty.

Hey there, Mr Premier.  I have a question.

I’m probably going to die very soon – I’m only 46.  It’s your fault.  Do you care?

Do you need me to explain?  I know it’s early.  Get comfortable, grab a coffee.

I’m not lazy, nor do I wish to be on social assistance.  I have part time work (Ontario Works takes half of that income) and do a George Brown course in between that work, in order to get better work.  I also pick up spare jobs where I can.  I volunteer in the community.  I have a biological research diploma and I’m well on my way to having an autocad certificate – with a hundred percent.  So you see, I could be one of the *special* people in your life, but I’m not, am I?

Let me tell you a little story.  A few years back my jaw got broken in a random act of violence, through no doing of my own.  Since then, my teeth don’t fit together quite right, it’s hard to eat.  I’m on social assistance.  I can do nothing about it, because S.A. doesn’t cover dental.  No cleaning, no anything – unless it’s an emergency.  Then they just pull out the offending tooth.  How many times have you or your children been to a dentist, this last year alone?

Right, well.. it’s a well known fact that an infection in your gums can cause heart disease or stroke.  As I sit here writing at 5:20 am, it’s because my whole gum line suddenly became  red, inflamed, angry, bleeding, painful.  In a  mere two days I’ve been reduced to taking odd pills for allergies just so I can sleep – because I have no money to buy pain killers.  Have you ever had a tooth ache, Mr Premier?  Yes well, picture that pain throughout your entire mouth.  I’m not one to moan about every little pain, but this is making me cry.  My glands are swollen, my ears and eyes hurt.  I have a fever.  And can you guess what’s next, given the date?  Yes, that’s right… nothing is open if I had money.   The emergency dental clinics want money – up front.

I could take that money out of my rent, but I already paid it.  After rent I am not left with enough to buy food all month – never mind essentials.  I don’t even have shoes without holes.  Imagine your children going to school with holes in their shoes, Mr McGuinty.  With shoes they have owned for five years because there is no money to replace them.

When I’m dead, Dalton McGuinty – will your life be altered any?  You are a murderer, McGuinty.  Shame on you! I have no idea how you can look yourself in the eye.. never mind having a family that loves you.  You wouldn’t do this to them.  But so long as you can’t see it, I suppose you think it’s not happening.

Do you know… freezing rates – for you – means you ONLY get 208 thousand a year.  I have to live on less than 7000 a year.  Figure it out.  Freezing your rates is a lot different than freezing mine.  It’s akin to committing murder.  I already know of people that have died from this.  Do you care?  Hell no.

I have a great idea!  Why don’t YOU lend me the money.. and I’ll pay you back, I promise!  See below.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
For other uses, see Austerity (disambiguation).
For the current opposition to present-day austerity measures, see Anti-austerity protests.

In economicsausterity is a policy of deficit-cutting, lower spending, and a reduction in the amount of benefits and public services provided.[1] Austerity policies are often used by governments to reduce their deficit spending[2] while sometimes coupled with increases in taxes to pay back creditors to reduce debt.[3] “Austerity” was named the word of the year by Merriam-Webster in 2010.[4]

The Expansionary fiscal contraction hypothesis is the economic theory that explores whether government austerity can result in economic expansion. This hypothesis and real world data analysis indicate that expansion from austerity is very limited and occurs only during periods when consumption is not constrained.


Ontario Poverty Overview – March 2011 – The Finer Points

Friend and ally in the fight against poverty.  A great paper!!

Ontario Poverty Overview – March 2011 – The Finer Points

By:  Amy MacPherson, Wasaga Cares

Poverty is a growing epidemic in the province of Ontario, costing us billions of dollars across a wide range of government ministries.  Normally we hear critiques focused on philosophy, program names and groups of people; but while many debate the grander principles, I’d like to discuss the finer points.  No matter anyone’s focus on reducing poverty, there still remains great conflict in the way we deliver patchwork service and agendas.  It is through a collaboration of competing interests, motivations and tunnel vision that cycles of dependency are born and further nurtured by our oversight.  The following is an overview of these conflicts and their impacts on society.  We mustn’t downplay its importance, for this is the very foundation upon which all else is built.



Contributing Factors:


1.  Public assistance rates – Are calculated in accordance with the inflation level of 1995.  In 16 years the amounts allotted for rent, utilities and food have not been adjusted to address current reality.


2. Ontario Works and ODSP lost frontline funding for children – When the Ontario Child Benefit was created, the Basic Needs portion of public assistance was literally clawed back to zero, for anyone under the age of eighteen.  Welfare no longer provides food, clothes, personal care or school supplies to children.  Under the new funding module, the government expects families to access this income via tax returns (OCB), in theory to make it more accessible (ex. working poor).


However, the “new” groups were only accounted for by taking directly from our most vulnerable.  At the end of the day, those on public assistance saw an average increase of $1 – $19 while working families gained closer to $350 per month.


3.  The recession – Placed a considerable amount of new clients into our social welfare system.  The middle class has been chipping away but the last few years have made a stunning impact on the gap between rich and poor.


4. Housing inflation – Has been uncontrollable since our move to a market fetching system.  This practice makes it near impossible for low income families to afford living anywhere at all.  The vast majority of those on public assistance only receive enough to pay the rent with their entire month’s income.  The same is true of many working minimum wage, part time, contract and seasonal positions.


5.  Near abandonment of subsidized housing – Has been the norm as counties see little incentive to invest in this protection of community.  This is an issue that’s been placed in local hands, where the greatest bias has the potential to exist, conflicts of interest and no motivation to act charitably.


6.  Total abandonment of the Poverty Reduction Strategy – Painstaking consultations were procured by government, remedies were put in place, promises were made, but very little has been enacted.  Here’s a copy of that mandate:


7.  Uninspiring wage penalties via OW and ODSP – The public assistance system has been revised countless times, in the name of progress and yet always at a cost to its recipients.  The current method actually deters people from working and sets up an atmosphere of all or nothing.  It also divides families believe it or not.


Anyone on welfare who obtains employment pays deductions from their monthly allowance.  In the case of ODSP, a client will pay the same taxes, EI premiums, CPP contributions and union dues just like anyone else.  They are further penalized 50% from their gross earned wages by ODSP in the following month, so they’ve lost well over 75% of their take-home pay by the time government is done.


Ontario Works is worse yet.  The client pays all taxes like everyone else and then faces 100% deduction of gross pay, thereby leaving them with even less than if they hadn’t worked.  This happens for the first 4 months and if the client has managed to maintain the same position for consecutive months, they will finally be converted to the 50% deduction schedule.


If children in these low income families attempt employment (even part time at McDonald’s during high school) it will be considered family income.  They will face the same deductions as their parents and be forced to support the adults in their family.  Therefore we can assume they will never be able to save up for a class trip, extra curricular activity or proper clothing.


While it’s not entirely a provincial issue, recipients of CPP Disability are only allowed to make $4200 per year without being disqualified from benefits.  This speaks for a great amount of mentally ill, terminally ill and physically challenged persons.  If they manage to recover for a period of time and make an effort to seek employment, they may find themselves abandoned from support and forced into the regular welfare system.


In any event, all methods discourage participants from working, as they stand to receive less income for even trying.  And so the cycle is born.


8. No access to social care – Exists in smaller communities.  These “towns” account for the majority of Ontario and struggle with lacking support systems.  Most do not have a domestic violence centre or transportation to one.  They don’t have soup kitchens, Out of the Cold programs, parenting courses, child counseling or a host of other interventionist measures.  They also don’t have community resource agencies connecting them with information and referral.  In cities with better access there are waiting lists and countless thousands turned away.

Complications and Mounting Costs:


1.  Cost of living is insurmountable – And has resulted in numerous consequences.  When incomes don’t nearly reflect basic expenses, we find our vulnerable population living on the very fringe of existence.  The onus of getting families by has been placed on the shoulders of charity and grassroots, who are not capable of being responsible for an entire province alone.

The Winter Warmth program runs out of funds in its first month every year for the last 3 years running (locally).  This means anyone who is facing heat disconnection will have to go without if they didn’t apply for help by the end of December.


The Barrie, ON food bank recently invested in a warehouse twice the size because it can’t keep up with local demand.  They’re serving 21,000 families per year and turning away an average of 800 per month.  Smaller communities have to export their poor to the nearest urban centre because they are isolated from support in the vast in-between.  In the meantime, small town food banks appeal to their municipalities for thousands more when their cupboards run bare:

(Watch at 9:25 for newscast on food banks & 10:13 for confirmation of amount without service)


We know 100% of income is going to shelter in many cases and the only sustenance families receive comes from the food bank.  Except these supplies weren’t designed to last more than a week and records show around 1/3rd of visitors are children and 1/3rd are senior citizens.  Many people think food bank users are lazy or spend their money on drugs, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.


Here’s a copy of an especially thorough report titled The Cost of Poverty.  It was written by the Ontario Association of Food Banks at the end of 2008 and is the first study of its kind to tie the majority of elements together.  They’ve calculated poverty-induced, health related costs at $2.9 billion alone.  They find our methods of ignoring poverty come with a price tag of $13.1 billion annually, which trickles down to $2895 per Ontario household.


The report goes on to look at the characteristics of our system and determines 45.4% of single mothers struggled with poverty in 2001.  But the recession has since hit our economy and numbers have only skyrocketed.   Whereas minorities might have been able to secure available part time positions, today the competition is fierce.  At the time, 40% of Ontario’s disabled were skimping by at the lowest possible income quintile as well:


2.  Ontario children no longer have access to emergency food, clothing or personal care – Since basic needs were removed from the public assistance structure, there is no ability to provide them with immediate support outside of foster care.  This is forcing countless families to remain in abusive situations.


Here is a prime example:  A husband and wife or common law couple has children together.  She’s a stay-at-home mom and he earns a good wage at $80K per year.  They don’t qualify for the Ontario Child Benefit together when claiming income tax.


The husband is abusive however and the mom enters a shelter with her children.  She technically has no income and applies to Ontario Works so they can find a home and begin rebuilding, until she can develop skills and secure employment.


Because the Ontario Child Benefit (OCB) and National Child Benefit Supplement (NCBS) are processed by Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), mom will have to file for separation from her husband and 6 months to a year must pass before the government accepts their new family structure.  Even so, it may take longer before a full year’s income tax will reflect what she’s entitled to, as CRA calculates from the year prior.  Countless months will pass before this newly single parent will be able to access “baby bonus” (to provide food for her children) and she may feel she is not able to afford leaving the situation.


In the meantime the only contingency is what’s called the Transitional Child Benefit (TCB), administered by public assistance.  A client must first prove they’re not entitled to baby bonus which can take months in itself.  Welfare can then loan $189 per month to make up for the shortfall.  If the family receives money from any source in the future (child support order, baby bonus, inheritance, insurance, EI, gifts), they will have to repay the amount “borrowed” in full however.


This was the most oppressive policy against children in recent memory.  Taking funds from the frontlines put them directly in harm’s way and more than 350,000 kids had to line up under a Salvation Army sign for dinner last year.  In rural communities they don’t even have that.


The Children’s Aid Society has also seen an influx of calls.  As mentioned, when a family can’t provide the necessities of life, the state has an obligation to step in.  Here is the Canadian Bar Association’s depiction of the overload.  It also illuminates a lack of access to Legal Aid.  Since that program was clawed back it added even more complication:


3.  Social Services require complete loss of all worth before stepping in – This has only taken the recession and made it worse.  Countless families are trying to cope with job loss and the death of our traditional manufacturing sector.  They’re running out of EI benefits now.  They’ve missed as many payments as possible before the bank gets cranky and we’re standing at the precipice of foreclosure due to unpaid property tax (normally spanning 3 years of non payment).


These are oftentimes educated people who were directly impacted by illness or a cutthroat economy.  A former Director from Queen’s University befell the same fate, demoted from an executive lifestyle to homelessness because of disability:


We expect them to sell their homes and live off the proceeds until there is truly nothing left.  They must be near a state of bankruptcy before public assistance will qualify anyone.  This policy destabilizes the population directly, at a time when it is trying desperately to rebuild and reinvent itself.  An Ontario mother and former Bell executive explains in her own words:


4.  Homelessness is frighteningly on the rise – Families carry the highest rate of homelessness today.  There was a 51% increase in those housed at shelters and a 60% increase of children taken into foster care “as a direct result of housing deficiencies”.  If only I could surround those numbers in neon lights to grab your attention.The Registered Nurses Association of Ontario offers a more concise look at the characteristics of this situation:


In areas outside the city, we don’t have Out of the Cold programs or shelters, nor can any low income family technically afford market rent.  The only alternative is hospitalization to the tune of $2500+ per month:


5.  Affordable housing is not a priority for municipalities – A good example is Collingwood, ON who just disbanded their housing committee, or Toronto who suggests getting out of the business entirely.  Placing subsidized options in the hands of municipalities makes it hard to convince one neighbour to dish out the $2895 to support the fellow next door (amount of tax burden per household).  Despite any government subsidy, this is what the situation amounts to and why we’ve lost so many units.  From 1995 to 2003 the affordable market cut 127,680 offerings while 158,456 families joined the waiting list.  Since the recession we’ve only seen more needing assistance and a brazen unwillingness to respond:–new-tchc-director-has-criticized-management-and-said-the-city-can-t-afford-social-housing?bn=1


Please view the attitude Ontario’s most vocal mayor is sharing with his constituents (26 sec):


Just today a new report was released by the reputable Wellesley Institute to confirm the federal government is quashing affordable housing of every type as well.  They’re cutting another 50,000 spaces in addition to dissolving the home repairs fund.  This means families who manage to find an abode will be forced to live in dilapidated conditions and the cuts will be unanimous by every level of government:


6.  Forsaking the Ontario Poverty Reduction Strategy – Is destroying the base by which we can be measured.  When contemplating the economic recovery of Ontario, we must consider our reputation to business.  Our statistics dropped so dramatically that we were rebuked by UNICEF and the UN.  Canadian children are worse off for shelter, food and clothing than those in Portugal or the Czech Republic:–rich-countries-let-poorest-children-fall-behind


In 2007 we ranked 15th and have since fallen to 17th place.  In more detailed categories like family relationships we sadly scored dead-last.  Hopefully these are warning signs the good people of Ontario will take to heart:


7.  Our poverty help system is punitive in nature – Promoting patterns of absolute breakdown and continued dependency.  “Zero Dollar Linda’s” story went viral amongst health and social work groups and she’s a perfectly good example of this conundrum:


Adding to the confusion is the method in which we collect deductions from public assistance.  When a recipient of OW or ODSP works in March they will report their earnings before the end of the month.  The penalty won’t be taken until April 30th however.  This delay only leaves a client vulnerable if they can’t maintain the status quo.  This happens frequently to seasonal, temp and disabled workers, where an entire month will have to lapse before their family could receive support.  It doesn’t matter if they paid bills or lived responsibly.  The qualifier is going 30 days without any income first.  And by the time benefits are reinstated, the family is already receiving disconnection notices.  This will result in being a month behind for the rest of the entire year.


We have threatened our most vulnerable population in the most intimate of ways.  They must live without food, shelter and without their children for trying to make the climb out of poverty.  Their health and stability will be affected and the cost of putting kids in state care is astronomically greater than providing the basics to their parents.


8.  Isolating communities from social support – Turns early intervention opportunities into full blown emergencies.  When a woman can’t seek counseling for domestic violence or information about getting out; this can result in terrible injuries, police, court involvement and tremendous cost to public agencies.  According to the OPP these charges have doubled since the recession.


When a wayward parent can’t access a Triple P parenting program (the gold standard in correcting discipline issues, promoted by every regional health unit), an issue that could have been resolved with education may grow into child abuse.


When they can’t access Legal Aid they end up in a holding cell for 6 months for stealing a loaf of bread.  And when they can’t access counseling for their troubled children, they too grow up through the court system instead.  Despite the social safety we’re so proud of, it’s not within reach for Ontario’s in-between places.  Our services have eroded so far that they’re only offered in larger cities.



Strategies to Make a Real Difference:


1.  Establish the $100 Healthy Food Benefit – As outlined at, this would directly infuse our most vulnerable households with an increase in groceries.  It must be calculated per person and would make sense to expand to children.  It should also come with protections so no corresponding clawbacks could defeat the purpose (ex. further deductions from the Basic Needs portion of public assistance cheques).


2.  A strong commitment to affordable housing – Is imperative to avert an epidemic in homelessness, especially that of families who constitute the heart of a stable society.


3.  Put children’s Basic Needs back in frontline funding – And enable families to deal with their own fundamental survival.  By canceling coverage through Ontario Works and ODSP offices, we knowingly oppress our own kids from eating for months at a time.  The Ontario Child Benefit did nothing to alleviate our most poor and put them in greater danger, just because of how the program is administered.  This is hardly different from Third World countries where residents obtain “rations” from federal government and aid agencies now.  It also goes a long way to explain the troubling spike in young food bank visitors.


The Ontario Child Benefit may provide relief at the end of a tax year, but it doesn’t help with the onset of an emergency.  In fact, 5% of eligible, low income families haven’t managed to access “baby bonus” at all.  This means imperative funds are diverted to government coffers to collect interest, while more and more children go without.  It’s also a good indicator that federal management of our provincial poverty initiatives is strikingly ineffective.–roseman-benefits-go-begging-when-rules-unclear?bn=1


4.  Increase public assistance rates to reflect current inflation – 16 years of tax and rate increases have gone by without recognition.  Back in those days gas sold for 45 cents a liter and bread was 49 cents a loaf.  Today those amounts have tripled and they’re only going up.  Most families are afraid to even mention the word hydro.  It’s just not possible to afford basic staples in the present market with a pay schedule from 1995.  With respect, I feel this expectation is rather curious.


5.  Restructure the way deductions are taken from public assistance recipients – So the program will encourage families to make more frequent attempts at employment opportunities and allow them to contribute to their own support in a fair and just manner.  Remarkably, no one else in Canada pays a higher rate of combined “taxes”, penalties and deductions.  No other group of children is required to support their parents either.  By deducting 100% of children’s wages, we only teach them not to participate in the workforce.  And so the cycle continues.


6.  Provide reasonable access to childcare – And maintain full day kindergarten.  Canada has one of the lowest birthrates, producing only 1.5 children per household.  The biggest part of the problem is mom and dad can’t afford to raise a family.  The average cost of daycare is $200 – $300 per week, per child and that’s over half a family’s income in many cases.  So if childcare is $1000 per month, rent is $900, hydro $200 and groceries at $500; the couple would have to earn $5200 per month to surpass the Low Income Measure.  This doesn’t account for telephone, internet, tv, vehicle, bus pass, insurance, personal needs or clothes.  If they add a second child to their home they will have to boost their income to $7200 per month to live without risk of homelessness or hunger.  If one of them fell sick for 2 weeks it would be enough to put the family unit in danger.  By comparison, the most this family would receive from welfare is $1062 if times ever got tough.  (The LIM suggests spending 50% of income to cover basic needs is too uncertain.  To qualify for a mortgage banks stipulate these expenses can only account for 30%.)

Childcare is the Achilles Heel of every working family, but it poses the greatest barrier to those still looking for a job.  This is the future of Ontario and we need to invest in its care more wisely.


7.  Allow those on public assistance to apply for student loans – otherwise we have yet another cog in the cycle of dependency.  Any person has a greater chance of employability with education and again, this is the only group barred from equal access.  If they accept a student loan for books and course fees, they will become disqualified from Ontario Works and ODSP for food and shelter in return.  This particular discrepancy contributed to the death of a Sudbury, ON woman:


By denying education to the impoverished we are only teaching future generations the same, unengaged behaviour.  We also prevent a great number of disabled persons from a life of productivity, showing them barriers instead of a method to overcome them.  We take ready minds, able bodies and shut them down instead of providing the tools to flourish and earn returns for our province.  Then society points fingers and claims this group made a choice not to participate, when some of them have literally died trying.


8.  Implement a Guaranteed Annual Income strategy – For all adults, not just senior citizens.  This method has proven successful with the target group and a past pilot project in Dauphin, Manitoba produced the same results for families in poverty:


Dr. Evelyn Forget conducted the study on behalf of government with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research from 1974 – 1979.  Despite its success however, politics and economy of the day brought a swift end to poverty reduction concerns.  This option has been debated for 30 years by members of every political party and Conservative Senator Hugh Segal is the Guaranteed Annual Income’s most current proponent:


While I understand there are drawbacks to implementing such an overhaul, the payback is worth its weight in gold and healthcare.  The latter raises particular concern when we consider changes to Ontario (and Canada) demographics on the horizon.  In the near future 1/3rd of our population will have to support the remaining 2/3rd of aged residents.  The older group will be subject to a higher rate of illness while the younger workforce won’t have access to pensions or benefits for their own growing families.


We have to expect some bumps in the road and making it impossible for the working class to recover from challenges will be at our own peril.  Food, utilities and shelter have become precious luxuries already.  Add the cost of carrying the majority of our population with the smaller, remaining tax base and compound that with 50% – 100% deductions from gross wages, along with no childcare and we have a recipe for disaster.  At the end of the day a Guaranteed Annual Income appears to be the most successful answer to circumvent countless oppressive policies, encourage productivity and maintain the health of families as they take on this daunting, historical task.


9.  Promote a provincial structure to provide community resource in rural areas – This will make great strides in coping with isolation.  With the least amount of dollars we can accomplish the most good, by making our social safety net accessible to a larger audience.


This would require a parent body to oversee grassroots providers in smaller populations, where they could tap into core programs essential to their communities.  They may include parenting courses, educational material in elder issues or other staples of community support.


Community resource acts as a satellite for information and referral.  It is often early intervention in a wide array of social challenges and saves a heavy burden on more expensive responses like 911, OPP, ER, CAS and the court system.  It’s a vessel to solutions and a catalyst of self sufficiency when residents are faced with difficult events.


I’ve mentioned how poverty and homelessness relate to healthcare, but our population is about to experience its greatest growing (shrinking) pains in history.  This will be a new phenomenon as baby boomers age out of the workforce and become more dependent on their much smaller group of offspring.  They will be adapting to changes such as ill health, lost pensions and widowhood.


In the case of the latter, perhaps a husband did the banking and drove all these years so his wife would be at a disadvantage without him.  Or a wife cooked and looked after her husband’s medication, but he lacks culinary skills and isn’t sure what the pink or blue pill was for.  They are now lost without their partners.


With access to community resource we can teach the woman pertinent life skills and arrange for volunteer drivers.  We could also teach the gentleman how to cook in a group with others who are facing the same challenges, so he remained independent and developed the support of friends.  We could further arrange plans through his local pharmacy to manage the medication safely.  In these 2 examples we’ve saved the cost of a nursing home, ER and putting stress on CCAC homecare before it was truly necessary.


To ensure this project is viable for rural communities the province would need to provide central management of core resources.  The cost of operating this way comes with savings in itself and any common programs or literature can be shared amongst regional areas.  This structure can accommodate the hiring of 1 course provider to float between grassroots offices, from month to month.  In January they can run a 6 week course in Collingwood and in the middle of February the same person can spend 6 weeks in Wasaga Beach etc.  In another area 1 employee could be responsible for Ancaster, Stoney Creek, Grimsby, Winona and West Lincoln.  It’s a cost effective means of reaching far more isolated people.  The alternative is providing transportation to “the city” and Social Services already complain that’s one of their most overwhelming budgets.


I’m not suggesting we provincially mandate all social groups, but providing a small office filled with information to populations of 10,000 (grouped or alone) seems like a good option to manage dwindling resources.  It’s a social emergency location where clients will be met by a guidance counselor of sorts.  If we don’t give people a place to speak and be counted, they will find it on the other end of 911.


I know there are many “solutions” to poverty, but the important part is that we take action on some of them.  Access to life sustaining employment is obviously the foremost concern in everyone’s minds.  But while our economy rebuilds and numerous families have found their way to the margins, we have a duty to ensure the whole process of recovery is cohesive and productive, as opposed to conflicting and punitive.  In reflection of these fears, TVO reported social services ranked in the top 3 issues according to the electorate.  It notably surpassed both healthcare and education:


And finally I’ll leave you with the 2010 report card on child and family poverty in Ontario:



Thanks for your time and consideration,


Amy MacPherson

Wasaga Cares

Giving Dwight Duncan the LOVE!

This Valentines day we are all sending Dwight Duncan a lovely valentine to show him our love!!!  For all he has done to support and help folks that live in poverty, while he lives high on the hog.

Grab yourself a valentine!  You can copy and paste to an email, or download using the link below each picture!  The more the merrier!!

They can be printed off and mailed so that you can add to them… pasted on his office windows..get creative!

Let’s make sure on Feb 14th that he feels all our love!




And this final version – print it off and write what you like on it… mail it?


Dear Honourable Duncan:

Poverty is bad for our health and bad for the economy.  Welfare (OW) and Disability (ODSP) income support programs do not provide enough money for people to be able to eat a healthy diet and to live with dignity. A single person cannot live on a maximum of $592/month. A poor diet  and  the stress caused by not having enough money to make ends meet leads to much higher rates of heart disease, diabetes and many other health problems. Poverty costs our health care system about $2.9 billion annually.

In this budget, do something to change this situation. Ontario does not need to have corporate tax rates 15% below the American rate by 2013. We do need you to Put Food in the Budget! Allocate funds so the government can immediately introduce a $100 Healthy Food Supplement for all adults on social assistance.




Hon. Dwight Duncan, M.P.P (Windsor-Tecumseh)
Constituency Office
2825 Lauzon Parkway [map]
Suite #211
Windsor ON N8T 3H5

Phone: 519-251-5199
Fax: 519-251-5299

If you wish to contact Hon. Dwight Duncan as the Minister of Finance

The Honourable Dwight Duncan – Minister of Finance and Chair of Management Board of Cabinet
7 Queen’s Park Crescent
7th floor
Toronto, ON, M7A 1Y7
Phone: (416) 325-0400
Fax: (416) 325-0374
E-mail:, or visit


Poor Stuck in the Middle of an Ideological Fight

Poor stuck in the middle of an ideological fight

By Kate Heartfield, Ottawa Citizen January 10, 2011

The long bureaucratic nightmare that is Ontario’s Special Diet Allowance for welfare recipients isn’t over yet, but there’s reason to hope.

The allowance is supposed to help people who receive social assistance and are coping with medical conditions that require them to buy more expensive food.

Just getting a sense of how the allowance works now, and what the problems with it are, requires reading several incredibly boring and confusing reports.

There’s a convoluted Ontario Human Rights Tribunal judgment. The provincial auditor weighed in last year. There’s a report from the Special Diets Expert Review Committee, which waxes on for 79 pages about such matters as the precise difference in cost per serving between gluten-free and non-gluten-free pasta.

All of that detail has been necessary to get the provincial government closer to a rational, fair system — but man oh man, this is one opaque area of public policy.

So imagine what it’s like to know that your ability to eat next week depends on this Byzantine system that seems to be constantly either changing or under threat of change. Imagine what it’s like to know that there are now new changes, and that every person who qualifies for the program now will have to reapply in 2011 — and that there might be further changes after that. “The changes to the special diet allowance have been disastrous from the beginning,” sighs Wendy Muckle, executive director of Ottawa Inner City Health.

The good news is that eventually, we might be able to have confidence that people who need extra money because of medical conditions are getting the amounts they really need. That won’t happen until at least June 2012, when Munir Sheikh — late of Statistics Canada — and Frances Lankin are supposed to complete their review of all social assistance programs in the province.

But to respond to the Human Rights Tribunal decision and the auditor’s concerns, the province had to act on the special-diet allowance before that review begins. It recently announced changes that will increase the amounts for certain conditions, and eliminate others from the eligibility list.

to read more CLICK HERE!

In Sickness or in Health?

I live in Toronto, Ontario, once called Scarborough…the mid-northern end of Toronto.

I was living down in the southeast end of Toronto for approximately 7 years.  Leslie and Queen Street East, to be exact.  I’d never lived in that neighborhood before, never lower than *the Danforth*.   Something has become glaringly clear!  Something that makes you say *hmmm*…. as it were.

Before moving to that area I would get the usual colds going around, occasionally the flu.  Nothing serious, nothing to be concerned over.

I moved down to my new area and suddenly I was coughing.  I was coughing so hard that it got really hard to laugh, talk, breath, control body functions. lol  If you know what I mean!  My chest rattled, and lungs were squeezed shut.  I thought I just had a very bad cold – I’d never experienced something so awful in the world of colds, but what else could it be?  It was so bad that I stopped talking in an effort to stop coughing. I tried to slow my breathing to the point where I could not participate in life.

I started using throat lozenges one after the other, and Advil.  I used Advil because it seemed to suppress the awful, chest rattling cough.  I got to the point of using 30 in less than four days!  Eventually it got to the point that I had pneumonia.  I got it once.  I got it twice.  I got it three times, and then I got it four times in one year, the year I moved away.  I had x-rays on my lungs.  My doctors were worried.  I was running out of choices in the world of antibiotics.  They warned me against getting sick again for fear they would not be able to help me.

As timing would have it, this is about the time I moved – just after my last bout of pneumonia that was so bad I really didn’t expect to live through it. That was a private thought of mine that I didn’t share with anyone. I had friends running all over the neighborhood attempting to find me a natural method of healing.  Visiting the wiser, older pharmacy owners for ancient secrets.  I tried some of them and I’m lucky to have survived them! lol

Since I moved from there, a year and a half ago, how many times have I been sick one might ask?  Had pneumonia?  None…zero, zip.  Yes, I still have to use inhalers… which also started when I lived down there, but I no longer have to sleep sitting up so that I can breath.  I no longer rush to the doctor for emergency help, or cringe and prepare for every set of stairs I must battle to get to a doctor.  Breathing, it turns out, is quite important. lol

There are reports and newspaper articles on this topic.  (see attached) The amount of pollution that is recorded down in that area are due to some old plants that used to be in use.  Metal factories or the like.  It’s supposed to be in the pipes, the soil.  They’ve reportedly removed this, replace the soil, the pipes, and cleared it up.  So they say.  Then why oh why… does my body say it isn’t so?  I’ve never been so ill in my life!  I, at first, attributed it to volunteering in communities where folks had lower incomes, where poverty was rampant, and therefore their immune systems were compromised due to lack of healthy, nutritious foods, and housing.  I thought that maybe I was just in a crowd of people who were constantly sick, coughing, sneezing and I was catching these contagious colds, and flu bugs!  The proof that this is not so is that I still go there.  I still volunteer!  In fact, I volunteer more now and I’m around people that are ailing, constantly.  Still healthier… how is that?  You tell me!


Special Diet Allowance – To Be or not to Be??

So our government has decided to do away with a key, essential service.  The special diet allowance.

The special diet allowance is / was an allowance for folks that have special dietary needs.  These are folks with Diabetes, Cancer, Depression, and many more illnesses.  Too many to count.  People on social assistance were getting extra money to buy the foods that they required in order to live a more healthy life… to try and alleviate some of the issues they faced that went along with their specific illness.  For instance, Diabetes can be controlled, in it’s early stages, with a proper diet.  That diet is a low sugar diet, which means low carbohydrates.  The cycle starts here.  If you are on the system, receiving money, you don’t get enough money to buy the healthy food your body needs.  As a result you end up eating foods you gather from food banks, or from drop ins and these foods are loaded with carbohydrates, and salt!  People need to eat.  This diet aggravates the symptoms and the illness, putting the person in higher risk of the next step of Diabetes.  Diabetes can be very painful.  If you get hurt, you don’t heal properly, and sometimes you have to have parts of your body amputated.  A person with Diabetes  absolutely must have a good diet, it is detrimental in holding this at bay.  If you don’t start out with an illness when you enter into the *system*, you’re pretty likely going to develop one based on the diet you are expected to survive on.

As it turns out, people started to learn of this dietary allowance, and rightfully so – they applied for it.  Even if a person is not sick, has no illness, this dietary allowance becomes sort of a beacon in the night as noone on the system has enough money to eat.  So good for them for applying and doing what needed to be done in order to survive!  If you try to live on $592.00 a month, and that’s got to cover your rent, food, medical needs, transportation, etc, you will soon realize that you cannot do it.  What would you be willing to do, to eat?  Applying for additional funds is a lesser evil than some choices people are faced with.  And a safer choice.  So something has to give when there is no money to survive, and in most cases it is food that gets cut from the budget.  There is nothing dignified, nor healthy about this choice, but you need a roof over your head.  Consider that to rent even one room in Toronto is approximately $450.00 and up – what does that leave you?   Either you starve, you eat what you get from food banks, or drop ins, or you apply for this allowance and have some control over your health.  Health goes much deeper than Diabetes and all the illnesses that people have to suffer.  It affects your energy, your self confidence, your ability to think, to function.  Your desire to get out of bed each day.  Try to find a job when all you can think of is where your next meal is coming from!  Food banks have specific hours and locations that you may or may not be able to make it to.  Consider travelling with this food… or the stigma that goes along with visiting a food bank.  Think on how each time you enter through the doors of a food bank you feel less of a human, more of a beggar.  Then take that food home and try to manage it.  In most cases this food has to last you more than a week, but they give you enough food for three days.

Since people have discovered this avenue for filling their tummies the numbers of people applying have obviously gone up.  The government has decided that folks are abusing the system, aided by their medical professionals. They point to the auditor general’s December 2009 report, which insinuated that many people who receive support – and their doctors, nurses, and dietitians – are purposely abusing the program although no investigation has been done. The government was also ordered by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario to increase allowances for people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity – which are widely known to put people at risk for heart disease – and to add low blood protein to the list of conditions covered.

This is because the Tribunal found that the program was discriminating against people with these conditions. But instead of complying with this order, in the last budget in 2010, the government said they were ending the discrimination by eliminating the program entirely.

The fact that people are on the system to begin with puts them in this category.  It makes people sick.  Social Assistance makes people sick. Think on it.  The government has decided that there is no way all these people can be sick.   They created the problem!  It’s systemic and it’s not stopping because they will not provide enough money to eat.  It’s a cycle.  You go on the system, you get sick, you can’t function properly – you are stuck on the system.   Even if you get lucky and find a part time job in this economy they take some of that money from you, ensuring that you will not move forward.

The government says that it isn’t cutting the special diet, but it is replacing it with another program.  Alright, let’s look at that!  No one that is currently on the special diet allowance program is going to be automatically brought into the new program.  You must reapply – under new guidelines.  The application process is going to go through the ministry of community and social services, as opposed to the social assistance programs that provide these monies right now.  So keep that in mind, just because you are on it now, does not mean you are definitely on it with the new program.  To top it off, the list of applicable illnesses will be shortened.  I suppose if you are not visually, noticeably dying, in their eyes, you don’t get coverage.  What do they consider to be worthy enough of being given money to eat?  How sick do you have to be in order that they will provide you with necessary healthy diets?  It’s a good question.  Last, but not least, there are rumors that the amount of money given will be much lower than previously because of where the money is coming from. The government would like us to think that they have to take from one social program in order to support another, when the fact is… the money is there.  They just refuse to pay it and they refuse to support this need.  More than 44 MPs have agreed that the rates of social assistance are inadequate, but that isn’t budging them.  Communities around Ontario are all doing a challenge – it’s called Do the Math Challenge.  They are attempting to live off a food bank basket for a week, as someone on assistance would be forced to do.  They are blogging their experiences, and going to their governments to tell them.  The government says that there is no public support for this need of money for food.

This year, before April, the new papers are being sent out to folks for the new applications to start being filled in and processed.  I don’t think they have mentioned yet, or given a specific list of who qualifies to eat, and that’s likely because they know that there will be public outcry and fury over their choices.  I imagine the choices they make now would be somewhat different if someone they loved were in this situation, but they aren’t.  They have food.  They have money to get the medical attention they need in times of illness.  They have enough nourishment to prevent illness to begin with.

The government has clearly shown that they agree people need food in order to be productive, contributing, healthy members of society.  They have shown this in the fact that they started a program for children to eat at school.  These children have parents.  Every single person should have food, it’s a basic right, as is shelter.  It looks to me like they are just feeding the children to look good…because they starve them as adults.  It’s a crime.  No one should go hungry in a country as rich as Canada is… nor anywhere else.  How can you expect your country to be strong and whole…supportive and functioning at it’s highest levels when you starve them?  You would think this is simple, common sense!  Everyone doing the math challenge has agreed..well over 1000 people and growing, so what does that say about the people in our government?

The conditions that are expected to be removed from the special diet schedule include:

· allergies to egg
· allergies to soya
· chronic constipation
· gout
· cardiovascular disease
· congenital abnormalities of the metabolic type – adults
· congenital abnormalities of the metabolic type – infants & children
· diverticulum/diverticulitis
· hypertension and CHF and Grade 1 and 2 ventricular function
· macrocytic anemia
· malabsorption
· microcytic anemia
· post-gastric surgery
· prediabetes: impaired glucose tolerance
· Kwashikor (weight loss condition)
· Marasmus (weight loss condition)

The conditions that are expected to remain in the special diet schedule include:

· celiac disease
· chronic wounds and burns
· conditions causing unintentional weight loss/body wasting:
– ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – Lou Gehrig’s disease)
– anorexia nervosa
– Crohn’s disease
– cirrhosis
– congestive heart failure
– cystic fibrosis
– lupus
– malignancy
– multiple sclerosis
– ostomies (e.g. jejunostomy, ileostomy)
– pancreatic insufficiency
– short bowel syndrome
– ulcerative colitis
· diabetes
· dysphagia requiring thickening liquids
· extreme obesity (BMI > 40)
· food allergy – milk/dairy
· food allergy – wheat
· gestational diabetes
· hypercholesterolemia
· hyperlipidemia
· hypertension
· insufficient lactation to sustain breast-feeding or breast-feeding is contraindicated
· lactose intolerance
· osteoporosis
· renal failure

Hunger, Poverty at a ‘Crisis Point’

Isabel Teotonio
Staff Reporter

The only way to stop the growing rate of hunger is by increasing wages, investing in income security programs, providing affordable housing and improving access to community food programs, according to a list of recommendations to be released on Monday.

The Recession Relief Coalition is releasing 10 top recommendations that are key to combatting the troubling rise of hunger in the province. They are geared toward policy-makers at all levels of government.

“Hunger and poverty are at a crisis point,” said Dr. Gary Bloch, a family physician with St. Michael’s Hospital and assistant professor with the University of Toronto, who helped draft the recommendations.

“We are facing the highest levels of food bank use and some of the highest rates of social assistance use ever,” said Bloch, noting his practice is largely comprised of people living below the poverty line and struggling for basic survival.

The recommendations were put together by a six-member panel after a full day of evidence at a hunger inquiry in late November. The panel — which also included a retired minister, celebrity chef and a housing advocate — heard from more than 30 front-line workers, social service agency staff, academics community leaders and people directly affected by hunger. The coalition’s full report is expected in January.

After decades of cutbacks to government revenues, through individual and corporate tax cuts, “a small reversal of these cuts” would provide funds for some basic social insurance programs to fight hunger and poverty, Bloch said.

“We are willing to pump ever-increasing dollars into health care, much of it to treat the health problems caused by high levels of poverty, but we seem unwilling to address the root causes of these problems,” he told the Star.

To read more, CLICK HERE!

In response to this article a fellow campaigner wrote to the Toronto Star….Hmmm – food for thought?

Re:  Hunger, poverty at a ‘crisis point’

I am worried about the illusion created by the big crates full of donated food that we all see in the large grocery stores. The illusion is that this is the kind of food people receive when they go to the foodbank. The reality is that this food makes up only a tiny proportion of the food that people actually receive. Most comes from corporate donations. I use food banks. I just opened a frozen package of wieners and decided I could not even feed them to my dog – they were outdated and spoiled. This is a very common experience. I also never receive enough to get me through a week and the food I get is often high sugar, salt etc. Despite the public’s best intentions and generosity, foodbanks cannot solve the problem of chronic hunger and malnutrition. What we need is government policy and funding to address the reasons people need to go to food banks – like the fact that a single person receives a maximum of $592 from social assistance to live on for a month. I hope that all the people who care enough to donate can also see past the illusion of the overflowing crates and not let our governments hide behind charity and foodbanks as a way to address hunger.


Free BBQ!

Today is the annual free BBQ put on by Jack Layton.

It’s at Withrow Park, on the north side, by Logan Avenue…. from noon until four.  If you are in the area, please drop by!

Withrow Park is just a little south of Danforth, at Logan!

I’ll be there handing out fliers and trying to raise awareness for poverty – and maybe eating a dog!  lol

Jack met Sarah and I on Aug 7 and invited us to come and spread our information today.   Drew and I are going and hopefully we can get more folks interested!!!  I’ll post pix later!

UPDATE:  It was a huge success!  I handed out almost every piece of literature I brought with me – we are advertising that we’re doing a viewing of Poor No More..and so many folks were super excited about it.  And there were even people who know the producer of the movie and / or worked on it with him!  I think I hit the jackpot today as far as putting the word out for a movie!  🙂  It was terrific – a lot of great conversation was generated and tons of interest.   And all that in two hours!  I even gave Jack Layton one of our buttons.  Heh. 🙂

Put Food IN the Budget


Ron and Susan with Our Banner!

Ron and Susan with Our Banner!

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: