Ontario to launch $1.6M ad campaign on tax changes

Feb 8, 2010 Read more: CTV.ca

Home : Canada : Ontario to launch $1.6M ad campaign on tax changes Ontario to launch $1.6M ad campaign on tax changes Date: Monday Feb.

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sad to hear

Toronto, Canada

#2 Feb 9, 2010
... The ghosts of Flaherty’s past:

Dear rest-of-Canada: take it from Ontario, with Flaherty at the helm of
Canada’s economy we can be sure that some brutal times are ahead. Our
old
friend, Mr. Jim Flaherty was the man wielding the ax in Ontario’s Tory
Regime in the 90’s – slashing all services and attacking the public
sector
without blinking. We should be terrified of his plans on the Federal
level
because Harper appointed him to do to Canada what he already did to
Ontario. Flaherty will be working hand-in-hand with the newly appointed
President of the Treasury Board Stockwell Day – a man who is known not
only for his belief that dinosaurs and humans walked the earth together,
but also for his ‘Say No’ attitude when it comes to social spending.

Harper has stated that “it is essential that the government limit public
spending,” and that “the provinces will have to make some of the same
difficult decisions we are making…”

( http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/... ).
Harper, Flaherty, Day: this is an all-star line-up from neo-liberal
hell.
We should be under no illusions that they will ‘play nice’ this time
around.

Dwight Duncan fills Flaherty’s shoes:

What Flaherty and Harper have called ‘belt-tightening& #146;, is what Ontario
Minister of Finance Dwight Duncan calls “difficult choices ahead"

( http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/71... ).
In October, Dwight Duncan announced that Ontario was facing a deficit
of
$24.7 billion dollars. Immediate speculation began on where cuts would
be
made. Will it be Healthcare? Will it be the Public sector? Will it be
Social Assistance? Will it be ‘Dalton Days’? Clearly, the option of NOT
making cuts to the basic needs of poor and working people was never on
the
table.

On December 7, 2009, the Ontario Provincial Auditor’s report was
released.
A major section of the Auditor’s report was dedicated to Ontario Works
and
the Ontario Disability Support Program. The report launches one attack
after another on social assistance recipients from claims of massive
overpayments to fraud. These attacks are all too familiar - we see them
every time capitalism is in crisis. Nobody is surprised when the
governments looks to blame poor people for the Province’s financial woes
–
it’s the perfect distraction from the fact that the deficit was caused
by
tax cuts to the rich and bailouts for banks and big business. The
Auditor’s report fits perfectly within this ‘blame the poor’ plan and
this
supposed ‘external and independent review’ has become the primary tool
of
the Provincial government to legitimize cuts to services in the name of
‘efficiency’ and ‘fiscal responsibility’ (See

http://www.auditor.on.ca/en/reports_2009_en.h... ).

This article is available at:

www.ocap.ca
sad to hear

Toronto, Canada

#3 Feb 9, 2010
... How did we get here?

In 1995, Ontario Works was slashed by 21.6% by none other than Jim
Flaherty, then Ontario’s Finance Minister under the leadership of
Premier
Mike Harris. The Common Sense Revolution in Ontario saw significant tax
cuts for the rich while social programs and public services were being
devastated.

In 2003, the Liberals were elected to power on the promise of an end to
the poverty regime. These empty promises have done nothing to end
poverty.
The reality is that today people in Ontario in many ways are worse off
than 15 years ago. Social assistance rates have been raised by a total
of
6% since 2003. The government may try to fool us into thinking they
have
made positive changes, but the truth is that today, people on social
assistance are living on rates that have been reduced by 40% when you
take
in to account the cost of living increase. Six percent is such a small
increase that it does not even account for inflation on, say,
vegetables.

700 000 people in Ontario live on Social Assistance, the vast majority
of
that number are children. The basic amount for a single person living on
social assistance is $572/month (which is meant to break down to $356
for
shelter and $216 for basic needs), for a single parent with one child it
is $920/month ($560 for shelter and $360 for basic needs). Disability
income rates are only slightly higher, and ODSP is a purposefully
difficult program to qualify for – gaining access usually requires
appeal
processes and long waiting periods.

In 2005, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty launched the Raise the
Rates campaign to demand a 40% raise in Welfare and Disability rates and
a
living wage (See: http://update.ocap.ca/rtr ). Not long after, people on
Welfare and Disability became aware of the now well-known Special Diet
supplement. The Special Diet supplement is extra money (up to $250) that
people are entitled to on top of their monthly cheque if a health care
practitioner determines that this extra money is required to buy food
for
medical reasons. Many health care providers were eager to sign people up
for extra money because they understand that poverty is a social
determinant of poor health. Nobody living on welfare and disability can
afford to eat properly and they are therefore all at risk for serious
health problems. This has led many health care providers to argue that
there should be nothing ‘special’ about the special diet - everyone on
welfare and disability needs this money for health reasons. These health
care providers were determined to push for access to better income
levels
for people on social assistance ...

soon to be available on www.Rabble.ca
sad to hear

Toronto, Canada

#4 Feb 9, 2010
...
The Special Diet became a phenomenon – word spreading like wildfire in
poor communities resulting in ‘Hunger Clinics’ being held across the
Province . Many poor people in Ontario gained access to desperately
needed
resources and were able to put food on the table using the Special Diet
money. Everyone knew, of course that it was only a matter of time before
the government targeted this vital program. It is no surprise that this
year’s Auditor’s report took aim at the Special Diet. The Auditor
focused
on the fact that the Special Diet spending in the Province increased
from
$5 million in the 2002/03 fiscal year, to $67 million in the 2008/09
fiscal ( http://www.auditor.on.ca/en/reports_en/en09/3... ). This
is
a fact that the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty is proud of – advocacy
for the supplement forced the government to spend millions feeding poor
people in Ontario.
Of course, the Province and the City treat the Special Diet increases as
an embarrassment – a blight on their otherwise outstanding record of
denying poor people access to a decent standard of living. They have
on the Auditor’s Report and cried ‘welfare fraud’ in order to
justify steps that will be taken to ensure that poor people are denied
access to the Special Diet.
It is important to understand the Special Diet within the context of
the
welfare system where people are forced to apply for ‘extra’ funding to
cover basic necessities that are not covered by appallingly low OW and
ODSP rates. People apply for the Special Diet allowance in order to eat,
in the same way that people apply for transportation money to access
public transit, for Community Start-up to try to avoid evictions or move
after having faced an eviction, and Burial money for a family funeral.
These ‘extra benefits’ are just that – they are extra meaning that not
everyone has access to them. For years, many of these benefits were on
the
books, but were not publicized and therefore not accessed. We have
worked
hard to ensure that people on disability and welfare are made aware of,
and fight for access to all the benefits, however inadequate, that they
are entitled to.
In the face of the government’s accusations of widespread fraud, we must
emphasize that it is not fraudulent for hungry people to apply for the
Special Diet – it is a necessity in a system that forces people to live
in
poverty and to have to decide from month to month whether to pay the
rent
or put food on the table ...
sad to hear

Toronto, Canada

#5 Feb 9, 2010
The dramatic increase in people accessing the
Special Diet is not an indication of fraud: it is an indication of a
hunger problem and a looming health crisis in this province. It should
raise alarm bells for the Health Care system that people living on
Social
Assistance in this Province are living with poor health as a direct
result
of poverty conditions. There are huge health consequences when people
cannot afford to buy healthy and nutritious food, when they cannot
afford
to avoid the foods that they are allergic to and when thousands are
living
with the extreme stress of trying to survive and support their family in
dire circumstances. Poor people suffer from poor health – this is a fact
that the government ignores at their own peril.
The government can either choose to pay the cost of providing proper
income levels for everyone on OW and ODSP, or they can pay the higher
human and financial cost of the inevitable health care bills that result
from forcing people to live in poverty
Neither the health nor general well being of poor people in this
Province
is a line item in the upcoming budget. If anything, their health and
well-bring is up on the chopping block. It is no coincident that
Ontario’s
Minister of Community and Social Services, Madeleine Meilleur, is the
co-chair of the Treasury Board Panel charged with ‘reducing the
deficit’.

Who better to determine how to best erode social services than the
Minister in charge of providing them?
Why such little faith in the Poverty Reduction strategy?
At the time of publishing, the Province has issued a ‘memo’ giving
front-line OW and ODSP workers the authority to reassess ‘the legitimacy
of any Special Diet claim’ (See www.ocap.ca/rtr for a copy of the memo).
Workers with no medical training are being given the power to a)
second-guess and question the diagnoses of a medical practitioner, and
b)
to deny people access to the Special Diet on a totally unaccountable and
arbitrary basis. In what is clearly a move to quietly cut services and
save money in the midst of the deficit, Social Services workers are
being
asked by the Province to, play doctor by overriding medical decisions in
order to deny peoples’ legitimate claims.
Using the Auditor’s Report as justification, this new provincial
directive
is laying the groundwork for eliminating the Special Diet, without the
government having to explicitly say that is what they are doing.
Already,
we are seeing the denial of the Special Diet on a massive scale, along
with a general escalation of abuse against people on social assistance.

Although no cut to Ontario Works has been officially made on paper,
denying thousands of people the Special Diet, is in fact a significant
cut
to social assistance, or worse, the pre-cursor to more brutal cuts to
come. The Province is creating an atmosphere of criminalization, and in
the case of the Special Diet, facts on the ground from which to justify
very serious cuts. For those of us who lived on social assistance
through
the Harris days – this atmosphere is all too familiar. It is a return to
the days of ‘Workfare’, ‘welfare fraud’, ‘criminals’.
sad to hear

Toronto, Canada

#6 Feb 9, 2010
In the City of Toronto, Welfare is administered by Social Services -
overseen through Janet Davis’ Committee on Community Development. City
officials are playing their part in cutting social assistance by doing
the
Province’s bidding and denying access to the Special Diet and other
programs. They are administering devastating cuts at a time when they
should be standing up against the Province. It is under their watch that
entire families are being denied the Special Diet benefit. In this city,
the process for applying for all benefits – basic and ‘extra’ – has
become
so riddled with suspicion and accusations of fraud, that qualifying is
almost impossible.

We didn’t create this crisis

Politicians and economists alike somehow believe that staying the course
of a neo-liberal model will keep their heads above water in this failing
economy. Dwight Duncan, Ontario’s Minister of Finance, boasts that new
corporate friendly measures “…brings our total corporate tax cuts over
the
next three years to more than $3 billion.” (Dwight Duncan, State of
Ontario’s Economy, March 3rd, 2008
http://www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/media/2008/sp03-e... )

When the economic crisis first hit, and as it has deepened, billions of
dollars of public money have been poured in to the financial system
through the form of bailouts and tax cuts. That is where the deficit
comes
from, not from ‘overspending&#14 6; to create jobs and public services, and
certainly not from ‘fraudulent welfare claims’. The government is
looking
now to get that money back, and we can be sure that it is not the
financial elite who will be paying the price. The method of deficit
reduction is clear – to privatize public holdings, and to cut public and
social services.

When they say that ‘tough times are ahead’, they mean tough times for
us.
In a climate where the public sector and social services have not even
recovered from the Tory era, we know that any further cuts will most
certainly be devastating. For people on social assistance it will be a
very serious crisis.

We are in a crucial time period where nothing will be provided for the
needs of poor and working class people unless we fight and especially
unless we fight together. The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP)
is
renewing our commitment to the Raise the Rates campaign in demanding a
dignified and livable income for Unemployed people and working people
across this province. We intend to mobilize local communities to take
the
action necessary to challenge and defeat the abuses they face at the
hands
of the social assistance system. We will act to defend the right of
people to obtain the Special Diet and other benefits that are being held
back. We will also work to bring together this locally based resistance
into a general ‘Raise the Rates’ movement that can take up the fight for
decent income in this province. This will be taken forward on April
15th,
2010 with a major OCAP mobilization against the Liberal Government that
will demand a 40% increase in welfare and disability rates. Governments
intend to impose this crisis on us but, through our resistance, we must
create for them a political crisis and fight for lives free of poverty.

Liisa Schofield and John Clarke are organizers with the Ontario
Coalition
Against Poverty. OCAP can be reached at ocap @ tao.ca .

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