Poverty's Smoke and Mirrors
by Ron Payne
Ontario Disability Support Program
Regarding Premier McGinty recently suggesting that the publics expectations for a comprehensive plan for poverty reduction may have to be tempered as a result of the bleak economic outlook for the province.
In my opinion the provincial government?s resent poverty reduction consultations, headed by M.P.P. Deb Matthews was all smoke and mirrors, a sham.
The Liberals have known for some time that there may be a downturn in the economy and have been looking for ways of saving money for some time now.
The Mike Harris Conservative government did this, years ago when it gutted funding for welfare, education and medical care, and then paid a heavy price for doing so.
Now, on the welfare front the Liberals are continuing the process, only this time they are doing it without the vast majority of the public?s knowledge.
How will they do this? I?ll explain. First they had to accomplish two things.
a) get a lot of good media attention showing what a wonderful job they are doing on poverty reduction.
They announced a huge new initiative, an across Ontario poverty reduction consultation. They mistakenly let the cat out of the bag right from the beginning, no new money and no one that lives in poverty is invited. That was a bad move (showing there hand) that caused a reasonable amount of bad publicity. People quickly forgot this error and things moved along.
b) prepare the service providers for an onslaught of people needing help.
The Liberals had to make the service providers think that they were the ones that were going to lead the charge of helping to eliminate poverty. This way they couldn?t complain that the Liberals weren?t doing enough when things got worse.
Well things are definitely getting worse for people living on Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). Not because of the alleged economic downturn Premier McGinty is talking about.
It?s the cuts the Liberals have already made to the benefits of welfare and disabled recipients. These cuts are already being implemented through the Ontario Works offices.
Behind closed doors and behind every ones back, the Liberals have completely redone the Ontario Works Policy Directives. These are documents that explain what the benefits
are and how to apply for them.
My research, that was done here in Hamilton, shows that the local legal clinics and paralegal community are not aware of these changes and are in fact giving out wrong legal advice to their clients. Why haven?t the legal clinics community stepped up to the plate on this issue?
Even our local library was not aware of these changes. You would have to be a pretty good researcher to even find a hint of these changes on the Internet.
Now the vast majority of people living in poverty will have no idea what the benefits that they are entitled to and how to apply for them.
The provincial Liberals have already started to skim millions of dollars off of Ontario?s poor and disabled without anyone knowing that it is happening.
The implementation of these policy changes is certainly a clear example of the provincial government acting in bad faith. Especially when you take into consideration the fact that Welfare Legal has requested in writing twice for the government to supply us with a copy of these changes and has been told no.
Welfare Legal?s evidence is clear.
a) 2 separate documents on Ontario Works letterhead that talks about these secret policy changes.
b) 2 separate e-mails from our local legal clinics that show they are not aware of these policy
c) A letter from the province saying they will not give us a copy of this new policies that they are
in fact using as we speak.
Why isn?t someone somewhere doing something about this abuse of process by the province and the local municipalities that administrate the Ontario Works Program? Many heads should roll over this issue and I cannot believe I am the only one talking about it publicly. It is a complete failure of system that was designed to help not hurt people that live in poverty.
Welfare Legal is offering $100.00 to the first person that e-mails us a copy of the new Ontario Works Directive #7.4. This offer is only good for seven days after this letter goes public. The sender will have to prove the document is authentic.
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