Nov 20, 2017 @ 08:18
Those of you who read this column regularly may remember a few weeks ago I indicated that I am so thankful that I didn’t study from the same math textbook or attend the same schools as Premier Wynne and Conservative Leader Patrick Brown. I made this observation in reference to how those two leaders were able to explain how to make a $40 billion debt on the Provincial ledgers actually appear as an asset in order to justify an energy cost reduction scheme. Wynne created it and Brown said he wouldn’t change it if elected. Their math skills would result in accumulating insurmountable debt in the future to provide customers with lower energy costs now. Well, once again I am thankful I didn’t receive the same math lessons that they did.
This time I am referring to the shocking revelation by NDP Leader Andrea Horwath about the state of Ontario’s troubled social assistance programs. Ms. Horwath explained that under consecutive Conservative and Liberal governments in the last 22 years, monthly social assistance in Ontario has gone up by just 8 percent. My own constituency office receives calls and letters all the time from individuals who are barely scraping by on social assistance – asking for relief – asking for a reasonable increase just so they don’t fall any further behind.
The problem is this – If someone has an annual income of say $200,000 and they are offered a 5 percent increase, that’s translates to a sizable $10,000 increase. Pretty decent in anyone’s books. However, at my school I learned that 5 percent of virtually nothing is … still virtually nothing.
For example, if a family on social assistance today has an annual income of $15,000, and they received that same 5 percent increase, it would translate to just $750 per year. And that’s IF they ever saw something as high as 5 percent. As I said, the reality is that social assistance has only risen by a mere 8 percent in the last 22 years – and that’s before you factor in inflation. 8 percent is just not enough for a family to pay rent, buy food, clothes, and school supplies for the kids, and try to scrape by. It’s not enough – and the Wynne Liberals have done next to nothing to fix this during their 14 years in government.
A committee was struck last year by the Minister of Social Services and recently she released their report. Their own recommendations include a 15 percent increase to the Ontario Disability Support Program, a housing benefit to be implemented by 2019, and the expansion of all health benefits to low-income families.
When asked about the current situation facing families on social assistance during Question Period, Kathleen Wynne’s minister said they would hold off on taking action and would instead consult further on the year-long committee group’s report. Once again the Liberals end up letting struggling families down at a time when they really need help.
The Liberal government has a dismal track record when it comes to helping low-income families. They cut homelessness prevention programs in 2012, they reduced monthly social assistance payments by $100 per month in 2014 and announced a severe cut to the local poverty reduction fund in 2015. Ms. Horwath asked the Premier, “With an election around the corner, will the premier reverse course, implement the recommendations of this report immediately and finally begin to properly support Ontario families who are really struggling?” Personally, I’m not holding my breath waiting.
And when it comes to healthcare, Wynne and Brown apply similar math skills when addressing the problem of hospital overcrowding. Health care should be there when people need it, but cuts and underfunding by both the Wynne Liberals and the Conservatives have pushed Ontario hospitals to the brink. Deep cuts started under the Conservatives, who fired 6,000 nurses, closed 28 hospitals, and slashed over 7,000 hospital beds. Instead of fixing the problems in the last budget, Wynne chose to shortchange hospitals by over $300 million dollars. How is providing less funding to hospitals when they face huge increases in costs – including hydro – going to fix the problem?
It doesn’t have to be this way. Ontarians deserve better than this.