Today let’s begin with a little game of, “Who Said This?” Oh, and the only clue is that the person lives in Canada, so it’s not Donald Trump.
“You know me. I’m for the little guy.” (While you think, play the “Final Jeopardy” theme song in your head.)
If you guessed Doug Ford – BING! BING! BING! – You got it. Congratulations, you win. Doug Ford said that over and over again during the recent provincial election campaign.
Now, try and tell that to the “little guys” such as those receiving Ontario Works, Ontario Disability Service Program or those who live in the communities where the basic income pilot project was running. The goal of the three year pilot project was to determine whether people who receive social assistance such as OW or ODSP or who are employed in low wage situations and who were guaranteed minimum income would experience improved overall health, better housing, improved education and eventual employment opportunities. In short, the basic income pilot project offered families and individuals hope and a path that would lead them out of a cyclical life of poverty and the need for additional support from others.
The project was the first of its kind in all of North America. Governments from around the world were showing real interest to see how effective it was in trimming bureaucratic services, reducing poverty and eventually helping people to access full and improved employment. In fact, Ontario had become a leader in poverty reduction strategies.
This week, Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod announced that the Ford Conservatives are suddenly terminating the program because it didn’t match with the governments focus on jobs. Ironically, one of the main architects and proponents of the project was Hugh Segal, a former Conservative Senator and prominent back room party policy advisor.
What proof do the Conservatives have to show that the project was a flop? Like Grandma says, “the proof is in the pudding.” When asked what data or statistics the government had to base the decision on, MacLeod simply ducked the question – they have none. Just ask those who participated in the program and they will tell you their lives were better for it. The payments some participants received could be almost twice that of regular Ontario Works benefits.
What does all of this really mean? It means that people who were told that they would be guaranteed a basic minimum income suddenly lose this and will be forced back to old policies and incomes, and struggle to makes ends almost meet. And worst of all, cancelling the program in midstream will mean we will never know for sure if this would prove to be an effective way of reducing stress on our social services, reducing homelessness, improving health and generally improving the lives of low-income families and individuals.
So, Mr. Ford, how does making such a massive cut constitute looking out for the little guys that you say you love so dearly? This is what looking out for the “little guy” looks like…?
While we are on the topic of providing data and statistics to back up government decisions, what consultation did Doug Ford use in deciding to meddle in Toronto’s municipal election? With municipal elections well under way, Doug Ford’s move to take revenge on his political enemies by interfering in races across the province is petty and mean-spirited. Not only is his decision intended to send his former political foes like Patrick Brown and city councillors scrambling at the last moment to alter their well political plans, but even worse, he is callously stealing power away from voters. This isn’t responsible leadership – its overriding Ontarians democratic rights.
Doug Ford was challenged by Andrea Horwath when she pointed out that he had not consulted voters on the plan and that he had no legitimate mandate to cancel regional elections and rip up Toronto’s wards. In response, Ford said that he absolutely told all of Ontario from the start that he promised to make government more efficient and streamlined in the history of this province. He stated, “We’re going to get things done, we’re going to run (Toronto) city hall a lot more efficiently than before.” My question is, since when does the Premier of Ontario “run” Ontario’s municipal governments? I was always under the impression it was the people themselves who advise their leaders what needs to be done.
As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues, or any other provincial matters.