“We want to be really realistic” or Planning to Fail
Minister of Social Services Helena Jaczek trots out a list of excuses that all but guarantee failure of any proposed reforms. “We want to be really realistic” is code for ‘you can’t blame us if we don’t live up to our promise’. Jaczek says she wants to “create a system of support both inside and outside social assistance that provides adequate incomes” and while she “hopes to begin implementing reforms in January 2018” she first warns us this will only happen “once the provincial deficit has been erased.” (Emphasis added).
If social assistance reform (oops, income security) plans are dependent on the provincial deficit being erased – we may have to wait for a very, very long time for adequate incomes for people who are poor. This is the first excuse Minister Jaczek provides – and there are two more.
Unsympathetic cabinet ministers - It seems there are cabinet colleagues who are not sympathetic to income security! Minister Jaczek says she lobbies “the sympathetic ones all the time.” But how is she going to manage the unsympathetic ones – and given the Liberal government track record we can be assured the unsympathetic ones are the most influential in cabinet. (See Ontario’s Social Assistance Poverty Gap Canadian Centre for Policy)
Blaming the public - Finally Jaczek is prepared to blame the public for the responsibility of the continued injustice of poverty when she says she “also knows that the public’s perception of a basic income is potentially problematic.”
Jaczek wants people to ‘go along with us and understand that it is worth investigating’. What is absent from Jaczek’s comments is an analysis of who she refers to when she says ‘public’. Perhaps the reporter’s comment that Jaczek lives in one of the most affluent ridings in the province is intended as a clue.
The Put Food in the Budget campaign’s report ‘Food Banks Are Not Enough’ (see here) reports 98% of 546 people who were people surveyed believe that.
“After 30 years of ‘emergency’ food banks in Canada, it’s time for government policies that put food in the budget of people who are poor.”
This is an indication of the broad public support that already exists for poverty reduction. Of course we can expect the ‘most affluent’ to resist paying more taxes – because personal and corporate taxes on the rich are the only source of government revenue that can be redistributed to create income security for the poor.
Does Jaczek believe the ‘most affluent’ (and perhaps also her unsympathetic cabinet colleagues) are going to be persuaded to ‘go along’ with adequate incomes for the poor by facts that emerge from the ‘investigation’ of a Basic Income pilot project?
Let’s be realistic Minister Jaczek, the 1% will not be finessed or ‘tricked’ into paying more taxes by reframing ‘social assistance reform’ as ‘income security’ or by asking them to be curious observers of your ‘investigation’.
The resistance of the 1% to income redistribution must be confronted. Part of that confrontation means calling poverty what it is – the deliberate impoverishment of people in order to transfer wealth to the 1% via low wages and increased corporate profits. We must frame our demands in the language of social justice and ask “In a society as wealthy as Ontario is it really all right that more than 350,000 people in Ontario go to the food bank every month?”
It’s too bad that Kathleen Wynne’s government is not as as committed to providing adequate incomes for people with low incomes as it is to privatizing Hydro One.
However privatizing public assets is Bay Street’s agenda, and ending poverty by raising social assistance and the minimum wage is not. Kathleen Wynne promised to be the social justice premier – but what does her record on raising social assistance, (and the record of the Ontario Liberal Party since Dalton McGuinty was elected in 2003) tell us? Whose side do you think Kathleen Wynne is on? The Liberal record tells us that they want to take us for another ride on the consultation merry-go-round. (Please write to us and tell us what you think).
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