We asked our readers to respond to the bulletins we sent out this week on Minister of Social Services Helena Jaczek’s proposed consultations on social assistance reform. Here is a sample of comments from our readers this week.
As a person with lived experience of poverty, I don't believe them. There has been ample opportunity in the last 10 years for action yet people are still poor. For this reason I am not hopeful that anything will materialize. - Cathy S. Burlington
We don't need any more studies. A "really smart guy" in Hamilton (see the Useful Knowledge Society of Hamilton) has coined the term "public consultation theatre" - it seems fitting in this situation - all show and no substance. Katherine B.
It is obvious to everyone that we have a problem with poverty in our province. How much consultation is needed to make a decision to raise social assistance rates and wage rates to a livable level?
It's time to raise the rates and put an end to people living in poverty and surviving only through food banks and charity. Let's give everyone a chance to live with dignity. Peace Bruce L., Toronto
I agree with your analysis of Liberal plans. We’ve all gone through cycles of consultation, only occasionally leading to reform and correction that should always have been obvious. Government has heard all it needs to know, so what would another lengthy round of consultation bring?
Jaczek hasn’t been very useful so far but was able in true Wynne style to now reveal great sympathy and zest for social reform. Doubtful that Liberal reform will be significant. Still, contribution to the work should be made, just more forcefully to show the desperation. Another Put Premier Wynne on Trial, perhaps? ROY, Peterborough
I am writing because I LOVE the work that you do … not enough groups are taking a critical stance on the food bank industry, etc. especially as the problems are only getting worse. In my region, from where I hail, many of the people who use food banks here are judged, and comments are made to them about how they can afford more if they ditched their cell phone, or sold their vehicles, etc.
In Kingston, I hear that ODSP recipients are considered adequately fed by many people, and are thus denied assistance. Many of the “community members” that run these food drives are also the biggest poor bashers going. They get their picture in the paper, get their accolades, and so forth, and then they go on Facebook and other comment spaces online, and bash people on welfare and ODSP.
I am always wondering why the only person who has had lived experience on the panel is the one that usually gets on ALL of these working groups (to speak for lived experience? – no way!!!), when I can identify many others who are currently or recently lived experience that can speak to the issues in a much more representative capacity.
A 95% Toronto-based panel doesn’t help us either. For example, when the province municipalized most “discretionary” benefits, they didn’t anticipate there would be such a broad inequity between regions as to what is available to social assistance recipients in one area versus another under “discretionary benefits”, esp. since people here in Niagara have dinosaurs for the most part that govern the region (always trying to cut taxes or cut corners), while it is not unheard of here to be denied burial coverage, dentures, orthotics and many other things, because of a perception that you are not completely “destitute”.
If you work at all to supplement either, you are likely to get nothing or just half. This, while Toronto and Hamilton and some other programs are much more liberal.
There is also the whole concept of transportation. Transportation costs a fortune in Niagara if you don’t drive. In Niagara, basically, if you don’t drive, you don’t work, while Toronto-centric people can at least say, we have the TTC, and issuing TTC passes might be a potential solution there. Across Ontario, we need taxi chits, transportation subsidies, access to driver’s licenses (for those that can get them), or access to personal transportation for those that can’t drive. It costs just as much perhaps a little more than it costs for a single person in Niagara region, as it does in Toronto, if you take our bleak transportation system into account.
(I had to sue them a few years ago to get our region to even consider running Inter-municipal buses, for example).
Homeowners on assistance lost the Home Repair Benefit all over Ontario, and it was not replaced by the municipalities, other than through a loan in some places and too bad, so sad, in others. People spearheading this from a Toronto perspective without lived experience are not going to understand the nuances of what everybody across Ontario deals with.
That needs to be addressed to the Minister, as it seems the same people are getting appointed over and over again, and if we are expecting different results, we also know the definition of ‘insanity’. Angela B. St. Catharines