A story in Thursday’s Free Press about the new Canada Child Benefit (Child benefit a godsend for poor, July 14) generated what has become all-too-typical feedback about social assistance recipients and government handouts.

The emails, comments and Facebook posts denouncing people on social assistance as lazy were fast and furious: they sit around all day and do nothing; their kids wear designer clothes and have iPhones; they drink and smoke and get everything for free. So where is their incentive to get a job?

Kate Kehler, executive director of the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, says when you give poor people money and allow them to decide how to spend it, the vast majority make good decisions. They spend it on things such as more and better food, improving their living situation or paying for things for their kids.

“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 “<span style=font-weight:bold;>”once the provincial deficit has been erased<span>.” (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.

When Minister Jaczek talks about ‘winners’ she is simply putting a ‘smiley face’ on the Band-Aid of inadequate social assistance rates.

This June 27 article in the Toronto Star (see here) reveals a lot about the attitudes of Kathleen Wynne’s Ontario Liberal government towards people who are poor. Let’s break down just two of the comments the Social Services Minister makes in this recent interview.

“As long as I’m here there are no losers”

“We aren’t going to call it social assistance reform.”

Neither an advisory group nor a consultation process is required to make immediate changes. There is no point to participate in the consultation merry-go-round. Let’s continue to demand that Jaczek and Wynne put food in the budget now!

This June 27 article in the Toronto Star (see here) reveals the strategy of misdirection that the Ontario Liberal Party (now led by Kathleen Wynne) is using to once again avoid raising social assistance rates:

A plan to design a pilot project on basic income;

consultation on the design

a separate Income Security Reform Working Group to provide recommendations

All this just in time for the next Ontario election in June 2018!

Just in case there is any doubt that there will be little movement on creating adequate incomes for poor people Jaczek makes the delaying strategy explicit when she says the following: (See here)

“I feel fairly confident we are going to be making a commitment to vulnerable Ontarians in the 2018 budget,” Jaczek told a gathering at the YWCA in downtown Toronto.

Big change doesn’t just click on. It occurs over time, starting out often as weak signals of the change to come. Sometimes it’s like the old frog in the boiling water story. Put the frog in when the water is cool and turn up the flame and eventually the frog realizes its plight, just too late to adjust, to escape.

A healthy community requires an economy that works effectively for the majority. This is not happening. The signals are all over the place.

It is not popular to suggest that our social democracy and our capitalistic economy are not working. Then again most big change that has come about in our lives did not start out as popular.

What signals are you hearing about the need for transformational change?

Canada Food Centres Chief Operating Officer Kathryn Scharf said awareness of food security issues is growing, as is action to combat them.

Scharf noted that while teaching healthy food skills, offering cooking groups and classes, providing after-school programs where kids can have healthy snacks and creating community gardens are all great ways to combat food insecurity, the key is in making sure more Canadians can earn a living wage.

However, that’s something that will only come about when governments mandate it, said Scharf.

“The key is to fight poverty, fight for housing, increase wages and social assistance rates,” she said. “We can push for those things at a grassroots level, but we can’t make them happen.”

MARGINAL FOOD INSECURITY – Worry about running out of food and/or limit food selection because of lack of money for food.

MODERATE FOOD INSECURITY – Compromise in quality and/or quantity of food due to a lack of money for food.

SEVERE FOOD INSECURITY – Miss meals, reduce food intake and at the most extreme go day(s) without food.

Among the provinces and territories surveyed in 2014, there were no significant drops in food insecurity prevalence, and even indications of an upward trend in the already vulnerable North.