Both the Federal Government and the Wynne Regime in Ontario have been making noises of late about the notion of introducing a system of Basic Income. The Provincial Budget even suggests that a pilot project will be set in motion in a community to be determined. Clearly, a significant development in the area of social policy is possible and we must ask ourselves how we should view this.
At first glance, especially as the impact of austerity and social cutbacks throws ever more people into poverty, the idea that everyone should be guaranteed a certain minimum level of income that lifts them out of poverty is enormously appealing. If that was all we were considering here, the matter would be very clear cut and Basic Income would have our unqualified support. Sadly, however, things are less straightforward and the issue raises some alarm bells. In this regard, there are several questions to consider.
The warehousing of homeless people in Toronto in overcrowded and vile conditions has a long history, as this collection from the past shows. Under the impact of austerity and redevelopment, the situation in 2016 is especially dreadful. The appalling levels of overcrowding are lethal at the moment and constitute an assault on health and dignity. OCAP is demanding that the Federal Armouries be opened to provide emergency shelter, as they were at various times in the 1990s and again in 2004. Pressure must be take off the system and we and our allies are working hard to prevail up Mayor John Tory and the City Council to act immediately.
The 2016 Ontario Budget provides an increase for those on Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) that is pegged below even the official rate of inflation, let alone the real cost of living increases that poor people are experiencing.
The Budget provides a wretched 1.5% increase to those on social assistance, with an extra pittance for those with the lowest incomes of all, single people without children on OW, that will provide them with a total additional payment of $25 a month. At present, they are seeking to survive on a maximum of $681 a month. These increases will not even kick in until September and October.
A survey and study of Toronto's shelter system backup, the volunteer-run Out of the Cold (OOTC) program, conducted last month by members of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty has been publicly released today and is already driving discussion around the ongoing implosion of the emergency shelter system.
Over the last few weeks, the OCAP office has taken a lot of calls from people living in poverty who question whether refugees should be allowed into Canada when so many are experiencing homelessness and hard times. An expression we keep hearing is that 'we should take care of our own first'. This is our response to such ideas and to those who want us to blame the refugees rather than look at the real reasons why there is poverty and homelessness.
Canada has, of course, been shaped by immigration and the history of the people who have come here is hardly a picture of easy times and luxurious treatment. Those fleeing persecution and poverty have always experienced discrimination and super exploitation. At the same time, immigrants have always faced the lie that they were somehow 'queue jumpers' enjoying special treatment. Refugees coming here today from Syria and other countries face the same slanders. Lots of hateful and false claims of refugees getting special treatment are all over the internet. One widely circulated offering, for example, suggested that refugees are provided with $2,470 per month when this figure included a one time start up payment and presented it as monthly payment. Those who are privately sponsored, moreover, don't get government assistance. The free ride for the refugees is a racist myth you should take with a whole salt mine.
At the beginning of September, Toronto Social Services adopted a new policy with regard to the ID that would be required of people who are not Canadian citizens.
OCAP Members Occupy Rotunda at City Hall as Council Approves George Street "Revitalization"
OCAP went to Toronto city hall to ask the mayor & councillors - which of you is prepared to open a shelter in your ward?Submitted by ocap on Fri, 10/16/2015 - 06:04.
OCAP Shuts Down Yonge & Dundas, Demanding Immediate Action to End Toronto's Shelter Crisis!
Earlier today (September 21), members of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) blocked traffic for over 40 minutes at Canada's busiest intersection, during the lunch hour rush. Earlier in the day, we staged a rally and meal at Toronto City Hall and marched up to Yonge and Dundas as it concluded. Upon reaching Yonge-Dundas Square, a few dozen activists, allies and supporters rushed into the street and began laying flowers and memorial signs around the perimeter of the intersection, preventing traffic from moving by blocking lanes. Speeches were made and banners unfurled mere meters away from the bus shelter where a man froze to death in January of this year.
September 18, 2015
You will doubtless remember the homeless deaths that happened in this City at the beginning of the year. At the time, promises were made to reduce the level of overcrowding but nothing of the kind has happened. If we look at the latest Daily Shelter Census, issued by the City, we see an (understated) overall occupancy figure of 95%, with the men’s system running at 96% and the women’s at 97%. We must presume there is simply no intention of complying with the 90% policy that Council has adopted.