To Honourable Dwight Duncan, Minister of Finance:
Today I attended a – ‘Put Food in the Budget’ rally – outside the Frost building near Queen’s Park. I saw you just inside the glass doors as you had completed your meeting with Anglican Bishop Linda Nichols and others. We were all there to ask you to include in your upcoming 2011 Ontario budget a $100 per month ‘Healthy Food Supplement’ for social assistance recipients.
It is way past time to do something substantial for Ontario’s most vulnerable people, our friends and neighbours – disabled people who are on ODSP and those who have lost jobs or cannot work for a variety of reasons who are on Ontario Works assistance. I have been part of grass roots campaigning (in Hamilton) to increase these allowances since Mike Harris reduced welfare payments by 22% to these most vulnerable Ontarians way back in 1995 and then privatized the service, hiring a corporation, whose major purpose was to drive these people off welfare by many types of harrassment and humiliation. I was a witness to this as I accompanied ODSP and Ontario Works recipients to their meetings. I am sure you were just as disgusted at these actions as most Ontarians so that when we had had enough of the Mike Harris government, Ontarians elected your party because of your promises to make life better for our neighbours on social assistance. Well, after nearly eight years the promises of increased support have not happened!
Today I heard 45 year old Tracy Mead talk about her life on social assistance. I quote: “Back in 1995, the opposition Liberals scorned the Mike Harris government’s so-called “welfare diet,” which purported to show that a single person on social assistance could eat for $90 a month. Today that meagre Tory shopping list — which included pasta but no sauce and bread but no butter — costs $48 more. And yet since the Liberals took office in 2003, a single able-bodied person on welfare gets just $29 more in their monthly cheque for food.”
You sir are one of the speakers who scorned Mike Harris’s government actions to deprive people of the ability to eat properly. But there are more food banks in Toronto and Ontario than ever before. Some months ago some Anglican and other volunteers including a couple of legislators who spoke, tried living on a typical food bank diet for one week. They couldn’t do it – the food is mostly starch and fat with no fresh vegetables and fruit. Why do the rest of us expect social assistance recipients to live like that? It is as if we wish them to stop inconveniencing us and just die!
I am presently reading The Trouble With Billionaires by Linda McQuaig and Neil Brooks. I recommend it to you as you deliberate your budget. What she says is true – in both the U.S. and Canada the top 1% of the population have 24% of the wealth and income. You cannot say that Ontario does not have the resources to help out our neighbours right now with a small food supplement of $100 per month. You must take courage and explain this gross inequality to all Ontarians and then do the right thing and bring in more progressive taxation to pay for this very small increase. I know that all of us at the rally are willing to pay our share.
I hope you will act, both to grant the Food Supplement and to explain to Ontarians why it is desperately needed.
I would like a reply to my request.
Murray D. Lumley, Toronto