Hot! Ontario’s cuts to funds for poor sends miserable message

TheStar.com – Opinion/editorials
October 18, 2012.

To govern is to choose among a host of competing programs crying for public dollars. That’s especially true in hard times, like these, when money is in scarce supply. And regardless of the way it’s spun — in a news release, or by a PR flack — how a government chooses lays bare its true priorities.

Much was revealed when Premier Dalton McGuinty’s government opted to slash funding for the poor while spending at least $230 million on the politically motivated closing of two gas-fired generating plants. The province faces a $14.4-billion deficit but, even in these cash-strapped times, there’s money for what really matters.

In fairness to McGuinty, the poor never figure high on any leader’s list of political priorities. Yet no one in Ontario deserves help more than those who struggle, day after day, even for basic necessities.

Take people who are about to be evicted but need a bit of funding to bridge them to stability, or those in a similar situation with their heat or electricity cut off, or people just leaving an institution and lacking money for a fresh start. The province is cutting its money for them by $12.8 million in Toronto — not because there’s any less need but due to Ontario’s “very serious fiscal crisis.”

As reported by the Star’s Daniel Dale, it’s part of a $21-million reduction in provincial support for local homelessness prevention. That’s all part of a larger re-jigging of the way Queen’s Park is handling the homeless, with more responsibility being downloaded onto municipalities in the interest of greater flexibility and local decision-making — and to save money.

More poor people are at risk of losing their homes, as a result, and social advocates warn that more could slip into homelessness. Former premier Mike Harris must surely be smiling. He was a master at pressing additional tasks onto cities while withholding the money needed to carry them out.

In explaining the province’s move, Community and Social Services Minister John Milloy was up-front about the need to save cash. A better “balance” simply had to be found, he said. “It would have been nice not to have done this.”

Nice indeed. But this wasn’t the result of a hostage-taking. The government’s decision was a political choice,a determination to cut here and spend somewhere else. Its willingness to target the poor sends a miserable message.

< http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/article/1273790–ontario-s-cuts-to-funds-for-poor-sends-miserable-message >

1 Comment

  1. “In fairness to McGuinty?” I don’t think so. I would say that pointing out that “the poor never figure high on any leader’s list of political priorities” is a statement that is not “fair” to McGuinty, but rather demonstrates the callous attitudes and values held by our politicians. I feel as though this statement seems to forgive the McGuinty administration for the simple but inadequate reason that others have always done the same. This is not an attitude that will bring about change. Why should the poor suffer even more through harsh times? This may be a small statement made innocently, but I believe that it reflects a certain sense of hopelessness – a hopelessness that I wish to see remedied. I believe that a leader can be the change they would like to see, and I believe that politicians should not be excused for making upsetting decisions. Leaders such as McGuinty have the responsibility to enforce positive change, and sometimes, in cases such as this, a leader must be able to take more than a stand. They must learn to crawl before they are able to take the required baby steps toward the much-needed changes in social policy. We may need to make cuts, we may need to make sacrifices, but taking from the wounded is not the way.
    On this note, I would also like to add that it is important as agents of positive change that we do our part. It would seem as though the poor are the ones who will be hit the hardest in these times of financial stress. I may not agree with the decisions made to cut funding in these areas, but if this is how it will be, the question is WHAT CAN I DO to help those in need. I do believe in social assistance, and funding from the government. However, I have read many articles and blogs as of late that seem to blame government and call them to action, rather than finding a way of taking personal action when needed. We must keep our politicians accountable, and let them know where OUR priorities are. At the same time, let us also SHOW our politicians through our own personal actions where our values, attitudes and beliefs lie. My point of view may be deemed conservative, however I wish to drive home the message that individual involvement is key to the success of thwarting poverty at any level. There may come a time, due to budget cuts and policy changes, when the homeless come knocking at our doors for assistance or for shelter. Will we let them in?

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