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 >