Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Cup of Coffee and a Few Ideas

We lose touch sometimes.

With friends. With ideas. And with certain realities that are just too easy to ignore.

Had coffee last week with a guy who I hadn’t seen in a over a year. He is a poverty advocate. He knows of what he speaks because he actually lives in poverty and has since suffering an injury on a job site many years ago.

He updated me on stuff I’d missed and suggested I read some reports as a lot of new ones had come out recently. I promised I would.

First up is Income Security for Working -Age Adults in Canada: Let’s consider the model under our nose.

Published last month, its author John Stapleton worked in government in the areas of social assistance policy and operations for 28 years. Now a Fellow at St. Christopher House Stapleton is connected with Massey College – U of T and was supported by the Metcalf Foundation.

In a few (164) words this is what Stapleton says:

*Beginning in 1929 an income security program for Canadian seniors evolved that has been pretty successful in alleviating poverty for this demographic group over the last forty years.

*A “program” for children (RESPs, Child Tax Benefits and now the Canada Learning Bond and Canada Education Savings Grant) is likewise evolving so that kids will be taken off welfare and we’ll be “on a hopeful course to ending child poverty”.

*By doing something like what has been done for seniors and kids a program for working age adults could be assembled that would have similar features – i.e., widely available federal benefits, extra help for people with low incomes, registered tax saving aspects and matching or separate contributions to reward individual savings.

*We ought to do it this way since restoring benefits to earlier levels is “politically unpopular” and a Guaranteed Annual Income - of which we hear more and more these days - is not “politically realistic” because of constitutional matters.

I'm getting caught up.

You can/should read this concise 19-page report at

Thursday, December 11, 2008

To Ottawa I Must Go

Thank you for supporting my blog. I’m gratified that you can find the time to look at it.

Sometimes I go off on rants. I apologize for those occasions.

Today’s posting is particularly important because I need your help.

I have decided that I must go to Ottawa.

It is said that Steve Harper is about to appoint 18 new Senators. I think I should be one of these appointees and I’m sure you’ll agree.

Five Reasons to Send Your Blogger to Ottawa

I think like the Prime Minister. Like Mr. Harper I also once favoured abolition of the Senate. In fact I wrote, if I might say, an excellent paper in an undergrad political science class in 1969 arguing for abolition. This was long before young Stevie’s parents had taught him about our parliamentary system of government and the meaning of the word conciliatory.

2. I could use the money. Let’s face it I’m going nowhere with this blog. I have two still-at-home adult children victims of the policies of this terrible left wing government we have in have-not Ontario. My boys, Brian Martin and John George, would just be so happy if I could relocate to Ottawa so that they could have the house.

3. There needs to be significant opposition to this stupid coalition idea in that chamber of sober second thought. I’ll admit I was seduced - but only for a short time – by the idea of fighting the recession by stimulating the economy. But to be honest - and you know you can trust me - I only thought like that because the mainstream socialist inclined media (controlled, I suspect, by separatists like Jacques Parizeau and influenced by far out economic ideas like those put forth by disciples of ex-pat John Kenneth Galbraith) told us that Mr. Harper said such things when he was in Peru with those other world leaders. Such mendacity.

4. I will actually do something in the Senate. And that is this: I will spend every waking moment until April 2, 2025 fighting to abolish it. The Senate will be history on April 3rd, 2025. That will be my 75th birthday present to the nation.

5.. And finally it is an outrage that Burlington – a customer focused city recognized for excellence in government - has had no representation in the Senate since Liberal Isobel Finnerty retired in July of 2005.

I’m the guy.

Thanks again for your support.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Poverty Reduction Strategy

Back in the early nineties – the Rae days – I sat in on some interviews social assistance caseworkers had with their clients.

It was an eye opener.

Demeaning is the way I’d characterize it. I’m not blaming the worker. The system was the problem.

Then along came Mike Harris and things got a lot worse.

Which brings me to the present and the much-awaited Poverty Reduction Strategy unveiled yesterday by the Provincial Government.

At this point there seems to be much satisfaction with this report.
For example, the 25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction (a multi-sectoral coalition of more than 350 provincial and Toronto-based organizations and individuals working to eliminate poverty) has a good and fairly positive analysis of it at

Poverty is finally on the agenda and will remain there for several years.

I've Seen this Picture

However, the commitment to undertake a review of social assistance with the goal of reducing barriers and increasing opportunity seems like one of those proroguing dodges we've been reading about lately.

This same minister completed a similar review in December 2004. At that time she got it right. The Mathews’ Report, as it was known, documented an OW (welfare) system that was a mess.

For example:

Clients afraid of caseworkers. (p. 29)

Time and money wasted on job placements and training that didn’t assist in the move towards job readiness. (p. 21)

The requirement of applying 800 rules and regulations before eligibility could be determined and a cheque could be issued. (p. 25)

And this outrageous story:

The value of leftovers from a Sunday dinner at a parent’s house being deducted from the social assistance cheque. (p. 28)

Now four years later a commitment to a review.

What am I missing here?

I wonder how those with a first hand knowledge of social assistance feel about this.