Blog

New social assistance asset test welcome news

The 50 year experiment forcing welfare recipients and low income persons with disabilities into financial destitution finally appears to be over. In Charles Sousa’s Budget 2017, asset limits for single welfare recipients will be raised from $2,500 to $10,000 for a single person and to $11,000 for a lone parent with two children. Persons with disabilities will have their asset limits raised from $5,000 to $40,000 for singles and from $7,500 to $50,000 for couples. The amount families will be able to donate to family members receiving assistance will go from $6,000 a year to $10,000. This is welcome news after the initial moves in 2013 that quadrupled asset limits for single welfare recipients from the equivalent of one month’s assistance (about $650) and allowed families to donate money to…
Read More

A better way to save 2.6%

Late last year, some colleagues and I released a report on called ‘The Cost of Poverty in Toronto’. We found that poverty costs the Toronto economy between $4.4 and $5.5 billion per year. For this discussion, I will use a figure of $5 billion. Since Toronto has never been poverty-free and there is no comparable city that has ever eradicated poverty, it is a difficult figure to calculate. In the absence of hard evidence, we looked at poverty-related costs incurred by the poorest 20 per cent of people in Toronto (the lowest quintile) compared to the cost profile of the next quintile of people (the second lowest quintile). The second lowest quintile pays higher taxes while incurring far fewer costs related to healthcare, the courts and justice system. If the…
Read More

Fentanyl in food? Why safe injection sites are the right thing for all of us

On January 10, 2017, Matt Galloway of CBC’s Metro morning interviewed Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins on the fentanyl opioid crisis and noted that: “….if our food supply was threatened by a food poisoning, then all hell would break loose and that you would have all levels of government moving in the blink of an eye to react to this but the stigma that exists around overdose has led to a sluggish response….[1]” Galloway made this observation after Hoskins said that the issues surrounding fentanyl deaths related to respect, dignity, equity, the right to treatment, the urgency of the matter, the effectiveness of needle exchanges and the fact that the people who are dying are our brothers and sisters, our fathers and mothers. So far so good. But at no point in…
Read More

A briefing note for progressive thinkers on the celebrity bombast of the political right

I’m often tempted to weigh in on the popular appeal of bombastic, right-wing celebrity politicians, yet I hesitate when smart commentators say exactly what I was thinking – people like the brilliant Rick Salutin of the Toronto Star, Marcus Gee in the Globe and Mail, or Charles Blow in the New York Times. They always nail it. But recently, I started to have thoughts that may not have been covered in the relentless carpet-bombing of Donald Trump and before him, Toronto’s notorious mayor Rob Ford, not to mention Boris Johnston, the demagogue behind the ‘Brexit’ referendum. ROFO, BOJO, and Trump are the heralds of new kind of leadership in this millennium. It’s become clear to progressive thinkers that we need to take the appeal of right wing buffoonery more seriously.…
Read More

Hit over the head and blamed for falling? The curious case of Scarborough and the Toronto media

When Canada first built its railways, forever remembered in the sepia photograph of the last spike, the idea was that railways spawn communities, commerce, and population growth. It was the undisputed economic model. It is precisely why, along with connecting communities, that both Canada and the United States built their railways in the first place. But when it comes to the Scarborough subway 130 years later, we have thrown that model into reverse:  we won’t lay the rails down until the communities, commerce and population growth are already in place. Although we are looking at a similar mode of transport, we are treated to a 180 turn of the lens. And if you agree with the premise that Scarborough doesn’t deserve the Subway because it is not a growth community,…
Read More

There will be a 75th reunion of Canadian veterans in Holland in 2020

On Sunday, March 19, 1961, my grandfather was one day away from death in the small town of St. Mary’s Ontario in his family home on the main street of town. He did not want to live on the terms on which he then understood his life. Robert A Stapleton was 84 years old. He had suffered circulatory problems most of his adult life along with painful arthritis. One of his legs had been amputated above the knee a couple of years earlier and his remaining leg had been recommended for amputation by doctors. He had refused and life-ending gangrene had become a very real possibility in that early spring. I was 10 years old at the time and I had been a part of many recent family gatherings on weekends in…
Read More

A young person’s guide to a guaranteed or basic income: part 7

Keeping what’s good from the past “There is a fire burning over the earth, taking with it plants and animals, ancient skills and visionary wisdom. At risk is a vast archive of knowledge and expertise, a catalogue of the imagination, an oral and written language composed of the memories of countless elders and healers, warriors,  farmers, fishermen, midwives, poets and saints – in short , the artistic, intellectual, and spiritual expression of the full complexity and diversity of the human experience. Quelling this flame, this spreading inferno, and rediscovering a new appreciation for the diversity of the human spirit as expressed by culture, is among the central challenges of our time.”[1] Wade Davis- The Wayfinders - 2009 In this seventh and final meditation on a guaranteed annual or basic income for…
Read More

A young person’s guide to a guaranteed or basic income – Part 5

The problem of work for a guaranteed or basic income “Although the practical implementation challenges make a GAI reform implausible in Canada, evidence from five North American experiments with a negative income tax style GAI provides some valuable insights. A negative income tax discourages recipients from working because it subsidizes leisure and reduces the marginal benefit of working. The results from the experiments generally point to a reduction in hours worked by recipients, reinforcing the concern about work disincentives.”[1] -  The Fraser Institute: The Practical Challenges of Creating a Guaranteed Annual Income in Canada; Jan 6, 2015   “Progress isn't made by early risers. It's made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something.” ― Robert A. Heinlein[2]   Well there you have it!  Implement a guaranteed annual…
Read More

A ‘Robin Hood’ Budget for 2016 in Ontario

“Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen Robin Hood, Robin Hood, with his band of men Feared by the bad, loved by the good Robin Hood, Robin Hood, Robin Hood.” In the Budget lockup yesterday, I started to silently sing the Robin Hood song that I learned back in the 1950’s as a kid. Robin Hood was the mediaeval archer who took from the rich and gave to the poor. Robin Hood was brave and Kathleen Wynne may be even braver. There are lots of new sin taxes and levies on the better off that became the fodder for 680 News over the evening and morning hours. There were some great interviews with ‘objective’ listeners who were “unhappy” or who thought the Budget was “ridiculous”. Cigarettes up by three…
Read More

A young person’s guide to a guaranteed annual or basic income –Part 4

Differences in contributions, services and need Now it’s time to talk about rights and human dignity – but I want to set the table first. I’m also not going to repeat too much from the first three entries. I am going to assume you have read them if you are now reading entry #4. In the previous three parts of this series, I talked about unicorns, contribution vs. needs based programs and the role of emotion and values in the design of our income security system. In this entry, I want to start by talking about the essential character of our existing income security programs. They basically divide into three categories: Monetary contribution based programs: CPP, Worker’s Compensation, EI and workplace programs Service based programs: OAS and Veterans’ benefits; and…
Read More