Brief to the Ontario Commission for Redistribution of federal districts

My name is John Stapleton. I am a resident and a voter in Scarborough Agincourt. I study social and economic policy. I have lived in Northern Scarborough for the last 44 years. In the new millennium, I have been President of a Canadian non-profit Board and a Chair of an Ontario agency. I currently chair an Ontario Commission. I know what it’s like to live within government rules and constraints. I also know that you have choices - and in my view – you have not made those choices – you have only apologized for the constraints under which you tell us you must live. I have also lived through many electoral boundary changes but I can tell you that for the first time in 2018 – all our Scarborough…
Read More

I need a black belt to open up my computer. Why?

The stranglehold of the titans has begun.    The sad saga begins here. I left my computer on - exactly how I wanted it - with two Google Gmail accounts open along with a number of fully open Chrome windows. I had several PDF’s open in Chrome and five Word documents that I was working on. I have my own Zoom account and had a meeting later that day. My computer went to sleep when I left it alone for a few minutes. I came back and revived it. My Windows 11 wallpaper greeted me, not the Chrome screen I left a half hour before. In the tray at the bottom, Microsoft Teams popped up. Zoom was gone from the tray. I quit Microsoft Teams I went to Zoom in…
Read More

Unindexed benefits that never get increased: A story of the very poor, the dead, and the distracted  

There is a lot of interest these days in automatic indexation of benefits as inflation rises to levels that we have not seen in the past 40 years. Generally speaking, indexation is the federal rule and the provincial/territorial exception. But EI at the federal level is not indexed and most social assistance programs at the provincial/territorial level continue to slowly erode to inflation. And now they are eroding much faster. But lack of indexation is not synonymous with no increases at all. And that actually does happen. Some benefits just don’t get increased at all…. for decades. Let’s look at two examples. The first is a small program called GAINS-A (The Ontario Guaranteed Annual Income System for the Aged) and the other is the CPP death benefit.  GAINS-A (The Ontario…
Read More

‘16.2 in ‘22’: A social assistance litmus for 2022

“.…the Good Samaritan, he’s dressing,He's getting ready for the showHe's going to the carnival tonighton Desolation Row”[1] The year 2022 may be remembered for being a pre-pandemic, mid-pandemic and post-pandemic year all at the same time. It’s just completely uncertain just a few days before we enter the new year. One thing we do know for certain in Ontario is that there will be a provincial election on June 2 and at this juncture, it is clear that none of the three parties that have ever won a provincial election in Ontario will raise social assistance in line with inflation. To restore rates, how much should they be raised? We know that there have been no increases in rates since 2018 and that they are for now, frozen in time.…
Read More

What would have an honest news release looked like – announcing the CERB/CRB GIS clawback?

It's interesting to do a 'thought experiment' where - instead of the GIS clawback being an unintended consequence of policy (which it was and is) - to think for a moment what it would mean if the GIS clawback of pandemic was purposeful - i.e., they meant to do it. Mad Magazine at one time had an ongoing series of send-ups on things ‘we would like to see’. An honest News Release on the GIS clawback related to the CERB/CRB might have looked like this: April 1, 2020 - ESDC - News Release (Check against delivery) The Government of Canada is planning to distribute new taxable pandemic benefits that will be delivered to all senior citizens who work and who realized at least $5,000 in earnings last year. These new…
Read More

Was Ontario’s 100 year old Mothers’ Allowance the first incarnation of the CERB?

The first report of Ontario’s Mothers’ Allowance Commission was delivered to the Ontario Government on October 31, 1921[1]. Copies are only available at the Ryerson Library and Ontario’s Legislative library so I scanned it in for the convenience of all. See footnote 1 below. It’s a fascinating report and I encourage all readers to download it and consume it voraciously. The sections on the travails of field workers visiting applicants and recipients are really quite gripping. They narrate walking miles in blinding snowstorms, riding the rails and making visits on horseback. But telling that tale is not why I am writing this blog today. I am writing because the Mothers’ Allowance - that was only given to Widows at first - may have been – at least in part -…
Read More

Stop voting for the illegal world you don’t want! A history lesson on the legalization of consumable alcohol, speakeasies and rooming houses

 "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - Georges Santayana, The Life of Reason, 1906 Think for a second what it means to be a tenant living in premises that municipal bylaws hold to be illegal. You have no rights and you have no voice because – according to law – you shouldn’t be living there in the first place. This is the way that some rooming house operators profit from illegality. And for some Toronto City Councillors, that’s where the issue ends. When they vote to keep rooming houses illegal, they are voting for tenants to live illegally. But there is much we can learn from past examples of illegal real estate. Like speakeasies during the Prohibition era in Canada, rooming houses (multi-tenant accommodation) share a common…
Read More

A new Covid-19 variant: the ‘pandemic benefit confiscation variant’

Unlike new and more infectious variants of the Covid-19 virus, there is a new Covid-19 variant affecting pandemic benefits in Canada. It has been named the ‘pandemic benefit confiscation variant’. This variant causes a spike to latch onto the bank accounts, purses and wallets of unsuspecting pandemic response beneficiaries. It mostly attacks the benefits provided under the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) although it has been known to attack other pandemic benefits. Symptoms of pandemic benefit confiscation variant Infected people experience: the disappearance of pandemic benefits,increased clawbacks of funds that they continue to receive as well as funds no longer received,repayment requests for funds received from the CRA; andnotices of termination of eviction moratoriums and rent freezes from provinces and territories Outcomes Researchers note…
Read More

Get rid of irrelevant attributions in ‘word salad’ statements

Leonard Mlodinow notes in The Drunkard’s Walk, that two facts can be correct at the same time where one is relevant and the other is irrelevant [1]. In this sense, there can be errors of relevance where an argument using the wrong base rate is not incorrect but has little meaning in a chosen context. Daniel Kahneman refers to this as ‘denominator neglect’[2]. Another instance of irrelevance occurs where there is no base rate and where denominator neglect is not strictly present.  For example, something that is attributable to the whole is irrelevant because it has no meaning, not because it is strictly breaks a base rate rule. Common examples use the thought experiment of 'everything being green'. If there was only one colour and that colour was 'green' then…
Read More

“It could have been me” Why rooming houses must be legalized – Guest blog from Yvonne Yuan

In the middle of a mid-summer night in June 2013, I was forced out of a rooming house.  I had nowhere to go. I was an 18-year-old sophomore at the University of Toronto, Scarborough campus. Two girls I knew had found the house and invited me to live there. Judging from the outside, it was a perfectly maintained detached house that sat near an intersection within walking distance to the campus.  I shared a washroom with 2 other girls and a shower with 7 other girls. The basement also housed more tenants and all of us shared a kitchen and three fridges. My rent was $450 per month. I paid cash. We each signed one-year contracts with the landlord that still had 2 months to go. Then something unexpected happened.…
Read More