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Bring back cost sharing! End 26 years of social assistance decline Prologue: 1935-1966 In Ontario, a program called ‘cash relief’ replaced hampers of clothes and food in so-called ‘bankrupt’ municipalities in 1935. The Minister responsible in Mitch Hepburn’s Provincial Cabinet was the 35 year old visionary David Croll. The main reason for providing cash relief was that it was much easier to dispense in municipalities where wholesale firings of staff had occurred for the simple reason that they could not meet payroll. The relief rates that were implemented were devised by Wallace Campbell in his 1932 report on the subject of how Ontario should cope with the poor in the Great Depression. Campbell was arguably Canada’s foremost businessman as the head of the Ford Motor Company of Canada[1]. The implementation…
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Fun and Games in the Age of Identity Theft: Getting a Handicapped Parking pass for my mother at Service Ontario

I get it. We are in the age of identity theft when all documents can be gamed and perfect forgeries are the rule. Governments have to be careful and set rules. But can it go too far? You be the Judge. My father died on November 1, 2019 and among other things, his handicapped parking pass expired with his death. My mother now needed a pass as they most always attended appointments together and we used his. My mother cannot walk unaided and has vascular dementia. She moved in late December to a smaller apartment in the same complex. She was born in Newfoundland in 1922 and immigrated to Canada in 1946. She became a Canadian citizen with all other native Newfoundlanders in 1949. She does not have a driver’s…
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You can’t shrink the economy bigger

This blog is a longer version of the essay that appears in: Lee, C.R. and A. Briggs. 2019. The Cost of Poverty in Ontario: 10 Years Later. Feed Ontario: Toronto, Ontario. It includes thoughts on intergenerational poverty not directly related to the determination of the cost of poverty. The determination of the cost of poverty comprises the study of the consequences of maintaining a portion of any population in a state of poverty.  By making this determination, we focus less on the individual, community or societal advantages of reducing or eliminating poverty. Instead, we fixate on the economic costs of maintaining people in poverty.  This is a different starting point from the usual 'balance sheet' approach that sees the economic costs associated with poverty reduction as restricted to the costs…
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From Meals on Wheels to the volunteer CEO: What is work anyway?

Korea before the Empire I have a small piece of paper that I have been saving for 29 years from a trip to Japan and a stopover in South Korea in Seoul. Every time I went to discard it, something about it made me hold on to it. In September 1990, Seoul was continuing to weather some major student protests[1]. They had toned down somewhat but we could not venture out much beyond our hotel without being sent back by police. An armed personnel carrier circled the square in front of our hotel. Reasoning that sight-seeing was not an option, we ventured out of the city to see some countryside attractions. One was a Korean folk village that showcased life in what we call the middle ages in the Joseon…
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A young Canadian’s guide to the Mueller Report

This blog sets out how Canadian national leadership is different than in the US, provides an example from the past (Nixon), but more than anything, it shows what can happen when a lengthy and thorough report is widely mishandled and misunderstood by the media and the public. So far, I am the only Canadian I am aware of who has read the whole of the Mueller Report; all 729 pages. This report is by a special counsel who looked into Russian meddling in the 2016 Presidential campaign. Before I give you my takeaways from the report, young Canadians need to know that Canadian leadership is different than in the United States. Our Prime Minister (PM) leads a party and the party must win the most seats to win (or enter…
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Much ado about everything:  But the problem is ‘ruling from the centre’

I think that everyone may be telling the truth to the Commons committee. And that’s a problem for a committee that’s trying to find out who may be lying. The law of the instrument holds that if a five year old boy is given a hammer, everything he sees is a nail. If a committee is given a soapbox to look for fibs and whoppers, they will do their level best to find them. Can we think about this for a moment? There’s a Cabinet Shuffle and Jody Wilson Raybould loses her dream job and quits Cabinet thinking that she was fired over the SNC Lavalin affair. This makes perfect sense as it would seem far-fetched that the retirement of Scott Brison as Treasury Board Chair would signal the removal…
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Build it up! Rip it down!  A young person’s guide to how our political system works in 2019

This is a short blog on everything you need to know about politics. Here are the 5 bare facts – everything you need to know: Canada has at least 3 functioning political parties; likely 4 One party at each level of government is conservative – the other three (Liberal, NDP and Green) are progressive About 40%[1] of Canadians are conservative. Some say 30% - some say more than 40%. I will stick with 40% We have a first past the post electoral system – winner takes all. We do not have mandatory voting meaning that 60% is a high voter turnout. What this means is that if a conservative party can marshal their natural vote of 40%, they will win every election with a majority. Progressives will split the remaining…
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A tale of two clawbacks

  “They're selling postcards of the hanging; They’re painting the passports brown. The beauty parlor is filled with sailors, The circus is in town.” Bob Dylan Desolation Row  Highway 61 Revisited, 1965 I want to try something different. I don’t want to get cynical or ‘desolate’ and engage in the usual hand wringing. I don’t want to harangue people about bad policy-making or tell governments that they don’t care. This is not a tale of futility. It’s more about vigilance and a call to improved advocacy from all of us. For decades, economists on the right and the left, politicians, the public, and program recipients have complained about high marginal effective tax rates (METRs). These occur when tax rates on income combine with program clawbacks to create disincentives to earn more income. The…
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Everyone loves a basic income – why worry about its pedigree?

I always like to recall the four rules of keeping out of poverty. Three are derived from the Michigan Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), the most robust survey of North American families over a 50 year period[1]. The PSID generated 3 rules for keeping out of poverty: Get a job - any job - and keep it; Get a partner – any partner - and keep him or her; and Go to school as long as you can and graduate. The fourth rule was told to me first by labour leader Terry Meagher over 30 years ago as the best way that he saw that anyone could stay out of poverty. That rule is #4: Choose your parents wisely. If you are lucky enough to observe all four rules,…
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Understanding the Ontario backlash against Canada’s first poverty reduction strategy

On the afternoon of August 17, 2018, the advisory committee on poverty reduction to federal Minister Jean Yves Duclos received an hour long briefing from the Minister on the soon to be released poverty reduction strategy. It was a key opportunity for the 17 of us to discover how much influence we had in the drafting of the final report. I was returning to Scarborough from the Queens International Institute on Social Policy (QIISP) and had pulled off the 401, west of Deseronto and parked in a verdant cul de sac on the lands of the Mohawk people, the Tyendinaga First Nation. It was a good setting to listen and respond to the Minister. As Minister Duclos briefed us, a slow smile formed on my face as I began to…
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