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The App Gap[1]

At home and in the community, it has become almost impossible for people of modest means to apply for basic benefits.   For many people with disabilities, advanced age, or who have been out of work, they need basic income security to survive. Fifty years ago, there was no ‘online’ and the cost of applying for benefits was the cost of a postage stamp or a visit to an office. Fast forward to 2018 and we have moved to a supposedly more efficient and accessible online approach. In reality, online applications multiply barriers, rather than remove them. This “App Gap” speaks to the inequities that lie in these systems, and that prevent almost a quarter million Canadians on low-income from accessing resource they are eligible for. This past December, Wellesley…
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Apple: You’ve lost your way!

I seldom if ever blog about a personal consumer experience. However, I have been very much moved by a recent customer service experience with the world’s largest company: Apple. Like many who own the iPhone 6, I experienced a huge loss in loading speeds for applications and email a couple of months ago. Like others. I blamed slow speeds on my WIFI internet or on my phone company. But the loading speed was bad wherever I went and I started to suspect something. It turned out that everyone was suspecting something. Applications that used to take seconds were taking upwards of a minute. I personally experienced loading times of 30 times what they had been just a week before. Facebook, Marketwatch, email; you name it. Customer service failure #1: Apple…
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Ontario’s Roadmap for Income Security Reform: Can a slow start win the race?

Last year, I joined a group of experts to draw up a roadmap for income security reform in the province of Ontario. Some were knowledgeable in a field of inquiry or a profession: executives, advocates, lawyers, professors, administrators and a doctor. Others were experts in their lived experience of poverty. We came together to provide Minister Helena Jaczek and the government a way forward using the wider lens of income security. This was not a review narrowly focused on social assistance or welfare. We generated a ten year plan - together with staff of the Ministry -  to improve program outcomes while paying attention to human rights, adequacy of benefits and work incentives. We knew that it would be a long time before a basic income or guaranteed annual income…
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Out of the business after 125 years: Ontario municipalities no longer sharing costs of public assistance to the poor

  In 1793, no poor law was introduced into Upper Canada with the settlement of Muddy York. After all, it was supposed to be a Utopia. Forty Four years later in 1836, two years after the reform of the British Poor Law, the first declaration of public responsibility for poverty was made, 2 years after the incorporation of Toronto as a city. Toronto continued to pay for relief but only by subsidizing charities. The façade of Lachlan Lodge at 87 Elm Street (now the YWCA) records the date of the establishment of the first large Poor House in the City: 1837. In 1848, it was re-branded as a House of Industry or “Work House” also recorded on the façade. Nineteen years later, Confederation clarified nothing for municipalities on the social welfare…
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How long does advocacy take? The only haul is the ‘long haul’ and there is no such thing as ‘drive-by’ advocacy  

  SOURCE: YouTube.com (watch the video) STATION: n/a PROGRAM: n/a TIME: 3:00 p.m. REFERENCE: Speech Toronto Housing Network DATE: July 18, 2009 LENGTH: 00:09:35 TRANSCRIPT: Stapleton Speech Toronto Housing Network Forum Margaret Hancock: John Stapleton from the Metcalf Foundation and St. Christopher House. JOHN STAPLETON: What I'd like to do is have you think of yourself going into a time machine, and you're going to go back 77 years to 1932. And if you could go in that time machine and think of what Toronto looked like in 1932, about five blocks from here, right at this time of year - there was during the month of July of 1932 a Royal Commission on Direct Relief run by Ontario's top businessman. At that time, it was a fellow by the…
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Ontario Roadmap for Income Security Reform proposes redress in first 3 years

Just 29 years ago, the Social Assistance Review Committee delivered its 674 page report called Transitions on September 6, 1988. It was groundbreaking as it devised other programs that would replace the role of welfare. That only partially came to pass with child benefits and the small Working Income Tax Benefit. In the years from 1988 and 2012, there were five other significant reports to provincial governments concerning social assistance reform concentrating on the 40% of the poor living on social assistance: Back on Track: 1991 Time for Action: 1992 Turning Point: 1993 Deb Matthews Report: 2004 Brighter Prospects: 2012 On November 2, 2017, the Income Security Reform Working Group released its 188 page report named A Roadmap for Income Security Reform. We propose social assistance rate increases that will…
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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…
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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…
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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…
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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. As far as Donald Trump, one has to acknowledge his innovative way of utilizing social media as PR tool.…
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