The time for income tax auto-enrollment is now

Bee Lee Soh and I were members of Jean Yves Duclos advisory committee on poverty reduction which completed its work in August 2018. On the last day of our deliberations, we all decided that each of us would have an opportunity to raise the one issue of greatest importance to each of the 17 of us. Bee Lee is an anti-poverty activist who continues to live in poverty and she took her few minutes in front of Minister Duclos, his staff and the rest of us to make a plea for Government auto-enrollment for tax refunds. She explained that filing her taxes was the last thing that she would ever do when she was homeless. She told the Minister that people living in poverty often don’t know how to file…
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Hot’s Frozen Wake

(A short stream on delivering meals on wheels) Looking at the EE cooler starting to sing “The Martian Hop” after pronouncing EE - driving now down Curlew from the North to Bridgepoint. Forever sameness Thursdays using a google map to time it from 10:25 for the free half hour. All assembly starting from the Velcro frozen to the Velcro carry bag and plastic tray ready to jam bread and dessert plastic in the back of a car. Volunteers shout “Hi” from the back of a parked van wondering about overdue chocolate maybe dreaming of a cruise as finally warm enough to watch crags of ice melt for a short time and a visit to the ground level loo and a weekly cull of car garbage and mung from the back…
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And what are we to do with Charlie?

“Canada’s banknotes — one of our national symbols — have been fixated on monarchs and prime ministers for long enough. Civil rights pioneer Viola Desmond is the first, and so far only, Canadian to break that mould[1].” When we think about our money, the Toronto Star editorial concerning who should be depicted on our money is right ‘on the money’. For too long, we have restricted our modern bank notes and coinage to just two species: Prime Ministers and British royalty. The Star is right that this should change in a more wholesale way. Viola Desmond is just the first Canadian who was neither a PM nor a member of British Royalty to appear on a regular issue of our modern paper money. There have been many examples of commemorative…
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Tales from the deep end of the poverty pool: How Ontario Works keeps ODSP from rising and what Oliver Twist might ask

 Setting the scene In early 1941, the number of people with disabilities receiving ‘relief’ exceeded the number of non-disabled people for the first time since the early 1930’s. The reason was that the outbreak of World War II resulted in the cancellation of all relief for single people. General welfare was not reinstated for this group until 1958. Social assistance for people who don’t have disabilities has been renamed many times. Recipients were formally called ‘relief’ recipients from the 1930’s to the mid 1950’s, ‘welfare’ recipients from the late 1950’s until the 1990’s and Ontario Works recipients in the post millennial era. For people with disabilities, unless they were blind, they were called permanently unemployable (PUE) from the 1930’s to the early 1950’s, PUE and disabled from the mid 1950’s…
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Thrown in the deep end: The strange history of Ontario’s social assistance for needy 60-64 year olds

In 1982, Bob McDonald, then deputy minister of Ontario’s Ministry of Community and Social Services, was called to a meeting arranged by Premier Bill Davis with a senior religious leader. The topic of the meeting was the low amount of money received in welfare payments by single women over age 60 who were either single or widows. At that time, needy women in that situation received a maximum of $266 a month ($700 today). Following the meeting, it was clear from the deputy that the Premier wanted action. The social assistance policy branch of the day became involved. Looking back at the history of these payments, it’s easy to see why the Premier was concerned. The Widows and Unwed Women legislation had been folded into the Family Benefits Act in…
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Scarborough 2020: vision and hindsight

I moved to Scarborough in 1978 and bought a house. I remember that my property tax bill was added to our mortgage payment and that it was easy to remember: It was $100 a month or $1,200 a year In 2020 terms, that $1,200 a year would now be $4,410 a year. My latest tax bill for the year 2020 – just got it in the mail – came in at $3,650 If my taxes had really gone up with inflation over the long haul, I would be paying about $760 more per year. Multiply our one household by about 220,000 Scarborough households by $760 a year and you would have extra yearly revenue of $167 M dollars That’s in Scarborough alone. And it’s not chump change. But just because…
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In stride: Governor General Julie Payette

In late November 2019, I was very fortunate to join the Official Canadian delegation to Italy to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Canada’s role in the Italian Campaign during World War II. My father had died earlier in the month at the age of 99 and I was to accompany him there. As my schedule was free, I offered to go and help with other old soldiers. I certainly knew how to do that as I had accompanied my father to Italy twice before and once to Holland at similar commemorations. As the time to travel grew closer, I began to pay closer attention to the schedule of events. I noticed that we would be accompanied by Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAuley and Governor General Julie Payette. I was especially…
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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 of cash relief came after the new federal government of R.B.…
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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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