Monday, October 18, 2010

Put Food In The Budget

Five hundred and eighty-five dollars a month is the welfare payment for a single adult.  In many cases, outside of public housing that is barely enough to secure housing.  Niagara Falls the city where I live is far less expensive than a large urban city like Toronto and I can tell you that amount of money will get you a room in a motel at best.  I cannot even imagine how little it buys in a city like Toronto. 

I came across the webpage put food in the budget via a post about world food day.  This organization is currently advocating to have welfare payments increased by 100 dollars, to help those who live on social assistance buy healthier food. Despite the fact that McGuinty (current premier of Ontario) is a liberal, he has done nothing substantial to roll back the cuts of his conservative predecessor Mike Harris.  Mike Harris won a majority with his war on the poor that he called the common sense revolution.  He presided over a cut back in welfare payments by 22% under the misguided belief that it would encourage people to get off the system and find a job.  According to Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) organizer John Clarke, "Today people would need a 55 per cent increase in social assistance rates to bring them back to the level they were at when Mike Harris cut social assistance in the 90’s."

Put Food in the Budget encourages people to do the math with their expenses survey.  When I did it, using what I believed were conservatives amounts my results were as follows:
  • $-1035 left to spend on food if you're a single person on Ontario Works
  • $-578 left to spend on food if you are receiving ODSP
  • $-65 left to spend on food if you are making minimum wage (35h/week).
It seems that even on minimum wage, I would not have enough money to cover my expenses. Unlike the live on the welfare diet that reporters are famous for doing every few months a simple calculator reveals the truth in Black and white without embellishments.  Living on welfare does not even come close to providing for basic needs despite the myth that people are living in luxury. Long before the end of the month people run out of money and are forced to visit food banks, which give them enough food for a few days.  You can only visit a food bank once every 22 days.  Soup kitchens provide on hot meal a day.

Real hunger is often invisible.  When people are behind closed doors we have no idea if their cupboards are bare and they are drinking copious amounts of water to trick their stomachs into believing that they are full. Cost is often cited as an adequate reason to let people starve and I wonder if they would feel the same if they could see the faces of the people that they are subjecting to such hardship. Could they actually sit there and eat their three course meals in front of a hungry child - could you?  We must remember that in amongst those starving adults are young children who are dependent on their parents for survival.  What did they do to deserve this, except be born in a heartless time? So much for eliminating child poverty.

Put Food in The Budget suggests the following justification for the increase:

The investment now, however, will produce significant savings in health care costs down the road as shown by international and Canadian research (Sick and Tired Report, Cost of Poverty Report). University of Toronto study Poverty is Making Us Sick in 2008 showed that people at lower income levels are more likely to have two chronic health conditions and that a $1,000 change in annual income in the bottom fifth income group of the population would produce 10,000 fewer chronic conditions and 6,600 fewer disability days.
 Honestly I believe it need not be that complicated. If people are homeless we should give them shelter and if people are hungry, we should feed them.  Just as we believe health care to be a human right, so  too are basic necessities like food and appropriate shelter.  There is simply no excuse that a single Canadian should have to live like this, when families like the Westons live kings. The separation between rich and poor is ridiculous ad the longer we let this sickness go the more economy will plummet. We risk a social malaise rising to the level of anomie. If we care at all for the country that we call home it is time to take care of the least amongst us.

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