In the News May 17
Ontario Election 2022
Against Whom Are the Cartel Parties Waging a War on Poverty?
Three of the four political parties of the governing cartel in Ontario have more or less declared war on poverty. What does this signify for the poor for whom or rather against whom war has been declared? Will this declaration eliminate the root cause of poverty and the division of Ontario into social classes of which the most extreme is between rich and poor? A question arises as to how this war on poverty could be conducted and successful if the rich and their representatives are those in charge of the war. One is reminded of the dialectic expressed by Bertold Brecht, “A rich man and a poor man stand and look at each other. The poor man with a twitch says: If I weren’t poor, then you wouldn’t be rich.”
The Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) and Ontario Works (OW) are two aphorisms for refusing to confront the root cause of poverty and constitutional structures which enforce class inequality in Ontario and Canada. ODSP and OW would not exist without poverty and a society divided into antagonistic social classes.
ODSP currently pays a disabled Ontarian a maximum of $1,169 per month, which comes to about $14,000 a year, while OW provides “up to $733 a month for basic needs and shelter if you are single,” amounting to less than $9,000 a year. Disability arises from injuries and illness often resulting from work but also from the culture and society’s existing norms. According to the Canadian 2006 Participation and Activity Limitation Survey, roughly 4.4 million children and adults were living with disabilities at the time, which means approximately one in seven Canadians. This means that disability is not a condition customarily brought on by individual action but something that unfortunately affects a large section of the population. Why should these Canadians be condemned to be poor and have an endless war waged by the rich against them and their poverty? It stems from who is in charge.
The Ontario Greens and NDP are proponents of the war on poverty with the Greens promising if elected June 2 to double the monthly payments for both ODSP and OW, and the NDP pledging to increase those rates by 40 per cent over two years – 20 per cent in their first year in government, if elected, and another 20 per cent in their second year. They originally called for just a 20 per cent increase, but on May 14 announced they would double that, reportedly after receiving criticism that 20 per cent would still leave the people who rely on those programs below the poverty line.
The Ontario Liberal Party has said it would meet the NDP’s original 20 per cent increase in rates but in two stages with “10 per cent on July 1 and another 10 per cent one year later before levelling off at two per cent hikes annually as of 2024.” It remains to be seen if they will now adjust their promise to match the NDP’s offer, given that these parties’ war on poverty is also a war between themselves.
The Ford Conservatives now want to make it appear they too will participate in the war, announcing just over a week ago that if re-elected they would raise the rates for ODSP and OW (which they had frozen since 2018) by five per cent — even though it was not accounted for in the government’s recent April 28 budget.
In this vein, Ontarians are kept captive to a ridiculous “me-too” battle which far from showing what agenda these parties intend to implement once elected makes a mockery of the fact that people are so disempowered there is allegedly nothing they can do about it but “choose” one of them to rule over them for the next period.
These policy objectives are put forward in hopes they will fool Ontarians into believing that something meaningful is proposed and that working people themselves do not have to be empowered for change to occur. Nobody could seriously find grounds to object to a raise in the ODSP and OW rates. They are in fact a disgrace for a modern country, as is the existence of poverty itself and the glaring structural inequality and denial of the rights that people have by virtue of being human.
Even the 20 per cent increase leaves the ODSP maximum payment at $1,402.8 monthly and OW at $879.60. This continues to condemn a sizeable proportion of Ontarians to a lifelong quest to make two ends meet. Their striving to live a cultured life is out of reach. Ontario has a socialized economy of industrial mass production with enormous actual and potential productivity. No excuse in the world exists to treat a section of the people with such contempt. It reveals unwillingness on the part of the economic and political elite to humanize the natural and social environments. The war on poverty of the cartel parties means in effect that Ontario poverty is here to stay, a war on poverty without end.
What Alternatives Do the People Have?
The rich who by definition do not live in poverty could care less. But many working people are but one paycheque, illness or accident away from the poorhouse. They demand that the claims of all Canadians to housing, food, shelter, an education and healthcare be met and the monies made available based on the needs of the population, not crumbs after all the pay-the-rich schemes have gone through.
Reject the cartel parties in this election and vote for a small party or independent to register your rejection. The political empowerment of the working people is essential and the ways and means must be found to give expression to their needs and their claims. The cartel parties dominate an electoral process designed to thwart any effort of the people to participate directly in making the decisions which affect their lives. Without the financial support of the state, which in many cases is double the contribution they raise from their own members, these parties could not even stand on their own two feet and run any campaign. One demand the people of Ontario can raise is to fund the electoral process but not the parties.
There should be a vote to see if Ontarians want an opt-out option: “I do not want any public monies financing political parties no matter who they are.” Public funds should fund the process which is structured to make sure every candidate running for election is equal and all Ontarians can discuss what they think should be done to sort out the problems facing Ontario. In that way, everyone can represent what they want and those who are elected can elect the executive and set its mandate and tasks.
If the working people were in charge, they could set things right without delay, starting with providing enough funding for health care and senior’s care to make sure staffing levels are properly established and people are looked after. They would do the same for education as well as for those who are impoverished and also see to it that justice is done as concerns the Indigenous peoples. Industrial and other workers must also come forward and pursue their desire for a new direction for the economy.
The working class must establish its own political aim and reject the attempt to keep it chained to the political power of the rich and their cartel parties. The New and the Old are in combat. The Old of the rich want the social and natural environment to remain under stress because that essentially is the condition for their privilege and luxurious lifestyle. The New of the working people, who are the vast majority and the producers of all value, want to empower themselves and build a world fit for all human beings.
In this Ontario election, let the working class resolutely take up its own political aim and step forward for its empowerment.
Laura Chesnik, independent candidate in Windsor-Tecumseh, writes: “Together, let’s identify and champion the interests of the working class and people and a democracy where it is the people who decide all matters that concern them. We are the human factor that humanizes the natural and social environment! This is a good time to participate in the election in a manner which empowers ourselves!”
1. Figures from ontario.ca/page/social-assistance#section-2
Ontario Political Forum, posted May 17, 2022.