Archive for December, 2012

Tuesday, Dec. 11 – Cheerleading Demo at Waterloo Regional Council to Save the CSUMB

Save the CSUMB! You Can Do It, Regional Council!

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Cheerleading demo to ‘encourage’ Regional Council to DO THE RIGHT THING

Tuesday, December 11; 4-5pm

Regional Council Building, 150 Frederick st (Near Police station and Centre in the Square)

Part of Province-wide Week of Action to Save the CSUMB (www.ocap.ca)
Bring your chants, radical cheerleading equipment and garb, noise-makers, and syrupy-sweet super-positive attitudes! Let’s make it easy for Regional Council to take steps to tell the Province not to cancel the CSUMB. Let’s cheer Council on as they prepare to vote, to help make sure that they fully fund a Regional CSUMB!BACKGROUND:
The Provincial Government is cancelling the CSUMB, a vital housing benefit for folks on assistance. The Province is downloading the responsibility to keep folks housed and out of harm’s way onto the Regions. The Regions do not have the financial resources to take on this enormous task indefinitely. That hasn’t stopped a growing list of Regions from voting to fully fund a replacement program for the next year. Many more Regions are speaking out against the Province, demanding that they not cancel the program. We are facing a crisis of unconcionable proportions and Regions and cities including Hamilton, Sudbury, the district of Nippissing, and Chatham-Kent and Lambton Counties, among others, are all taking steps to advocate for, and to take care of their communities. Waterloo Regional Council has held two public budget hearings and were addressed regarding the cancellation of the CSUMB at both – at least 5 community presentations were on the CSUMB. Poverty Makes Us Sick presented on December 5th and our allies in the Alliance Against Poverty presented on November 21. Both presentations are posted on our site: www.povertymakesussick.wordpress.com.

We demand that Waterloo Regional Council use all available channels resist these brutal cuts. We ask that they do so publicly and with the necessary vigor. We demand that Regional Council fully fund a Regional CSUMB. Thousands more will become homeless and continue to live in violent situations if the CSUMB disappears.

Despite the lack of leadership demonstrated thus far, we have no reason to think that our “progressive”, “above and beyond” Regional Council will turn their backs on us. So, let’s motivate them. Let’s cheer them on as they do the right thing!

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People’s Open House at John Milloy’s office FRIDAY DEC 7th

Friday December 7th    12:30pm
1770 King Street East, Kitchener

TOMORROW, Friday, December 7th, people from across the province will be joining local organizers for a “People’s Open House” at the office of Minister of Misery and Homelessness John Milloy to condemn the cuts to the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit and to demand that full funding for the program be restored.  This event, scheduled to coincide with Milloy’s annual ‘holiday open house’, launches a provincial week of action to save the CSUMB, with communities across the province hosting local acts of resistance to the cuts (www.ocap.ca for more details).

Since the announcement of the community’s decision to take the Minister up on his offer of hospitality and join him for snacks and carols, his event has been mysteriously cancelled.  Clearly he is afraid to meet with members of the community who are not willing to pretend that this holiday season is one of joy and cheer, rather than one of fear and uncertainty for those who rely on the CSUMB to access or maintain safe housing.

Milloy clearly understands that we will not provide him with the pretty photo op that he is looking for, having learned that while he offers smiles, handshakes and a sympathetic ear to the poor and their allies (he certainly does ‘feel your pain’ if only in the most superficial way), his government is stealing from us – first the food off our tables through the cuts to the Special Diet Allowance, and now the roofs from over our heads by eliminating the CSUMB.

So, while tomorrow’s action was originally scheduled to coincide with John Milloy’s ‘holiday open house’, it has now evolved into a people’s celebration of resistance to the cuts and an opportunity to strengthen relationships within and across communities, between labour organizers, grassroots activists, and other affected community members (along with great food and music from amazing local musicians).

What all of these folks know is that this attack on those struggling to survive on social assistance is one part of a much larger agenda of this government – undermining unions and their collective bargaining rights, increasing the precarious and exploitative low-wage job market, and pushing more Ontarians further into desperate poverty.

Join us tomorrow as we demonstrate our strength and our resolve in the face of their hypocrisy  and their cowardice – they have prorogued the legislature, Milloy has even prorogued his holiday party.  And yet, here we are – and we will continue to be here, to demand accountability, to disrupt ‘business as usual’, and to make life increasingly uncomfortable.  We are here to make John Milloy understand that we are only getting louder and angrier and more committed to this fight.  This is our line in the sand.

So, here are the details:
Buses from Toronto carrying folks from CUPE, the OFL, OCAP, SCAP and other allies will be arriving around 12:30pm at 1770 King St E, the constituency office of John Milloy.  They will be greeted there by a gaggle of us local folks from KW for free food, amazing music, passionate speeches, and toasts with mugs of hot apple cider or eggnog (given the season).

Following the event, people will be travelling back to their communities to continue with a series of actions throughout the next week – rallies, marches, camp outs, public sign-ups, and all sorts of other great stuff.

Here in Kitchener, there will be rallies at Regional Council and Grand Valley Institution for Women, another call-in day to John Milloy, Dwight Duncan (Finance) and Laurel Broten (Education and ‘Women’s Issues’), continuing weekly sign-up clinics, and other actions to be announced.  Details will be announced at tomorrow’s event, and will be posted here shortly.

We encourage folks to share their ideas for actions, invite us all to events being planned, and find creative ways to step up this campaign.

Contact info:
Poverty Makes Us Sick
email: forspecialdiet@gmail.com
Facebook group: Poverty Makes Us Sick!
Twitter: @kwpmus

Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
Website: www.ocap.ca
Email: ocap@tao.ca
Facebook group: Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
Twitter: @OCAPtoronto

CUPE Ontario Raise the Rates Campaign
http://www.cupe.on.ca/s287/raise-rates-fight-poverty

Twitter (province-wide): #RaisetheRates  #SaveCSUMB

Poverty Makes Us Sick Presentation to Waterloo Regional Council 2013 Budget Hearings, December 5th

Good evening, Chair, Councillors, Community Members.

I am here on behalf of local anti-poverty group Poverty Makes Us Sick.   We are a group of local organizers who have been mobilizing around issues of poverty since 2009, particularly with and for those living in deep poverty on social assistance. Poverty Makes Us Sick’s work is focused on analysis and education, direct community action through individual and collective advocacy and material support, and a range of other forms of direct action to resist the austerity attacks on our communities.  We have been actively involved in the provincial Raise the Rates Campaign, which demands a restoration of OW and ODSP rates to pre-Harris levels (requiring at minimum a 55% increase), the lifting of the minimum wage freeze and an increase to a living wage for everyone in Ontario, and the full restoration of the Special Diet Allowance. 

Our name is inspired by a December 2008 report entitled Poverty Is Making Us Sick, by the Wellesley Institute and the Community Social Planning Council of Toronto, released just before the Ontario Liberal government’s laughable ‘Poverty Reduction Strategy’ was introduced, which once again demonstrated the fact that poverty has profound health consequences.

Quoting from the report:  “Poverty is triggering a devastating health crisis among lower-income people, but the research shows that raising incomes leads to better health. The results confirm for the first time that relatively small increases in incomes of poor Canadians will lead to substantial increases in their health.” The latest findings demonstrate that policy-makers cannot ignore the growing costs of poverty because the costs are relatively smaller than the cost of neglect. ….the researchers demonstrate that every $1,000 increase in income leads to substantial increases in health. For instance, an annual increase of $1,000 in income for the poorest twenty percent of Canadians will lead to nearly 10,000 fewer chronic conditions, and 6,600 fewer disability days every two weeks.  The poorest fifth of Canada’s population face a staggering 358% higher rate of disability compared to the richest fifth. The poor experience major health inequality in many other areas, including 128% more mental and behavioural disorders; 95% more ulcers; 63% more chronic conditions; and 33% more circulatory conditions.”

Therefore, it is clear that we must look at poverty through a health equity lens.

Poverty Makes Us Sick began to mobilize around an earlier round of government’s attacks through the cuts to the Special Diet Allowance that stole healthy food off of poor people’s tables.  We are now hear to speak to you about the next round of cuts – to the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit and Discretionary Benefits – which threaten to steal the roof from over their heads and to deny them access to preventative health and related supports necessary for a reasonable quality of life.  Cuts to these programs will force people onto the streets, increase criminalization, hospitalization, and child apprehension.  It will deny women, youth and children safety in fleeing violence in the home.  It will disproportionately affect those that are already marginalized – who are immigrants and refugees, who are indigenous, racialized, transgendered, criminalized, disabled, or who struggle with perceived or identified mental health challenges.

Again, we have research from the Wellesley Institute to support what any of us who work and live in this community know – that eliminating the CSUMB will have profound health impacts.  Almost exactly four years after the ‘Poverty is Making Us Sick’ report was released, the Wellesley Institute and partner agencies released a response to the province’s decision to cut the CSUMB, entitled ‘The Real Cost of Cutting the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit:  A Health Equity Impact Assessment’.  This report details the various ways that the cuts will harm those on social assistance, primarily by forcing them into homelessness, and calls for the cuts to be reversed.  It further calls on the province to do a full health equity impact assessment and hold off on all cuts until it can ensure that existing health inequities will not be exacerbated.

This report reflects what we are seeing in our work on the ground – a young woman whose mother fled violence through accessing the CSUMB and who herself has relied on start up to survive, a young mom who was sleeping on a friend’s couch when she found out she was pregnant and needed a safe place for her and her baby, a young man recovering from a mental health struggle in a long term care facility who is seeking to transition back into the community. These are the people in our community that we work with, that we know and love, who make up the richness of our community.  In addition to these stories highlighting the vital impact of these programs, we are hearing the fear and desperation in the voices of folks we are supporting who don’t know how they will survive in the face of these cuts, how they will maintain housing or maintain their families.  We hear this fear in the voices of everyone we see at the series of sign up clinics we hold on Tuesdays at the Working Centre that are aimed at helping people in accessing the benefit before it disappears.

Despite the rhetoric we have heard from Minister of Community and Social Services about the ‘exciting changes’ that these cuts will mean for our community, this provincial government is actively engaged in a campaign against the poor.  John Milloy claims that, unlike the Harris government, “we are not going to balance the budget on the backs of the poor”. And he is right. No matter how much this government slashes the benefits and programs aimed at those in our community already struggling to survive in deep poverty, they cannot reach a balanced budget from those cuts. The fact is, poor people are falling further and further behind – now requiring an increase of almost 60% to regain the losses made during the Harris regime (over 20% lost since this government’s tenure began). As the saying goes, you can’t get blood from a stone – and these policies indeed have blood on them.

We have spent much time lately at the office of our local MPP John Milloy, recently dubbed the more appropriate title “Minister of Misery and Homelessness”, to communicate in no uncertain terms that our community will not stand for this continued attack, for the austerity measures being forced on the poor, despite the fact that these cuts could never address the financial challenges we face.

Our actions reflect a mobilization that is happening across our community and across the province.  We are under no illusion that this provincial government will ‘come to its senses’ and restore the CSUMB without a fight.  Therefore, it comes back to us, and it comes back to you.  The community is already stepping up.  Programs are finding creative ways to respond.  Local individuals and groups are stepping forward to make their voices heard, and to share what they have to ensure that people are taken care of to the best of their abilities.  Models of mutual aid and networks of support are developing but that is only one part of the puzzle. 

The other part is you.  This cut is not a ‘fait accompli’.  It is not something that communities must simply accept.  Municipalities and Regions across the province are already resisting on a number of levels – through direct advocacy pressuring the province to reverse the cuts and developing local plans to make up the shortfall (these include but are not limited to Hamilton, Sudbury, district of Nipissing, Chatham-Kent County, and Lambton county). We are sure that many of these discussions have and are happening behind closed doors but this leadership must also happen publicly and forcefully.  In this Region we pride ourselves in our innovativeness, in our creativity in finding solutions for our community in the face of challenges and obstacles.  The cut to the CSUMB is an opportunity for this Region to demonstrate this creativity and its commitment to inclusion.

Secondly, we are echoing the Wellesley Institute’s demand for a health equity lens in examining policy.  The Region’s 2013 budget must clearly demonstrate our shared commitment to health equity and economic justice for all community members.  There has been much talk about the fact that our Region has been unusually ‘generous’ in the use of the CSUMB.  That was relatively easy when the province was covering most of the costs and does not, in fact, speak to the character of our community.  Our decision to maintain these services, to prioritize funding for this program in the face of cuts and difficult choices – that speaks to who we are. The decision to extend full funding for the Discretionary Benefits throughout 2012 despite the provincial cap speaks to this community’s character. We are asking you to continue this path, to commit to invest in building a healthier, more equitable community, and maintain full funding for the CSUMB and Discretionary Benefits.  This is a good investment in our community, and is, fundamentally, the right thing to do.

Finally, we ask you to join us this Friday at a “People’s Open House” at 12:30pm at 1770 King Street East.  That address may be familiar to many of you – it is the constituency office of John Milloy.  This Friday, folks from across the province, including members of CUPE, the Ontario Federation of Labour, and other local and provincial allies are joining Poverty Makes Us Sick and the Ontario Coalition Against the Poverty for an afternoon of music, food and celebration of community resistance to the cuts to the CSUMB and Discretionary Benefits.  We invite you all to be there and will be certainly happy to provide you with a platform to announce how Waterloo Regional Council will be joining this provincial mobilization. 

We look forward to seeing you all on the streets!

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