Action Demanding Restoration of the Special Diet Allowance Marks Day One of Dr Wong Suspension

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February 5th marked the first day of the suspension of Dr Wong’s medical licence – an act taken by The College of Physicians and Surgeons in complicity with the Ontario Liberals attack on vital benefits for the poor.  While a rally in solidarity with Dr Wong raged on in Toronto, Poverty Makes Us Sick organizers worked closely with allies in Ottawa to respond locally.  We are thrilled to have worked with such strong organizers for our first event in Ottawa. 

Despite a controlled entry system (staff employed a visual assessment of those knocking to determine eligibility to enter) we gained entry to constituency office of Ottawa Center Liberal MPP, Yasir Naqvi.  The disruption to ‘business as usual’ was sublime, the police response bloated and the demands clear:  Fully Restore the Special Diet Allowance, stop all attempts to intimidate Dr Wong and other MD’s! Raise the Rates!  Access to Healthy Food for All!

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A CBC camera person arrived and was ejected from the office.  At this time police were called.  We withdraw from the office on our own accord, before police arrived, to address the media. 

Following our action the Minister of Labour himself, Mr. Yasir Naqvi, tweeted to us that “I’m always here to discuss issues respectfully. Don’t agree w your illegal trespass & jeopardizing health/safety of community staff.”  And with those ignorant, slanderous words he became far more interesting to PMUS. Our demand is for action not empty discussion and it would not be suitable for anyone to respect someone who is involved in a murderous assault on the poor. Moreover, Naqvi’s office has controlled access requiring us to be buzzed in and the Liberal’s constituency office workers have clearly been instructed to construe distress in a sad attempt to discredit the resistance to the Liberal’s assault on the poor (evidence of this can be found elsewhere on this blog). But, by far the most belligerent aspect of Naqvis’s tweet is his suggestion that his staff’s health and safety was jeopardized by our presence. The Ontario Liberals’ vile policies are a major health/safety concern for the poor in Ontario.  A matter of life and death, not feigned discomfort.  His appropriation of these devastating realities is obscene.

Clearly we will cross paths with Naqvi again shortly. In the meantime, the following statement, with elements adapted from OCAP’s literature, was read in Liberal MPP Yasir Naqvi’s office today:

Attack on accessibility to Special Diet Allowance & the suspension of Dr. Roland Wong

We are here today to stand in solidarity with Dr. Roland Wong who is being punished for the ‘crime’ of helping poor people access healthy food for themselves and their families.  The 6-month suspension of Dr. Wong’s medical licence came into effect this morning.  We are here in solidarity with poor people across this province who continue to fight against the austerity agenda of this government. 

We are here to express our outrage at the decision of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario to punish Dr. Wong, a Toronto physician, for helping his patients living in the deep poverty of OW and ODSP, obtain the Special Diet Allowance.   This afternoon in Toronto, poor people and their allies are joining the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty in a rally at the College offices to demand the immediate lifting of Dr. Wong’s suspension.  And we are here, in the office of a Liberal cabinet minister, to express our condemnation of the government’s role in bringing about this act of retribution against resistance to its policies of exclusion and marginalization and our refusal to accept the intimidation of our allies in this fight.

We know that the this Liberal government was thrown into a panic and a rage when they saw that a doctor was taking active steps to reduce poverty in the face of this government’s wilful neglect.  The Ministry of Community and Social Services filed complaints to the Ministry of Health, the OPP, and finally the College, the body that regulates doctors in Ontario, and a full-scale attack on Dr. Wong was set in motion. This government, in partnership with the College, is clearly working to intimidate others who might follow his example and act in the best interests of their patients who live in poverty.   We show our gratitude, respect and solidarity with him in the face of this despicable attack.

All medical evidence shows that low income is the greatest single threat to someone’s health. If doctors and other medical providers are serious about health, they must be advocates and act to address and offset the symptoms of poverty, the single most health-compromising issue we face. It’s deplorable to see a government bullying those addressing health issues through their very institutions, and for the College to intimidate a member of the organisation they supposedly ‘represent’.

Under this Liberal government, the Special Diet program was gutted.  Only through enormous public pressure was a version of it maintained, although a ghost of its former self.  Many people who had relied on this vital supplement have been cut off and people living in deep poverty are again forced to choose between rent and the healthy food they need to maintain their basic well-being.  Instead of recognizing the social and financial logic of this investment in health promotion, your government chose to file a complaint and have a key provincial anti-poverty advocate, investigated for medical fraud when he tried to protect poor Ontarians from your neglect and get them access to the healthy food that is preventative medicine.  Today, the suspension of Dr. Roland Wong’s licence to practice medicine in Ontario will begin.  He is also burdened with tens of thousands of dollars in legal costs and penalties.  This is unacceptable, and we call for the immediate restoration of Dr. Wong’s license and the cancelation of all fines and penalties launched against him.

During the years the Liberals have been in office, the number of people working for the sub poverty minimum wage has doubled and this simply could not have been achieved without driving down the adequacy of social assistance.  Under the so-called ‘Social Justice Premier’, the recent decision to bump the minimum wage to $11, forcing full-time workers to live 16% below the poverty line, demonstrated once again the cynical approach to poverty reduction of this government.

Ottawa is now the third most unaffordable city to live in, in Canada.  With escalating rents, massive condo development, and the gentrification of our community spaces, more and more of our neighbours and friends find themselves on an eight year long wait list for affordable housing.  Thousands of people in our community are forced to choose between paying rent and eating.  We demand the province provide an immediate increase to assistance rates to reflect the real cost of housing utilities and food in Ontario communities.

While talking about ‘poverty reduction’, this government has relentlessly worked to stop anything that impedes the further impoverishment of people on social assistance.   This is a clear component of the war on the poor, and more specifically a direct assault on accessibility to food for poor and working poor folks living in Ontario.  As organizers, we have met with politicians, including two Ministers of Community and Social Services.  We have heard Liberal members express their commitment to ending poverty and to improving the lives of poor people in this province.  We have watched endless consultations, endless discussion, endless delaying tactics. We say enough. We are not fooled by the fancy rhetoric.  Your government have demonstrated since you took power that addressing poverty is simply not a priority. You can only use the ghost of the Harris era so long before it sounds hollow – we are way past that time.

The fact is, that under your government’s leadership, 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 your government’s tenure began).   Well, Yasir, as the saying goes, you can’t get blood from a stone – and these policies indeed have blood on them. 

This is but one of many upcoming actions that will aim to target all those complicit in the government’s attack on poor communities across the province.  It is time to live up to the reputation that you claim and become a real champion for poor Ontarians.  We look forward to seeing you step up but we’re not going to wait.  This is a time for action – since the government refuses to act …. the people are mobilizing.

Our minimum demands remain those of the Raise the Rates Campaign: 

WE DEMAND an immediate increase in OW and ODSP rates to bring them back to pre-Harris levels. 55% NOW– raise the rates to where people can live with health and dignity!

WE DEMAND that the minimum wage be increased to a living wage for everyone in Ontario, tied to inflation, beginning with an immediate increase to $14.

WE DEMAND the full restoration of the Special Diet to a benefit of up to $250 for food and complete reversal of all intrusive measures AND the full restoration of the Community Start-up And Maintenance Benefit as a provincially run program.   

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For more info on the need for access to healthy food for all see: http://www.wellesleyinstitute.com/publication/poverty_is_making_us_sick__a_comprehensive_survey_of_income_and_health_in_canada/

For more info on Dr Wong and today’s partnered rally in Toronto see: http://www.ocap.ca/node/1132

Follow us on Twitter: @kwpmus

 

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Premiere Wynne: Dont Legislate a Poverty Wage!

Premiere Wynne:  Dont Legislate a Poverty Wage!

Take action today! Tell the Ontario Liberals that their offer of crumbs is not enough.
We demand a wage that brings workers out of poverty. Fair Wages Now!

See previous posts on this blog for more details and visit raisetheminimumwage.ca

Fair Wages Now – Participate in the ‘A Million Reasons’ social media campaign!

The good folks at Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services launched a social media campaign to fight for $14 Now.  We endorse this action.  Please participate.  There call out reads:

In support of raising the minimum wage campaign, we asked people to tell us one reason why we need fair wages and/or why we need minimum wage in Ontario to be increased to $14/hr (enough to lift working people out of poverty).  This included people stuck in minimum wage jobs as well as providers and sector leaders.have started documenting their answers in a visual photo/film documentary using social media. Please take a moment to visit our facebook page ‘A Million Reasons Why?’: https://www.facebook.com/Amillionreason . Please share, “like” and add your comments.

 You can also post your own photo/reason by following these simple steps:

1.     In a blank sheet of paper, write down one reason why you feel we need fair minimum wage and/or why we need minimum wage in Ontario to be increased to $14/hr (enough to lift working people out of poverty)

2.     Ask a colleague/friend to take a photo of you holding your written response to the camera. (If you want to remain anonymous, you can cover your face with the paper).

3.     Upload photo to https://www.facebook.com/Amillionreason or on twitter with hashtag #14now

4.     Share broadly. 

The photos will eventually be compiled into a film.

We will send these directly to Premier Kathleen Wynne and Yasir Naqvi, Ontario Minister of Labour.

Many of you are aware that the Ontario government is at the final stages of making a decision on minimum wage policy for Ontario following the release of the recommendations by the Minimum Wage Advisory Panel. While the Premier was committed to create a minimum wage that is fair for workers, there are indications the minimum wage may only be increased to $11. http://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2014/01/27/kathleen_wynne_objects_to_14_minimum_wage.html

This still puts minimum wage workers well below poverty line. As per panel’s recommendation, the government seems committed to increasing the minimum wage annually indexed to inflation. For this to be effective, bold leadership is needed to sufficiently increase the current minimum wage so it is benchmarked to above-poverty line, effective immediately. Marginal and delayed increase will fail to provide a permanent solution.

Please join us in this social media initiative and add your say. Every voice counts at this critical moment. Premier Wynne tweeted that she is carefully listening to what people have to say on this.

Minimum Wage Advisory Calls For Annual Increases

Minimum Wage Advisory Panel calls for annual increases

The Minimum Wage Advisory Panel released their report today after a 6-month consultation process across Ontario. The report makes a number of modest proposals for regularizing future increases in the minimum wage, including a recommendation to increase the minimum wage each year with the cost of living.

Indexing the minimum wage to the cost of living is one of the three key demands put forward by the Campaign to Raise the Minimum Wage, and is an important step forward.

But we must also insist that Ontario’s minimum wage bring workers above the poverty line. As it stands, a full-time minimum wage earner falls 25% below the poverty line, and we need much more than a cost-of-living increase to address this shortfall.

It is now in Premier Kathleen Wynne’s hands to make the right choice for Ontario workers.  Only a year ago, the Premier was elected and made a commitment to develop a decent work agenda for Ontario. Today, the Premier has a real opportunity to make good on that promise by ensuring that a full-time job is pathway out of poverty – not a poverty trap.

A minimum wage increase to $14 would also inject at least $5 billion annually into Ontario’s economy, stimulating consumer demand, generating economic activity and creating jobs.
 
Acsana, a leader in the fight to raise the minimum wage makes it clear: “There are a million workers like me who are working at or near minimum wage. We deserve better – and we should not be living in poverty. It’s up to Premier Kathleen Wynne to show leadership and raise the minimum wage to $14 now.”
 

Take Action!

Help us call on Premier Kathleen to fulfill her commitment to good jobs for Ontario workers: 

  1. Send a message to Premier Kathleen Wynne on Twitter (@Kathleen_Wynne) or by email  
  2. Join an action in your community over the February family day weekend 
  3. Make a date with your MPP in the month of February to talk about #14now – it’s now more important than ever!
  4. Join the campaign! Help us win a raise for Ontario

The content of this blog post was taken from an email circulated by Workers Action Centre

Raise the Minimum Wage – December 14th report back, KW

December 14th, 2013: The fifth consecutive monthly province-wide day of action action (held on the 14th of every month to win fair wages) saw another successful mobilization in Waterloo Region.  The local efforts have received overwhelmingly positive support from the community and this event was no different.

In an event organized by Poverty Makes Us Sick and Waterloo Labour Council, with the strong support of Kitchener Ontario Animal Liberation Alliance, activists dressed as elves and distributed campaign fliers attached to candy-canes to happy holiday consumers at Fairview Park Mall in Kitchener.  Some shoppers also took time to write holiday cards to Premier Kathleen Wynne asking for economic justice in the new year.  Again this month, we were greeted warmly by an informed public. Waterloo Region is making itself clear and calling for Fair Wages Now!

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Worker-Elves withstood the cold and snow to greet the people and promote Fair Wages. Hundreds of candy-canes, fliers and postcards were distributed to receptive and supportive shoppers at Kitchener’s busy Fairview Mall.  With the Harper Regime claiming the North Pole as its territory, its more important than ever that workers in Ontario stand in solidarity with Santa’s workshop employees.

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See a round-up of the 18+ events held across Ontario on December 14th, here.

Kitchener-Waterloo has been active in the Campaign to Raise the Minimum Wage since its public launch on March 21 and has held monthly actions on the 14th of every month, as part of province-wide days of action beginning in August.  On September 24th Poverty Makes Us Sick hosted a presentation by Toronto’s Workers Action Centre on the campaign which brought together community members, grassroots, labour and social organizations to build a sustainable local mobilization to win fair wages.  Waterloo Region continues to grow a strong network.  We are part of a vibrant province wide campaign that is poised to win Fair Wages Now!  We encourage everyone to join in!

To get involved with this vital campaign in KW, contact Poverty Makes Us Sick:
forspecialdiet@gmail.com

Learn about the Province-wide campaign, here.

Send a Tweet, email or Facebook message to Premier Wynne right now!

Raise the Minimum Wage – Monthly Event, December 14th

Saturday December 14th, 2-4pm
Fairview Mall, Bay entrance (near bus depot)

Distribute candy canes, have $14 Now holiday cards filled in to send to Premier Wynne

Dress up as an Elf, Mrs Claus, Santa or a Reindeer
Community Positive, Kid Friendly

Last month the growing province wide campaign visited 60 MPP’s!
PMUS and allies were able to secure the full endorsement of Kitchener-Waterloo NDP MPP Catherine Fife.  MPP Fife is the Labour and Economic Development Critic and has demonstrated her commitment to winning Fair Wages.  Our strong local efforts are seeing great successes.  Labour activists lead a delegation to Liberal MPP John Milloy’s office. MPP Milloy has yet to endorse the campaign.   We applaud MPP Fife for her integrity and for her commitment to serving the community in tangible ways. 

This month lets flood Premier Wynne with greeting cards demanding an immediate increase in minimum wage.
$14 Now!  Fair Wages Now!

See roundup of last months actions, here.

To get involved in Waterloo Region contact: forspecialdiet@gmail.com
Facebook: Poverty Makes Us Sick!
@kwpmus, #fairwagesnow

Learn about the Province wide campaign: rasietheminimumwage.ca

The Waterloo Region mobilization of the Campaign to Raise the Minimum Wage is co-facilitated by Poverty Makes Us Sick with the endorsement and support of the Waterloo Region Labour Council and Kitchener Ontario Animal Liberation Alliance in coordination with Workers Action Centre.

 

A Poor Peoples Inquiry, KW – Report Back

Poverty Makes Us Sick was pleased to host Put Food In The Budget on December 3rd for the Kitchener stop of A Poor Peoples Inquiry.  Inquiries are happening across the province, bringing folks together for discussion and action to unmask the myth of the Liberals Poverty Reduction Strategy and to address the fraudulent claim that Premier Wynne is the ‘Social Justice’ Premier. 

A PMUS organizer (who was due in real court the next day) participated as a Judge on the Tribunal.  As poor people are criminalized and funneled through the violence and indignity of the injustice system, PMUS accepted the opportunity to toy with the notion of naming as criminal those who generate poverty in Ontario.  Using our creativity is part of the path towards transformative justice.

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                                The Peoples Tribunal, with members of PMUS and PFTB

The packed court room pledged an ongoing commitment to the struggle to end poverty.  Look out for updates and follow up actions from Put Food In The Budget.  We will keep you posted about Wynne’s indictment for perjury.

Poverty Makes Us Sick’s demands remain the same, in concert with our allies in the Raise the Rates Campaign:

– No merger of OW and ODSP

– Autonomy for First Nations administration of social assistance funds

– Immediate increase in social assistance rates of at least 55%, restoring pre-Harris levels with inflation.

– Full restoration of the Special Diet Allowance and Community Start-up and Maintenance Benefit

– Immediate increase in minimum wage to at least $14

Poverty Makes Us Sick’s local demands:

– An end to PAVIS policing in our communities and a re-directing of police budget for vital social programs

– Income support for Refugee Claimants filing Humanitarian and Compassionate Grounds Requests

– Affordable housing

– An end to the social cleansing policy and practices of police and BIA, in the march of gentrification

– A hault on LRT development until downloaded social assistance programs are funded

– A withdrawal of City Hall demands that the Wine Rack not serve certain people

– A freeze on development incentives such as tax breaks until social services are fully and sustainably funded

 

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