Posts Tagged ‘ austerity ’

Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC) Speaking Tour coming to Kitchener and Ottawa this May!

 

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From May 4-15th, Ellen Clifford from DPAC will be on a provincial speaking tour, visiting Toronto, Kitchener, Sudbury, Kingston and Ottawa. Ellen has been campaigning with the disabled people’s movement for 15 years and, since 2011, has sat on the National Steering Committee of DPAC. She is also a member of Unite the Union and works to build solidarity between workers in unions and those forced to live on social benefits.

The Cameron Government in the UK has implemented brutal cuts to programs for unemployed and disabled people. This includes a system called the Work Capability Assessment that has been used to deny benefits to thousands of people.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) is an organization in the UK that has been at the forefront of challenging this situation.  It has mobilized disabled people to fight back and formed alliances with community organizations and unions in resisting the austerity measures of the Cameron Government. The hated private company, Atos, that was carrying out the assessments of sick and disabled people has been forced to quit as a result of the powerful resistance DPAC and others have take up.

Here in Ontario, we also face major attacks. Ontario Works and ODSP rates are too low to enable people to pay their rent and eat properly. The Special Diet and Community Start Up have been slashed. There is a very real threat that the Government here will merge OW and ODSP and bring in a UK style assessment system. We need to understand what is happening in that country and how people are fighting back against the attacks.

Poverty Makes Us Sick is very excited to host stops in both Kitchener and Ottawa as a part of the provincial tour.

The Ottawa stop of the tour will be on Wednesday, May 7th, at 6:30pm. This event, with local speakers, Raise the Rates Campaign founders from the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) and Ellen Clifford of DPAC, will also serve as the public re-launch of the Raise the Rates Campaign in Ottawa.  Space has been provided by the Somerset West Community Health Centre (55 Eccles St) and is fully accessible. A meal will be included and bus tickets will be available. Childcare, ASL and French whisper interpretation will be provided as needed (please confirm by May 1st).

The Kitchener stop of the tour will be on Tuesday, May 13th, at 7pm.  It will be held at the Queen Street Commons (43 Queen St S).  A light meal will be provided.  The Commons is wheelchair accessible and has one single-occupancy washroom.  It is a kid-friendly space. Vegan and gluten-free foods will be available.

For more information call Poverty Makes Us Sick, (613) 220-0554 or email forspecialdiet@gmail.com.
Facebook events –
Kitchener: http://www.facebook.com/events/225928060937800
Ottawa: http://www.facebook.com/events/685486958164060

Kitchener Raise the Rates, October 15 – report back

Kitchener’s main event in the Raise the Rates Province-Wide Week of Action followed on the heels of a confrontation with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and a very successful Campaign to Raise the Minimum Wage event.  Our demands were taken to the heart of commerce, consumerism and social cleansing in the Region – Uptown Waterloo.  Beginning at the Regional Health and Social Services Building with a community-positive event, hundreds of leaflets exposing the threatened OW/ODSP merger were distributed while a meal was shared.  PMUS met with OW Case Workers at the staff exit as they left for the day.  The fact that the Union representing ODSP workers, OPSEU, just signed on to the Raise the Rates Campaign served to increase the interest of the CUPE local OW workers.

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A march at rush hour ensured that the elite patrons of Uptown Waterloo would hear the voices of the poor.A militant, in cases masked, faction took a major intersection at 5:10.  Banners, speeches and rap verses announced a new level of struggle opposing a OW/ODSP merger, standing in support of social assistance autonomy for First Nations, demanding the full restoration of CSUMB and Special Diet Allowance, a raise in minimum wage and a 55% increase in Social Assistance rates.  Angry Uptown consumers in vehicles expressed rage, but it could not match the rage of the poor.  Bystanders had a decidedly open minded approach and took flyers and listened to speeches.  One car drove at speed into the crowd but was stopped by a variety of well applied tactics.  The local paper captured a photo of the driver slowly driving into one protester, about to drive over another.

In this day of action we reached out to OW workers –  a natural ally in our struggle.  We have been oppressed by these very people. We are honest in our willingness to partner in the struggle against an OW/ODSP merger.  All of the conflicting feelings we were experiencing were released in a healthy setting later in our event.  If any of the disconnected elite of Waterloo Region hadnt previously known, they know it now: the poor are on the attack.

Crash the Consultations, Kitchener Report Back

 

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The Ontario Liberals, with their ‘social justice’ Premiere and and so-called Poverty Reduction Plan, have in reality cut vital programs such as the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit and Special Diet Allowance.  Poverty rates have increased under their leadership.  Now they threaten to merge OW and ODSP, a move that would drastically reduce access to programs and services.  As the Liberals embark on yet another round of Poverty Reduction Community Consultations many have decided that enough is enough: we need to see action to end poverty not more empty talk.  Our Allies across the Province have held Crash the Consultations events also and we are pleased that a number of local agencies have boycotted this obvious stalling tactic – some vocally opposing the sham.

Despite the rain and early morning hour, eight Poverty Makes Us Sick members and allies picketed outside the Kitchener stop of the consultation tour.  Hundreds of leaflets were distributed and there was very positive community response.  Placards were hung on the wall of the building, banners were displayed and chants recited, all calling for real action to eradicate poverty.  We addressed the threatened OW/ODSP merger, the full restoration of CSUMB and Special Diet Allowance, and the demand for an immediate increase in rates by 55%.  The public and consultation-attendees alike stopped to chat and were appalled by the Liberals assault on the poor.

Kitchener Centre MPP John Milloy and Minister of Community and Social Services Ted McMeekin were both in attendance and they were consulted at – loudly – as they entered.  A delegation entered the building with our banners and further consulted at McMeekin, outside the conference room in the foyer.  McMeekin was held accountable for his participation in the war on the poor before he opted to leave the foyer in the opposite direction, away from the conference room.  Police showed up and helped us occupy the foyer as we chanted: “We’re hungry, we’re angry, we wont go away!  Stop the war on the poor, make the rich pay!”

We know that many who chose to attend the consultations are also very angry at the Ontario Liberals.  We are primed for the Province-Wide Raise the Rates Week of action, October 12-20.  All are invited.

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Leafleting to a supportive community

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Minister of Community and Social Services, Ted McMeekin (right) is consulted at in the foyer. “You can start by restoring all that you’ve stolen from us so far!”

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MPP John Milloy’s Director of Communications, Kelly Milne leads Ted McMeekin AWAY from the conference room where attendees were assembled.  Behind them you see a clear path to the conference room entrance and a staff person waiting to open the door for them. 

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The Ontario Liberals have turned their backs on the poor and the allies of the poor.  This is how the Minister of Community and Social Services responds to consultation from impoverished communities.  McMeekin, the few local people who are willing to even pretend to tolerate your sham of a consultation are waiting for you in a room at the opposite end of that hall way – where are you going?

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We held the foyer and chanted.

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“You see, Officer, this may well be Private Property but those in control of this private property invited Public Officials to host a public consultation, which voluntarily changes the nature of this space.”

Learn more about this action

Learn More about the Raise the Rates Week of Action, Events Across the Province

Learn More about the Raise the Rates Week of Action, Events in Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge

forspecialdiet@gmail.com, @kwpmus, Facebook: Poverty Makes Us Sick!

 

PMUS Court Support & Raise the Rates Rally/March – September 17th – SAVE THE DATE

SAVE THE DATE!
On Tuesday, September 17th, Ian of Poverty Makes Us Sick begins his pre-trial hearing for the actions taken locally to restore the Community Start-up and Maintenance Benefit. Come out on the 17th to support Ian, to make sure the powers know that active resistance to the austerity attacks on the poor continues, and to demand that the CSUMB be fully restored. There will be rally outside the courthouse and a march, as well as court support opportunities inside.

MORE DETAILED INFO TO COME

Join us on Facebook and invite your friends to the event:  http://www.facebook.com/events/158378684353230/
Twitter:  @kwpmus

Our actions were a small contribution to the fight against austerity in Ontario.  Dr. Roland Wong has made an enormous difference in the lives of thousands in the province and remains steadfast in his resolve to promote health for all despite being targeted for his actions.  Let’s continue to stand in solidarity with him!

PMUS and allies bring demands to MCSS Minister McMeekin

Friday June 21st, 2013; Poverty Makes Us Sick hosted the Alliance Against Poverty and the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty to visit the Minister of Community and Social Services Ted McMeekin in his constituency office in Waterdown.  Together we took a strong message to McMeekin: We’re angry.  We’re not going to accept endless consultation and studies.  People are dying on the streets and we demand the full restoration of the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit and the Special Diet Allowance, an immediate 60% increase in social assistance rates and an increase in the minimum wage to $14/hr.

Even as the legal system attempts to intimidate PMUS member Ian Stumpf with a fantastically over the top response to a simple trespassing ticket, the group picked up right where things left off with MPP John Milloy (former Minister of Community and Social Services).  Banners filled the office as McMeekin was held accountable for his participation in the assault on the lives of the poor.

McMeekin revealed himself to be condescending, detached, and unabashedly sexist during our rather brief encounter.  Shamefully he interrupted our ally as they shared the story of their friend’s death. McMeekin claimed to share in our concerns, while also defending every last cut.  He completely embarrassed himself by repeatedly stating the ‘the government made these cuts, I can’t do anything.’  He was reminded that he was a Minister.  He was reminded that we will resist.  We demand justice, life and dignity.

There are many important fronts in this struggle.  Today we rattled McMeekin.  We removed from him the comfort of seclusion. We communicated our demands to him.

The government can expect continued resistance.  We will not sit by and watch our friends die.  They cannot expect to live comfortably while attacking us.

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Mayday

Mayday Marchers leaving Victoria park. photo: dk, http://yfrog.com/odhwmcej

Last week, Poverty Makes Us Sick (PMUS) took part in May Day celebrations in Kitchener and it was wonderful! From what we can gather, this was Kitchener’s first community mobilization to observe May Day since 2006. May Day, or International Workers’ Day (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Workers%27_Day) is celebrated all over the planet. Our community offered a kid-friendly space for a majority of the day’s events as we came together to reclaim public space and share our collective desire for a better world – one of dignity and justice for all!

The day began with a creative resistance festival at Victoria Park. There was a delicious potluck spread, including black cupcakes with wicks or fuses (more on that later). There was hula-hoop, poi, and a stereo kicking out the jams. Richard Garvey led a radical choir sing-along. Local folks had printed up a zine that served as the day’s program that included a number of traditional and locally-penned protest anthems. We sang those songs as a healing, community-building exercise and also warmed up for singing those songs during our march and rally. PMUS facilitated a children’s activity of planting organic seeds in biodegradable planters. We talked about sustainability, poverty, access to healthy food, sharing and labour as we had fun planting with the youngsters (and some interested grown-ups too). Julian Ichim led a ‘know your rights workshop’ discussing possible scenarios related to interactions with police.

Next, participants gathered for a vigil, commemorating workers from our own region who have died or been injured on the job in the past year. PMUS facilitated the memorial, delivering a speech and reading the names of some of the workers who have died, including John Luis Cantunto (killed in a construction accident in Kitchener) and the 10 temporary foreign workers from Peru (and the driver from London, ON) who died in a van accident on their way to work near Stratford. A member of the local Common Cause chapter read more names and reminded us of the Haymarket massacre http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haymarket_affair. A man stepped forward to remember his father who had passed away. Then we shared a moment of silence. It was important to centre ourselves before we marched.

Then we marched!! We marched for over 3.5 km, basically making our way throughout the entire the downtown core. A van followed along for accessibility. We marched through an East End neighbourhood, largely populated by the working poor—that is in the early stages of gentrification. Residents greeted us, joined in, and wished us well. Throughout the march we were escorted by about 15 cops on bicycles, horses and in a van. Participants spoke against this presence within a framework of class and capital. Three Christians used large wooden crosses to box in the mounted police as a protective measure for march participants. At a previous rally on March 31st, the police had deliberately run the horses into a group of protestors. The mounted police then kept a greater distance. Speeches were given at a subsidized housing complex and local musician Richard Garvey performed his song “The Walls Will All Fall Down” in front of the $766 million Mega Courthouse currently under construction. A local activist later gave an excellent speech in front of one of the many payday loan agencies lining Kitchener’s downtown, denouncing this destructive local form of disaster capitalism. Posters were taped to the stores windows. A PMUS member spoke in front of a newer cupcake shop across the street from the local community soup kitchen, St. John’s Kitchen, as the rest of the march held the intersection. The crowd learned that trendy cupcake shops serve as clear markers of gentrification, catering to newly arrived students, professionals and urban elites and encroaching on traditional downtown communities. There was a plan to enter a TD bank and cause disruption, but they had evidently decided to close down early for the day! That made things easy and we were happy to assist in the workers’ ability to celebrate May Day. Then there was a bad-ass banner drop at city hall, where four banners, including a PMUS banner and a No One Is Illegal banner, transformed the space. A member of Poverty Makes Us Sick gave a passionate speech on issues of economic injustice, especially as they play out provincially.

Mayday Banner Drop, Kitchener City Hall

The march ended with a rally at Speaker’s Corner. The Black Wood Two and Richard Garvey treated us to some tunes. We heard about the history of Chile’s miners’ strike of (1905) and their resistance to violent government repression and then a member of the Alliance Against Poverty (AAP) gave a rousing speech, and sang us his own adaptation of the song ‘Joe Hill’!

More of those black cupcakes with fuses were shared. The cupcakes were inspired by the stop at the CakeBox cupcake store, and were a specific reference to the Toronto 20, the alleged G20 conspirators. Undercover OPP operative Bindo Showan (akaKhalid Mohamed) was convinced that when the alleged conspirators said cupcakes that they meant molotov-cupcakes; some sorta secret code for a bomb! There was an open mic and a number of folks took the opportunity to speak. Some of ‘em sure do love cops . Perhaps those with a healthy suspicion of cops ought to take more care in explaining the analysis to these folks?

There is always so much to be inspired by on a day like this. The world is full of vibrant resistance to capitalism. This year Kitchener was feeling aglow with the inspiration provided by the actions of students, and their many allies, in Quebec.

It was encouraging to see that the 125+ people who attended were able to embrace a nuanced analysis. In Kitchener a violent gentrification is taking place and it is fueled by an influx of students, most of whom have not demonstrated any sense of connection to long-standing residents. The messaging of our march was in large part about gentrification and poverty. So we held the student movement in Quebec in our hearts as we challenged the students in our own neighbourhoods.

While the march was energizing, the ongoing injustices in our community require our continued commitment and action. In the coming months, to give just one example, five local Zellers stores are being taken over by Target and Walmart, with absolutely no indication that any employees will keep their jobs. We trust that the 125 peeps who attended May Day will organize in defense of the workers in our community!!!

Mayday – Marching down Madison ramp! photo: dk, http://yfrog.com/mmgrtwgj

What is the Austerity Agenda & What We Can Do About It

Banner drop at Bylaw Enforcement and Downtown Security  offices at the corner of Ontario-Duke St, Kitchener, April 1, 2011 in response to their role in enforcing gentrification and social cleansing of the downtown community.

Austerity Budgets – budgets that target poor and working people by cutting services, jobs and community supports – have been introduced at both the provincial and federal levels this March.

Again we see the privileging of capital over the needs of the people.  We see increased policing and prisons instead of meaningful supports for health, education, housing and social services.  This is an overt and violent assault on poor and marginalised communities.

We Say ‘No More’.  We oppose policies that target those living in poverty and attempt to pit communities of workers and those on fixed incomes against each other, while ignoring the real architects of this global financial crisis – the corporate capitalist elites.

These capitalist elites continue to amass wealth as governments force painful cuts to necessary programs and services on their populations.  We are coming together to reject this agenda and to find ways to build real community networks of support.

Provincially we have seen the Social Assistance Review Commission (SARC) and the Drummond Report that parrot the ideology of austerity of making recommendations that provide real, meaningful and positive change in the lives of Ontarians.

Instead of recognizing the direct impact of poverty on health and well-being, and taking real steps to reduce health inequities, our governments have chosen once more to punish and criminalize poor people in this province.  While corporations have received massive tax cuts in recent years(maintained in the recent budget), governments are once again balancing their budgets on the backs of the poor!

“People on Ontario Works are now living on incomes that are a devastating 60% lower that they were in 1995 and over 20% lower that when the Harris Tories left office.  Now that wretched sub-poverty income will continue to be driven further by the ‘poverty reduction’ Liberals as the cost of food and other necessities increases significantly.”  Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP)

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