Posts Tagged ‘ capitalism ’

OCAP Disrupts Liberal Dinner

Leading up to our Provincial mobilization this Saturday, allies in the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty disrupted a Liberal fundraising gala.  The following is a press release from OCAP.  See you in the streets!

OCAP disrupts Liberal ‘Heritage Dinner’ – Stop the Liberal War on the Poor

The Ontario Liberal party’s annual lavish fundraising dinner was disrupted
this evening in Toronto by members of the Ontario Coalition Against
Poverty. In the face of grinding poverty across the province as a result
of Liberal policies, a dinner that boasts of $1500 a plate is a slap in
the face to people struggling to pay the rent or put food on the table.
Disrupters unfurled a banner demanding a raise in social assistance rates
and littering the floor with macaroni.

This action is in the lead-up to a mass mobilization this coming Saturday,
March 22nd with people coming from across the province to protest the
‘Liberal War on the Poor’ at the OLP annual meeting. The Liberals have not
only solidified the 1995 Harris government cuts, but brought down their
own brutal form of austerity. Since 2005, this government has hacked away
at the Special Diet Benefit – a food benefit – making it almost impossible
to access.

Then in 2012 the Liberals announced the cut to Community Start-Up and
Maintenance Benefit – a benefit to get people housed, used often by those
who are homeless, in the shelter system, leaving an institution, or women
escaping domestic violence. This is on top of failing to raise the rates
of social assistance to any livable amount let alone keep up with
inflation. Today people are living on social assistance rates that are at
least 55% below where they should be. Wynne talks about social justice,
but few across the province have seen any evidence of that.

“We will not let the rich dine at our expense or at least not dine in
peace. The poor will not suffer in silence and we are fighting back!”

Join the March 22nd mobilization – no matter who is in power this spring –
Stop the War on the Poor, Raise the Rates NOW! http://ocap.ca/node/1137

(end of OCAP release)

See photo, here: http://t.co/26YCD19kEz

For details for free buses leaving from Kitchener and Ottawa, see:https://povertymakesussick.wordpress.com/2014/02/27/raise-the-rates-march-on-liberal-convention-get-on-the-bus/

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

 

$42 Million here, $1.4 Billion there

We won back $42 million towards a CSUMB transition to the Community Homelessness Prevention Benefit.  The funds are for this year only.  It was the many radical anti-poverty groups and their allies in the labour movement who won this.  We salute our peers, celebrate for a second, and now continue the fight.  We are aglow with the knowledge that our tactics are working.

$42 million will not demobilize us. There’s $1.4 billion of our money floating around in the corporate world. The Province is writing off $1.4 Billion in unpaid corporate taxes.  John Milloy has looked me in the eye and scolded me that “the money’s not there” for the CSUMB.  John is a liar, but its no matter because our tactics of truth, justice and love are working!

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

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