Kathleen Wynne, our newly appointed, self-described "social justice premier," has a plan to "reform" welfare
based on the Orwellian-titled report "Brighter Prospects."
Part of this reform is the elimination of the already criminally low Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) and the special diet allowance. There will now be no distinction between regular welfare and disability. Under the current system, ODSP gets you $1,075 a month and general welfare gets you $606 a month. Neither amount is really enough to live on, especially in Toronto, but now people on welfare will get slightly more ($100) and people on disability will get drastically, murderously less.
Anyone who is disabled or knows someone who's disabled will see the immediate problem. I mean, there are many immediate problems, but the biggest one is that having a disability costs much, much more than being an able-bodied but jobless person. Medications, mobility devices, and other necessities for survival cost a lot. The medication that kept me alive for a year, thankfully covered by my insurance plan because I'm employed, cost $679.70 a month, which is nothing compared to what it costs to keep a cancer or HIV patient alive. A manual wheelchair starts at maybe $130. A motorized wheelchair—a crappy one—starts at almost $2000. Many disabilities require a special diet beyond what food banks can provide. You can, if you're lucky, get a tiny and shitty apartment for under $1000/month in Toronto (subsidized housing being a scarce commodity), but good luck if you want something on a subway line so that you can haul your disabled ass to one of your many doctors' appointments. And if you've managed that, have you noticed that you don't have any money left over for food, or transit, or emergency expenses?
How do disabled people get by as it is? Generally, because there are free subsidies that the government doesn't need to think about—beleaguered friends and family members who take up the slack when the state fails.
Wynne ought to know, because she's premier now and it's her job to know. If this budget passes, she'll have condemned thousands of people in Ontario to desperate poverty, starvation, and homelessness.
She'll get away with it too, because disability advocacy is just as problematic as any sort of advocacy for marginalized people. No one listens to crips. If you're disabled, you generally have too many problems dealing with bureaucracy and pain and sickness to fight for your rights. But above and beyond that is the difficulty with quantifying deaths that occur due to capitalism.
If you are, for example, calculating deaths under Stalin, you can look at how many people were shot, how many died in gulags, how many died of famine and forced relocation, and so on. (If you're being brutally honest, you need to separate which famine deaths would have occurred regardless of the political regime in place and which were deliberate, and also compare the death toll when any large shift in economics happens—for example, privatization—but it's nuances like these that get me called a Stalinist even though I'm quite far from that.) Deaths under capitalism, and particularly the deaths occurring in a vulnerable population, are much harder to quantify. Many disabled people are sick, and likely to die while on disability. This is a given. How do you separate out the "natural" death toll from the premature death toll that will occur when the threadbare safety net keeping some alive is yanked out from under them. You can't easily do so, and thus it will look like Wynne murdered 0 people, when in fact she might be murdering thousands. (But, of course, it's with a stroke of a pen rather than by the firing squad, and we as a society are much more comfortable with that.)
It also highlights the ridiculousness of tokenism in politics. Wynne is the "social justice premier" because she's queer and a woman. What good will this accomplish for queer disabled people? For disabled women? Precisely fucking nothing, just as the election of a black "progressive" president in the US didn't benefit Trayvon Martin or countless children murdered by drone strikes, just as the election of a female Prime Minister in the UK all those years ago crushed the poor and the working class just as surely as the election of a male Prime Minister would have done. Wynne is proving herself already to be just as bad as Conservative butcher Mike Harris—if not worse—and our main alternative seems to be an outright fascist who would further destroy unions and institute chain gangs. (Oh, and the NDP is being useless. I had hopes there, but it's useless.)
It's a pity Ontarians are so placid. We ought to be storming the legislature with pitchforks and torches. These people are monsters, killers, targeting the weakest and most vulnerable amongst us so that they can kiss up to their wealthy base. There's no gulag hideous enough to punish that level of cruelty. We ought to refer to them, and treat them, as enemies of humanity.
Oh, and for the record? Both welfare and ODSP need to be raised significantly to pre-Harris levels + inflation and cost-of-living. We can tax the obscenely wealthy and/or cut MPPs' salaries to make up the difference. It's just basic human decency.
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