|Lisa MacLeod announces cuts against appropriate backdrop.|
There are some junctions and points in time when the fundamentally ugly and vicious underpinnings of the system we live under come more sharply into focus. These last few days are certainly one of those.
With the election of Doug Ford the government of Ontario has now declared a rather open war on people living in poverty.
Breaking a promise made during the election campaign the Ford government is cancelling a basic income pilot project that was started by the previous Liberal government. While basic income is certainly debatable as public policy from a leftist perspective, what is not debatable is that cancelling the project will throw into total disarray the lives of those who, in good faith, signed up for it. The stunned participants are saying that the cancellation may lead to homelessness, having to abandon education plans they had made and other desperate "choices".
This move by the government is cruel and grotesque -- an assault on a group of people living in poverty to "save" what is a tiny amount of money in governmental terms.
Meanwhile the Ford government is clawing back the planned, and much needed, increases in the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) and Ontario Works rates by half. Instead of a 3 per cent increase it will now be a 1.5 per cent increase.
In one of the more disgusting displays of doublespeak I have seen in a very long time, Ford's Minister for Poverty and Injustice Lisa MacLeod actually framed these cuts as being done "on compassionate grounds" and as "the right thing to do".
She also trotted out the old reactionary lie that "the best social program is a job" implying that those who signed up for the basic income project or who need ODSP or welfare could all simply go out and find work if they wanted to. Especially repugnant and ironic given that her boss is a silver spoon case whose daddy did all the "work" for him.
These attacks come as basic necessities such as housing remain out of reach or unaffordable for many in the province. This is not just in Toronto either, with news of police harassment of the homeless in Hamilton and mass corporate evictions of lower income tenants from their homes in Ottawa.
Of course, not everyone is doing badly. This week we learned that Sears Canada's board of directors, for example, are making lots of money in the wake of the once formidable retailer's collapse. And they are doing so despite the fact that thousands of former Sears workers who lost their jobs have not gotten proper severance pay and have lost parts of their pensions.
We also learned that "Fewer than 90 families in Canada hold roughly as much wealth as what everyone living in Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island collectively owns."
Let that sink in for a moment.
90 families holding as much wealth as the entire populations of three Atlantic provinces! Just over 1.4 million people.
While liberals and social democrats will talk of slightly higher taxes on the wealthy or closing tax loopholes, this is all just window dressing when confronted by a system as basically evil and unjust as ours. It is not that these steps should not be taken, it is just that they will do little to alter what has lead us here.
Immense and constantly increasing inequality while millions either live in or are a paycheque or two away from abject poverty is not an anomaly or distortion of the capitalist system, it is a function of it.
As Ontario unleashes austerity targeted at those living in poverty, the marginalized and the racialized, the desperate need to build a mass anti-capitalist movement that seeks to change not this-or-that minor aspect of capitalism but rather to alter the very nature of and ownership of our economy becomes ever clearer.
See also: Chaos Theory: For Doug Ford disruption will be the plan