Re: Tories blamed for homeless people's plight in Ontario, Canada FWD

Graeme Bacque (gbacque@idirect.com)
Sat, 15 May 1999 01:09:14 -0400


----- Original Message -----
From: Tom Boland <wgcp@earthlink.net>
To: HOMELESS PEOPLE'S NETWORK list <HPN@ASPIN.ASU.EDU>; Food Not Bombs list
<fnb-l@tao.ca>
Sent: Friday, May 14, 1999 11:44 PM
Subject: Tories blamed for homeless people's plight in Ontario, Canada FWD


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> What do you consider to be the most important issue in the Ontario
election
> June 3?
>

The opposition parties (as well as most of the demonstrators who have been
dogging Harris's footsteps) have been focusing attention almost exclusively
on the issues of education and healthcare.

Not to say that these aren't important issues, but the other fundamental
violations of human rights and human needs have been almost too numerous to
count, yet are being almost totally ignored by the other political parties
and even many activists. They appear to have focused attention on those
issues that are easiest to sell to the voters. Unfortunately there are
obvious class issues involved in the setting of priorities.

As an example - the 21.6% cut to welfare implemented by Harris isn't even an
'official' issue in this election and there's been next to no mention of
affordable housing - even from the supposedly 'left-wing' New Democratic
Party (NDP). The New Democrats are playing on the homelessness issue but
appear to have no concrete remedies in mind. (NDP boss Howard Hampton
mentioned increasing welfare shelter allowances but this would happen only
on an individualized basis  - the overall cut will remain unchanged. With
rents as high as they are in Ontario - and especially Toronto - this would
have little real impact. there's been no mention of building affordable
housing from the NDP camp, either).

Ironically, Mike Harris himself is the only one concretely discussing
homelessness or welfare on a regular basis, but in a manner that terrifies
me.

For example, his proposals around welfare include expanding 'workfare'  into
the for-profit private sector on a large-scale basis, drug-testing
recipients with mandatory treatment for drug users as a condition for
receipt of benefits, mandatory assessment of applicants' math/english skills
(what about people whose first language isn't english?) and a lifetime ban
from receipt of benefits for anyone accused of fraud.

Regarding homelessness, what Harris has in mind is widespread crackdowns on
squeegeers or panhandlers, and extensive forced psychiatric interventions
into the lives of homeless persons. On this latter score the Liberal Party
is no better than Harris's Tories - Liberal MPP Richard Patten (Ottawa
Center) has twice tried to introduce 'outpatient committal' bills as a
private menber, and former Schizophrenia Society of Ontario chair Selina
Volpatti (The SSO is the Canadian counterpart of the National Alliance for
the Mentally Ill) is herself running for the Liberals in Niagara Falls. On
this issue the New Democrats have been deafeningly silent - but that party
has brought in outpatient committal laws in two other Canadian provinces
where they have been in government.

I'd give a more complete list but I can already hear my ISP howling over the
bandwidth. What I'm saying basically boils down to is that the most
fundamental human rights of poorer persons are essentially on the chopping
block here. Harris is moving from his initial cutting phase into social
control mode with this campaign for re-election. His policy regarding
homelessneess is clearly 'out of sight, out of mind.'