Raise the Rates: The Vital Struggle Against Ontario's Sub-Poverty Welfare System
John Clarke, the Bullet, Socialist Project
A drastic reduction in the adequacy of income support payments is key to the neoliberal agenda. This is especially true in a country like Canada that had earlier seen the consolidation of a basic social infrastructure. However much the balance is tilted in favour of the employers, employment insurance (EI) and welfare payments limit the desperation of the unemployed and the degree to which those with jobs can be forced to make concessions. Massive reductions in federal EI and provincial social assistance rates have been a focus of governments in the last fifteen years and the Mike Harris 'Common Sense Revolution' in Ontario was a very big part of this process.
The dramatic and confrontational Harris years have given way to a more sedate pace of social retrogression under the direction of the McGuinty Government. Nonetheless, once inflation is taken into account, 760,000 people on social assistance in Ontario will be poorer when McGuinty goes to the polls than they were when he began to implement his rather dubious agenda of 'change' in this province. At least a 40% reduction in the spending power of welfare cheques has taken place since 1995. Harris's work has not been reversed under the Liberals. It has really only been consolidated.