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Suffering in Poverty

Editor's Note: Editor's Note: This editorial is reprinted from the Toronto Star, April 14, 2003.

If government really wanted to get people off welfare, it would give them the helping hand that is so much a part of the rhetoric of welfare reform, if not the reality.

It would ensure they have access to proper training to give them the skills needed to get and hold a decent job. It would provide them with day care for their children, which parents must have to learn and to work. It would bring a modicum of stability to their lives by ensuring they have an adequate, affordable place to live.

And, just as important, the one thing government wouldn't do is beat down welfare recipients by making them live in abject poverty while exhorting them to stand on their own two feet.

Hunger and deprivation are not wellsprings of hope.

Yet, according to the National Council on Welfare, most provincial governments- and particularly the government of Ontario- are driving welfare recipients deeper and deeper into poverty, as if the intention was to starve these families out of the poverty trap.

Since the Conservatives came to power in Ontario, the purchasing power of total welfare income for single parents with one child has been slashed from $19,645 to $13,871, leaving them 42 per cent below the poverty line.

Do the math yourself. If such a family could find decent accommodation in Toronto for $577 a month- a very big if- it would be left with a total of $19 a day for food, clothing, transportation, the hydro bill, toiletries, laundromat, school supplies- never mind things like a telephone that the rest of us take for granted.

The National Child Tax Benefit should, of course, make it somewhat easier to make ends meet, but unlike Newfoundland and New Brunswick, the Ontario government claws every cent of it back from wefare families.

A hike in welfare rates to compensate for inflation would also help, as it does in Quebec and the Northwest Territories, but rates in Ontario have not been raised since 1995, when the Tories slashed them by 22 per cent.

Frankly, we can't fathom how a premier, who spends $25,000 a year on a wardrobe, can let so many children suffer in such wretched poverty.