Vote in the ontario election as if you were poor reasonable doubt – now magazine electricity related words


On June 7, eligible Ontarians will once again be asked to vote in the provincial election. Voting can be simple for some folks like my dad who hasn’t voted for anyone outside of the Conservative party since the early 80s. For others, voting is more complex. Some folks will vote strategically in their riding, some will abstain from voting for any candidate and some will vote for a candidate outside of their preferred political party.

Every election, it can be a challenge to understand political platforms, or to know which candidate or party has values that align with yours. This election, as a guiding principle, I encourage each voter to consider for a moment what life would be like if they were poor.

I work with people whose lives have changed in an instant. Some clients were in motor vehicle or workplace accidents leaving them with chronic pain for the rest of their lives. Others lost partners or children and developed significant depression that lasted for years. One of my clients fainted and hit her head on the floor, resulting in a concussion and a condition where her eyes stopped moving in sync. Her symptoms took many years to resolve. In an instant, many of my clients go from having a full-time work to not having a job for years.

When their savings run out, they turn to social assistance like Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) in order to buy food and pay rent. If you are a single person with no children, you receive $721 a month on OW. If you qualify for disability support, you get $1,151 a month as a single person. These rates, determined by the provincial government, are so far below the poverty line that many of my clients rely on food banks and still sometimes do not have enough to eat. The very programs our government funds to ensure that every Ontarian can eat and have a roof over their head do not provide enough money to adequately do either. We should all be ashamed since we have been electing governments for decades that do not care about poor people.

If you could not work and did not have a family or disability insurance to provide financial support, and you were forced to rely on social assistance, ask yourself what issues would be important to you in an election. You would likely say that some of the following were critical to your daily survival: adequate social assistance rates, sufficiently funded healthcare (including mental healthcare), affordable hydro, food, internet and phone services, and reasonable rent prices.

If you are not poor, you are more likely to focus on personal and business tax rates, insurance rates, land transfer taxes and gas prices when casting your ballot. The later issues are clearly the concern of people with money being able to keep more of their money, while the former issues are about living a life with dignity. If you were poor, wouldn’t you want to know that you could afford the basic necessities? Isn’t it sound logic, then, to vote as though you were poor even if you aren’t poor right now?

If both the rich and poor in our province cared about poor people, and voted for politicians who care about poor people, imagine the suffering we could alleviate. Imagine if everyone who received social assistance could pay rent and eat. Imagine if people with disabilities could afford items that would allow them to better participate in the workforce and their communities. The only way we can ensure that we have strong (or even sufficient) social assistance programs is to vote for politicians who will use their power to enact changes to the system.

We can demand better from our next government. We can attend all-candidates meetings and ask questions about changes to social assistance, health care, and hydro prices. We can volunteer and vote for candidates who will change and fund programs for poor people. Each one of us benefits when the poor members of our communities can live with dignity. Remember that, in an instant, you could be that poor person.

A word of caution: You should not act or rely on the information provided in this column. It is not legal advice. To ensure your interests are protected, retain or formally seek advice from a lawyer. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Waterloo Region Community Legal Services.