Tag Archives: Mike Harris

Buck a Beer and Dented Tuna Tins

By Marvin Ross

The Buck a Beer campaign (opposed by many craft brewers) was first developed about 2002 by Lakeport Brewery in Hamilton Ontario as an attempt to gain market share. It worked and they went from a 1% market share to the top 10 in a very short period of time. But, Ontario raised the minimum price and Lakeport was bought out in 2007. The CEO of Lakeport, Teresa Cascioli, went on to become a major philanthropist in Hamilton donating over $4 million to various institutions in the city.

How it came into the mind of Doug Ford as something anyone wants is bizarre. Unlike the woman who used her wealth generated by the buck a beer, he is willing to spend tax dollars on this scheme while not only cutting the basic income pilot program but by cutting the increase in social assistance planned for September from 3% to 1.5% . He has also put on hold all other improvement to social assistance to come into effect on that date.

Doug, unfortunately, is a carryover from the last Conservative government Ontario had starting back in 1995 led by Mike Harris. Harris slashed welfare rates by 21.6% and despite modest increases during the Liberal regime, rates have not recovered from that slashing. It is important to remember that most of the people impacted by those cuts are disabled and cannot work or can only work part time.

Treating the disabled this way is cruel and smacks of Marie Antoinette. In fact, when the social services minister under Harris, David Tsubouchi, was challenged in the legislature, his suggestion was that the poor and disabled could buy dented tins of tuna at less than the usual price if they bargained with shop keepers. He then put out a proposed welfare diet that includes pasta without sauce, bread without butter, and the elusive 69-cent tuna can.

He even went further by telling single mothers on welfare that they had ample time to find jobs because they had a three-month warning. He also suggested welfare parents could just ask neighbours to look after their children, and accidentally ordered 115,000 disabled people and senior citizens to be cut off from their welfare benefits.

A report done in 2015 on the 20th anniversary of those cuts found that the consumer price index had gone up by 45% but the cost of the welfare diet had increased by 107%. The welfare rate has only gone up by 37% to 2015. Pathetic.

In an op ed in the Hamilton Spectator, Michael Taub a former speech writer for Stephen Harper, argued that the Progressive Conservative Party is not progressive and should not have progressive in its name. He argues that rather than being progressive they practice:

“compassionate conservatism. For instance, working with religious organizations and private charities to help out the poor and needy. Finding ways to use the free market as a means of getting people back to work and wealthier, such as reducing taxes and state involvement. Supporting public programs like health care and education, but ensuring the private sector has a greater role and/or influence in these sectors.”

He supports Ford’s cutting of the Basic Income Project and of social assistance rates. His argument:

Rather than a never-ending cycle of government handouts, the PCs will use other means, such as tax cuts (including the 10 cent reduction on gas prices) to accomplish the same goal. This will hopefully produce far better results and savings for Ontario families.

Right, let us reduce gasoline by 10 cents a litre to help people who cannot afford to buy a car and who have to use the food bank to eat in their substandard rental units.

The utter folly of this is that if people cannot afford to eat nutritious food which is more expensive, it will impact their health. They will end up getting costly medical treatment for the ill health caused by their poor diets. That will cost more than the money saved on social assistance cuts. And don’t think that the Liberals are any better. Despite being in office for 15 years, they failed to bring the social assistance rates back to where they were when they were slashed in 1995. Social activists found a loophole in the act that allowed for the poor to get an extra allowance if they needed more expensive food for health reasons. Doctors and nurses began signing the forms for their patients so they could eat better but the government put an end to that practice.

Going off on a tangent, I must point out that I knew David Tsubouchi and he was our lawyer until he went into cabinet. To this day, I do not understand how he could do what he did as he was a very nice, compassionate person. He was a poet and, because he was bored with the law, he acted in his spare time and played a Japanese salesman in David Cronenberg’s Videodrome and other shows.

But then, politicians do stupid things that run against their principles to be in power. A recent Toronto Star column asked where the grown ups are in Ford’s cabinet as they are all silent. I think the explanation for this was spelled out by the late journalist Heather Robertson. I’m just reading her book, More Than A Rose (1991) on the wives of Canadian Prime Ministers. She makes the point that politicians can make peace with anyone if it leads to power.

Power corrupts but the whiff of power corrupts just as easily.

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Political Ideology – Right or Left – is Disastrous

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Just once I would like to hear a Canadian politician say ideologies make bad government.

We have now had sufficient history and experimentation with democratically elected governments to know that unfettered, unregulated capitalism is a horror for all but the rich, and ultimately destructive for them as well, and that ideologically driven socialism is a disaster that fosters corruption and gives birth to tyranny. This history lies before us from Venezuela to Russia to Cuba; from the USA to Greece and Chile. In Ontario we already enacted these dichotomies (in moderate Canadian fashion) with Mike Harris and Bob Rae.

But we are neither an ant colony nor roving bands of sharks. We are human.

So this means our shark genes are always in conflict with our ant genes. Our impulse for self preservation and self aggrandisement conflicts with our empathy for others, our social impulses. We want to help ourselves and help others. We seek both hierarchy and equality. We are Donald Trump and Mother Theresa.

So we need both a system of governance and economics that allows us each to pursue a pot of gold, an invention, success, membership in an exclusive club, achievement, and at least a comfortable life, and a system of governance that oversees the ethics and morality of these pursuits while ensuring we are all at least well fed, clothed, educated, housed, protected from predators, and kept healthy.

And a system of governance that ensures we don’t destroy the planet in our pursuit of the former, and don’t bankrupt the province and nation in pursuit of the latter.

It was disheartening to hear Doug Ford mouth a ridiculous Trump hyperbole: We will cut taxes and you will see the economy grow like “nobody has ever seen before.”

And equally disheartening to hear Andrea Horvath say they would do away with back to work legislation.

We’ve been here before. Cutting the taxes of the wealthy and well-to-do does not cause trickle down. It causes trickle up.

Without back to work legislation in place as a last resort our government becomes beholden to the tyranny of the collective.

Both of these ideas are driven by ideology rather than one hundred years of experience.

My unelectable ideal politician would be saying, “We need a mixed economy. We need rules and regulations that foster invention and entrepreneurship while providing all of our citizens a comfortable life and protecting them from corporate greed. To do this we need to keep many services within the public sector, paid well and monitored carefully, while creating an atmosphere in which the pursuit of wealth, of entrepreneurship, of excellence, and the greed of a few, can benefit all.

We continue to need a mixed economy with a complex set of rules and regulations. And we promise to tweek these as best we can based on experience and knowledge over the next five years, with a goal of bringing health and prosperity for all.”