Pot smoke clouds anti-poverty bat­tle

City hall con­ver­sa­tion to en­sure hu­man rights of ‘those fur­thest be­hind’

The Hamilton Spectator - - Comment - DEIRDRE PIKE

When I started hear­ing news sto­ries this week dis­cussing the first 100 days of On­tario’s new gov­ern­ment, I couldn’t be­lieve my ears. Surely they’d been in place for years now with all the an­nounce­ments of ab­ro­ga­tions, can­cel­la­tions and dis­con­tin­u­a­tions. I did some fact-check­ing.

Since June 7, that fate­ful elec­tion day, 130 in­cre­ments of 24 hours have passed, give or take, mostly take un­der this gov­ern­ment. (“Take my gov­ern­ment … please!” Thank you, Henny Young­man.)

How­ever, if you count from June 29, the day the 26th premier claimed he took an oath to “set the stage for a gov­ern­ment that will al­ways be ac­count­able to you, that will only an­swer to you,” (he sure wasn’t speak­ing to me or any­one I hang with) you end up at 100 long, dark­en­ing days as of Oct. 8. Fact checked.

“My friends,” (and by “friends” he means the 2.3 mil­lion who voted for him, not the 3.3 mil­lion who said, ‘no, please, no’) “a new day will dawn in On­tario, a day of pros­per­ity and op­por­tu­nity … not just for the priv­i­leged few but for ev­ery per­son in On­tario.”

That day seems eons away from this van­tage point.

There’s an­other count­down of 100 days that seems to be tak­ing for­ever for peo­ple in this province who rely on so­cial as­sis­tance. On July 31, the min­is­ter ir­re­spon­si­ble for Chil­dren, Com­mu­nity and So­cial Ser­vices pro­claimed “an ac­cel­er­ated 100-day dead­line to de­velop and an­nounce a sus­tain­able so­cial as­sis­tance pro­gram that fo­cuses on help­ing peo­ple lift them­selves out of poverty.” Lift them­selves out of poverty. DIY. Nice.

We al­ready know the small in­crease to so­cial as­sis­tance of three per cent will be cut in half. Nev­er­the­less, this cut was mag­i­cally mar­keted by Min­is­ter Lisa MacLeod as “an across-the-board 1.5 per cent in­crease in sup­port rates to help them with a higher cost of liv­ing.” Them. Nice. There’s half the prob­lem right there. In­stead of “us,” it’s “them.”

This is a gov­ern­ment which will in­creas­ingly fo­ment an “us ver­sus them” at­ti­tude in our province, which we must vow to love against.

An­other 100-day count­down started on July 9, that is 100 days un­til Oct. 17, the day pot will be le­gal­ized in Canada. You may re­call the orig­i­nal day planned for this mon­u­men­tal event was to be July 1, 2018. How­ever, with the fear of Canada Day be­com­ing Cannabis Day, Prime Min­is­ter Trudeau changed the date to Oc­to­ber 17. I am not in favour of this day one ounce.

No, I’m not com­ing out against le­gal­iz­ing pot, al­though I am afraid of the im­ple­men­ta­tion plan pro­posed un­der this provin­cial gov­ern­ment. What I am against is the prime min­is­ter’s choice of Oc­to­ber 17, the United Na­tions’ In­ter­na­tional Day for the Erad­i­ca­tion of Poverty, as the day to do this.

Was this in­ten­tional as a way of cre­at­ing a smoke­screen, lit­er­ally, to cover up the re­al­ity of poverty in our na­tion?

It was De­cem­ber 1992, when the United Na­tions first in­vited all mem­ber states to de­vote Oct. 17 to “pre­sent­ing and pro­mot­ing, as ap­pro­pri­ate in the na­tional con­text, con­crete ac­tiv­i­ties with re­gard to the erad­i­ca­tion of poverty and des­ti­tu­tion.”

I do not think le­gal­iz­ing pot is an ap­pro­pri­ate con­crete ac­tiv­ity with re­gard to poverty erad­i­ca­tion given our na­tional con­text with one in seven (4.9 mil­lion) peo­ple liv­ing in poverty. I sim­ply wish he’d picked an­other day.

The first time this day was marked was ac­tu­ally in 1987, when Joseph Wresin­ski, a French Catholic priest, later iden­ti­fied by the UN as one of the first voices to high­light the direct link be­tween hu­man rights and ex­treme poverty, un­veiled a plaque in the Hu­man Rights Court in front of the Eif­fel Tower with the fol­low­ing words: “Wher­ever men and women are con­demned to live in ex­treme poverty, hu­man rights are vi­o­lated. To come to­gether to en­sure that these rights be re­spected is our solemn duty.”

I’m wor­ried with all the tok­ing likely to be tak­ing place out front of City Hall on Oc­to­ber 17, our solemn duty to come to­gether to en­sure hu­man rights are re­spected when it comes to poverty, will be shirked. In­side the coun­cil cham­bers that even­ing will be a con­ver­sa­tion re­flect­ing this year’s theme from the UN, “Com­ing to­gether with those fur­thest be­hind to build an in­clu­sive world of univer­sal re­spect for hu­man rights and dig­nity.”

High or not, let’s come to­gether with those fur­thest be­hind.

Deirdre Pike is a free­lance colum­nist for The Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor. She will be at­tend­ing a “Con­ver­sa­tion on Poverty and In­equal­ity in Hamil­ton,” in coun­cil cham­bers of Hamil­ton City Hall on Oc­to­ber 17, 6-8 p.m. For more in­for­ma­tion you can fol­low her @deirdrepike or write dpikeatthes­pec@gmail.com

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.