Although the wound was very fresh, only the morning after the 2018 provincial election, I should really take a few days to let this all sink in and find a balanced opinion on the outcome, but I can't. The memory of what Mike Harris inflicted on the social service network back in 1995 is still very fresh in my mind, only because we are still trying to deal with the impact from it. When the Conservatives took power back then, they cut social supports to low-income people by 26 per cent and demand for our service increased accordingly. With that new "normal" and the additional increases from the economic crisis of 2009, we are in this position of having our highest output numbers of hampers ever, for the last two years.
When Doug Ford speaks about "efficiencies" to be found in government spending, this echoes the same strategy that Harris implemented all those years ago, and it is terrifying to those of us in emergency food relief. How can you cut funding from government programs without negatively affecting thousands of people in the process? You can't. And those who will be hurt the most are the same folks that were devastated before. Living in poverty with mental health issues, unaffordable housing, the unemployable and senior citizens will all be challenged by cruel government policies once again. This is a dark day for Ontario's poor, as they will be the first to feel the cuts, just like they were in the past. Cutting Ontario welfare and ODSP was one of former premier Mike Harris's first actions and it was swift and deep, and it would appear that with a majority government, Ford will do the same. Even with modifications to social services during the Liberal reign, nothing made up for the Conservative cuts, but at least there was an attempt to try to make improvements. There is no absolutely no evidence from this new government that reducing poverty is a priority or even on its radar.
I understand that the people of Ontario wanted change, but "throwing out the baby with the bathwater" is not a strategy or in any way a thoughtful solution. Change for its own sake is lazy and ill-informed and is going to be an extremely damaging exercise that will take us another 15 years to recover from. It is my great hope that this new NDP Kingston and the Islands representative will continue to support Partners in Mission Food Bank as we move forward through these very turbulent days ahead.
Partners in Mission Food Bank