Wednesday, May 4, 2022

How the Trucker Convoy turned My Patriotism and Belief in Freedom Upside Down

 Over the years, many people defined 'freedom' in many ways.  Janis Joplin once sang, "Freedom is just another word for nothin' left to lose".  Neil Young produced a solid album called "Freedom".  On that particular album was a song called 'Hanging by a Limb", which has been symbolic of my life in love to date.  Of course, I am looking for a change, having someone to walk beside me instead of behind me. As I age, I need somebody to grow alongside me, love me for who I am and meet my needs.  That is freedom for me. Then comes the 'free speech' crowd, the ones that believe in absolute free speech.  Maybe not crying 'fire' in the back of a crowded theatre, but pretty close.  But nothing destroyed my perception of the word 'freedom' more than the tirade shown by the members of so-called Freedom Convoy 2022.  This also turned me off our Canadian flag, which before this, was also a great source of pride. I used to *love* Canada Day, as this was my favourite time of the year.

Last winter, big rigs, pick up trucks and others drove from all over Canada to gather on the grounds of Ottawa, and in accordance to one of the groups leading this "convoy", they were not going to leave until every last vaccine mandate is lifted and/or the present (elected) government resigns.  In essence, this group had both exercised and abused the very same freedoms they were accusing our country of not having by doing this very thing.  If this same group were in Russia doing the very same thing, they would likely be spending a long time in a prison work camp in Siberia.  Those in Ukraine are currently fighting for their lives as a result of Russian's thoughts of "expansionism".  

But for me, these people HAVE their freedoms.  There is a certain degree of freedom to be able to drive a vehicle many miles to the capitol of Canada to join with others for weeks and weeks away from one's job, obviously because these people are not financially hurting.  To me, the crowd looked able-bodied and although not completely, but still mostly white.  Some journalist attempted to write about this being the angst of the working class.  Yet these people were not working class.  They were fundraising to the tunes of millions of dollars, including several hundred thousand in crypto-currency.  Being involved in crypto-currency requires money and the right kind of resources.

In the meantime, at the other side of the country, or this planet, given the apparent distance these people think from their fellow citizens, Canada is facing a housing crisis.  How come not a single word about that was said at Ottawa?  One could only assume this crazy business of house prices does not concern this "freedom seeking" crowd, or perhaps they seek the kind of freedom being houseless provides.  The housing crisis particularly crunches the lower income, the elderly, the disabled, as well as young people.  Disproportionately, members of these groups do not even get to enjoy the freedoms the members of the Truckers Convoy got to enjoy.  Many cannot drive due to medical problems, or they do not have the funds to access or modify a vehicle.  The extent of their "freedoms" is how far they can walk around their block, if they can walk at all.  The homeless never cared about the "convoy's" fight either.  They could not care less if they had to wear masks, take a vaccination, or otherwise.  They still remain homeless.

Others did not like the force by which this brigade was attempting to bring down the government.  Nobody denies one's freedom of expression, or even freedom to gather with like-minded individuals.  To some extent, I blame the media for their plight.  Why did we hear about nothing else other than this three or four week temper tantrum going on in Ottawa?  Other newsworthy events took place, but media coverage of convoy dominated. Protesters said they would go away only if Trudeau and other leaders would come out to talk to them.  I say not when there were thousands of flags bearing the PM's name in profane nomenclature.  There were rumours of plans to break inside the Parliament, kidnap somebody in an act of symbolism, as to who is taking their "freedoms" away.  The sad thing is too many governmental authorities lifted their mandates just like that, telling the world that for now on, we will just have to live with COVID.  Living with COVID means something very different between somebody who is young, strong and healthy, and for somebody else who may be immune compromised.  Those angry at the concerns of the immune compromised tell them they can "stay home".

I found this whole discourse to be banally ableist in the extreme.  Those who were free, who could drive big trucks, can travel all over for weeks at a time not having to punch a card for their employer, who were angry because they were not able to go to their local Burger King without a mask, vis a vis somebody who is immune compromised, or who lives with somebody who is, will now have to fear going out, as the public no longer deems it necessary to ensure those more vulnerable are protected.  There is no freedom for the weak, the poor, the elderly, the disabled. This is an about face.  At one time, we were all in this together, now it is every person for themselves.

In the meantime, some of these convoy people take up cities waving their upside down Canadian flags and their "don't tread on me" flags with their F*ck Trudeau flags.  They travel through the smaller cities.  They travel to various places across Ontario, in such large numbers as though to make an impression how much their views are the majority, when they mainly represent a privileged but very loud minority.  They do not sway me one bit.  If the City of Ottawa had enough balls to begin with, they could have prevented these people from making the streets of Ottawa their home for so long.  That they would prefer to have a leader from the far right to govern this country makes me sick as a Canadian.  These people are willingly to wipe out years of progress, put hate speech and crimes back into the community, permit slander against us minorities, etc.  

Pierre Poilievre is the one singularly supporting this convoy, now cris-crossing the country promising to NEVER implement any mandates whatsoever ever again.  Okay, say we get another strain of this coronavirus, or even something more serious and deadly, he will do just that - nothing.  Just let everybody die.  Are his supporters naïve?  Throughout the pandemic, I did not like him.  He did not stand up for MY freedom.  MY freedom to travel  MY freedom to earn a good living.  MY freedom to live with equal marriage.  Today, he would not even state his position on abortion.  Like most of those on the far right, "my body, my choice" means THEIR body, THEIR choice, but never about a woman's right to reproductive choice.  Maybe, it was a good thing this draft decision from the US Supreme Court slipped out, because many Canadians now have to make stark choices, now realizing our own politicians can take so much away from us all; all in the name of "freedom".

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Working From Home: Advocacy, Privilege and a Trend Gone Mad

 


On March 11, 2020, the world went mad with the World Health Organization making an announcement about a new global pandemic, which set everything adrift very quickly.  Businesses and organizations around the world began to panic and send everybody home and to cancel their in-person engagements, worried that world was going to soon shut down.  This was the kind of event that everybody can tell stories of what they were doing when the world shut down.  Events, courses, meetings and even court dates in my own life were cancelled, leaving me wondering for how long and how we would make a living after.

Soon thereafter, governments began this requirement that if you can, that everybody must work from home.  This led to a lot of issues in my part of the world, the people I meet and serve.  While there is little media coverage about this, many people quit their jobs as soon as they were directed to work at home.  They began to work in jobs they knew they could do, such as food delivery, Uber or even working in a grocery store.  Others were unemployed. The whole issue about working from home again, was never given great consideration by the powers that be, because the people making these orders usually made very high salaries and lived in comfortable homes.  Nobody asked any of these folks if:  (a) they had a computer and related access to technology; (b) whether they had high speed Internet; (c) whether they had a private place to work; and (d) whether they were able to work effectively at their residence.

As part of the "essential" class of occupations, this was less related to my profession, although we tried it, but after a week, I began to struggle with the technology, isolation and my inability to connect with clients remotely.  Many though not all members of my profession felt the same way, while others were forced to close down entirely.  I remember those early days, as the federal government did issue some help, although mostly in the form of loans to assist small business to bridge themselves through the pandemic.  Nobody paid me (or anybody else I know) the funds required to retrofit one's home and furnish a private home office.  I did set one up anyways and paid several thousands of dollars, because the room was not set up that way and it took us three weeks to throw out a lot of junk, left over by a hoarder that unfortunately lives here.

Fast forward to 2021 when people who had been working at their home offices for so long, were now being asked to return to their work offices.  Many surveys paid for by technology and software companies spoke to people, who obviously did not miss their commute and said they would quit their jobs if they had to return to their offices.  To me, that is a privileged response, as prior to the pandemic, they commuted just fine.  And they will again, as essential workers continued to commute throughout without an issue to keep WFH colleagues comfortable. Not a lot of people like to commute, but they did not want to dump it on their boss for making them do so, prior to being forced to work at home.  WFH (work from home) advocates state it is better for the environment if they did not go back to the office, although plenty of articles do state this not to be the case.  Just because you no longer commute to the office does not mean you do not commute to dozens of other places, both during the working day and after.  If this were indeed true, WFH folks would get rid of their vehicles and only accept delivery or rely on Uber to go to the fewer places they allegedly might go. The trend is actually opposite, where more people were actually buying cars, as opposed to less.

Further, there tends to be a strong socioeconomic bias in terms of favourable conditions for working from home.  If you earn a higher income, you naturally can afford more house.  Study after study confirms this bias.  In fact, some WFH advocates traded up for a larger home in the suburbs or even further from their jobs, in hopes they would never be called back to the office.  Many have whole sections of their homes now devoted to work from home, especially if more than one person in the household is doing so.  In the meantime, others who are not so well paid are working from their bedrooms, laundry rooms or their kitchen tables, using old and non-ergonomic furniture, secretly longing for the day they return to the office to rid themselves of this ridiculous isolation.

The media bias about this is horrible, as the voices from those that do not WFH well are almost drowned out by the highly paid remote IT workers that surround themselves with a large home office, an outdoor pool, an indoor gym, Pelaton, big screen TV and home cooked meals from Chef Plate or similar products.  The ones I work with do not have any of that, and are more likely to share their rental spot with others, making their concentration and productivity weak at best.  One of them lived in a place with three roommates, where they transformed the living room into a bedroom, where the one room was used for two of the roommates to work from home and study and the kitchen for the third worker.  In some of these cases, their employers have ditched the offices and decided to go remote permanently, which has left many of the latter people with no choice other than to quit and find other employment or go back to school.  I met these people and know this, even though the media will never share this with the public, because big tech wants to make it so.

WFH advocates want to talk about the Great Resignation where the employees are taking over the workplaces.  This is another movement gone mad.  In my view, if you are an employee, who has not invested in the company or taken any risks to get that company off the ground (and keep it there), what right do you have to dictate what works for your boss?  In some cases, remote may work, especially for a limited range of occupations where collaboration and task variation is not part of the work you are doing.  However, some of the very highly paid workers say they do not ever want to go to an office again, which is again, privileged horse fodder.  If you are being called back to the office, there is likely a reason:  remote work is not working for the company.  Face it.  Or they would have let this continue and support it financially.

The truth about the Great Resignation is that most of the people referring to this are those in lower paid hospitality, hotel and restaurant sectors, who have gone back to school or took other jobs that pay better.  Many are also women who are stuck at home and unable to return due to child care responsibilities.  The media makes it look like the people getting six figure salaries are all quitting their jobs because they have to commute to work, which is a bit stale, if you ask me.  I asked some of them to post the jobs that they are quitting so that others on the forum who are looking for work can take these jobs.  Most of the unemployed do not care if they had to commute. It is interesting how nobody did this, because in fact, six figure earners are not leaving in droves, although people in lesser paid positions might be exploring their options.

If you are a worker that now wants to work when you want, where you want, how you want and with whom you want (including your employer's competitors), then quit and hang out your own shingle.  Take on all the costs of starting your own establishment and if you are any good at what you do, eventually you need to hire employees.  Take on the full cost of your employees as well.  Only then, will those privileged at six figure salaries will begin to realize that all of this costs money and elbow grease to get started.  Work-life balance does not exist when you are self-employed, at least until you get to that point where others can take on at least the mundane stuff.  I know one of those people who recently quit a large company and went on her own and proudly told me she is clearing about $80,000 a year self-employed, but, but and but ... she has to set up an office (as her type of business cannot be done fully remote), which will set her back about about $24,000 of that, plus hire two assistants (so she is not working around the clock), which will take up another $70,000 of that ... and yes, she will have to work harder to bring in more business and make less money, but she will have the work-life balance she said she craves.  This is a reality:  it is called capitalism.

The WFH fully push their employers to close their offices, as who needs offices anyways, they say.  They say their employers can save a ton of money that way.  Let's take this one step at a time.  Office rent hardly constitutes a majority of a business' expenses.  Labour does.  Even the lowest paid labourer on their own probably costs your employer more money than their office space, especially for a smaller business.  For larger businesses, the real estate costs may be higher, but then again, there are also a significantly larger number of employees which construct a higher percentage of costs, all of whom cost the employer at least 40 - 60% of their total budget.  Many of these employers do constantly look for ways to save money, like any business does.  If your employer is a global company, they just have to look eastward to find businesses that specialize in contracting labour from cheap labour countries like India, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, etc., where many of their workers are similarly skilled and believe that a $10,000 a year salary is "rich".  Be careful what you ask for.  I have watched many people earning six figures get laid off because of a decision by their employer to move their labour offshore, even during this pandemic.

Another issue I noticed with office workers working at home is the amount of time it takes for somebody to email or phone me back when I try to contact them, even for something urgent.  Many times, people do not return their calls at all.  Many businesses do not even have somebody answering the telephone when you call.  At least when they do, that person answering the phone can ensure the person you are trying to reach gets the message.  However, lately when people do not even answer the phone, I stopped leaving messages.  I complain to their superiors instead.  If people are really working at home, then they should be just as responsive to outside callers as they were when they worked in the office.  If not, they should be asked to return to the office.

Further, a push to WFH even post-pandemic has serious consequences on the economy, especially in cities with a large percentage of office workers in the central district.  During the pandemic we saw so many signs "closed temporarily", "take out or delivery only", etc. and hardly a car on the roadways made the city centre very despondent and isolated.  Many jobs were lost, as well as businesses, where business owners ended up having to go on relief.  This is in turn has consequences for other businesses that may not have taken as large of a hit in the pandemic, whereby less workers, less businesses and people having less money, means less people able to buy from the "essential" businesses.  Many WFH friends I know were very disappointed when they learned a favourite pub closed for this reason; without the office traffic, many of these businesses do not survive.  

The impact on the city's tax base also takes a hit.  Less office space used or leased, less retail space (due to having to close, etc.), means less property being taxed at a higher commercial rate.  This can only mean two choices:  higher property taxes for residents, or service cuts, such as cuts for transit (which many essential workers rely upon), road maintenance and social services.  I noted a particularly larger number of visible homeless in my own downtown since the pandemic,  More are openly using drugs, disposing of their syringes and sleeping rough, than did in the past when office workers were around.  A property that becomes neglected attracts this type of activity.  Henceforth, we had several fires started that burned down properties that have been empty for some time.  

To me, it is only a matter of time until the WFH crowd and other homeowners become angry at substantial tax hikes that have to be made by their cities or towns they are in to keep operating a base line of municipal services.  To me, if their employers really want them to work at home, let them bear the full costs of each employee they have at home, from their set up, technology, security, internet service, as well as any difference in utilities and taxes.  I calculated the cost of what all of this would be for an average office business with a full remote policy, and they would likely be paying more to keep people at home than just to bring them into the office.  Software and technology companies that often sponsor these articles and surveys financially benefit from having more people possess licenses and use various types of software in their work, including theirs.

To me, it is following the money.  Since the pandemic started and towards the end of 2020, no less than $100 billion in profits were made by Amazon because people took deliveries from that company, as well as many grocery chains made a ton of money.  I was mindful and refused to use Amazon or any large technology company for my deliveries or work; where possible, I utilized local services where small businesses benefited.

If WFH advocates think that these small businesses will simply relocate to where they are, they are mistaken, as there is nowhere near the volume of business that they had downtown where the WFH folks are living.  They are disparate in their geographic locations and in residential neighbourhoods, the ones that were food deserts before will remain food deserts.  The ones that had a pub in their neighbourhood before will still have a pub (but if you noticed these areas, they are more densely populated and have a mix of commercial and residential, not just residential).  The 15 minute neighbourhoods many planners talk about will still not happen; in fact, they are less likely to happen, simply because even those who WFH now but used to take a bus to work are now driving everywhere.

In my city, many people do live downtown, but most do not have a lot of money to spend.  If the population that used to fill the downtown completely leaves permanently, most amenities, such as banks, pharmacies, boutiques, hairdressers, dry cleaners, etc. will likely move away from the downtown, as will most employers.  With a reduction in bus service, as many downtown dwellers do not drive, they will end up having to commute more daily to the suburbs to get simple needs met, as opposed to getting them met downtown like they used to.  This creates even a greater division than there was in place before, wider inequalities in income and opportunities, as well as even basic accessibility to services.

If you suggest the downtown dwellers to move, this is not the greatest suggestion, given that even rents have doubled or even tripled since the pandemic.  People who are used to six figure incomes have no clue as to how their choices, directly and indirectly impact on the rest of the community.  I am not saying they are doing anything bad, but the onus is on cities to ensure the correct mix of office, retail and commercial, as well as residential downtown and to ensure that commercial taxes are properly appropriated to those that should be paying, such as employers that enforce work from home.

Monday, September 6, 2021

RIDING ON THE FOURTH WAVE ... A TOTALLY PREVENTABLE TRANSMISSION

Now that many people have received their COVID-19 vaccines, we are continuing to see sabotage by parties that are eagerly and aggressively trying to keep the world in this pandemic.  I almost wonder if the pandemic did mysteriously end, what the next topic of their attention would be, or would they simply run  out of conspiracies to picket the rest of us about?  They claim to be against lockdowns and similar measures which they claim cause financial grief, among other things, especially for small business owners.  Yet, almost all of what they do contributes to the spread and disinformation about COVID-19, where others may be encouraged to take up similarly risky practices.  In turn, this contributes to more people getting ill, going to hospitals and locking up too many beds, up to a point where governments reluctantly have to impose yet another lockdown.

It seems that whenever any attempt is made to mitigate the spread of the virus, a growing minority of the public will attempt to sabotage all efforts on the part of public officials in the name of their "individual freedoms".  They claim the measures are all part of an unproven global conspiracy designed to enact a "communist" regime on everybody, where nobody will be allowed to own anything, be forced into poverty, etc.  When the vaccines came out, we began to notice on a global basis on how effective the vaccines were in preventing severe cases and deaths.

However, the group of naysayers want to claim that the vaccines were made of aborted fetuses and are neurotoxins which will kill.  They point to a website that shows a list of reported injuries as evidence that the vaccines are dangerous, which is not even evidence as these reports have not been proven to be caused by the vaccines.  One guy from one of the online groups claimed to be an "authority" on wrongful death issues when his bio even for the same website stated no degrees apart from documentary/film maker.  This website does not even have vaccine as its focus; most of the issues arise from other causes of "wrongful death".  It is quite dismaying that anybody with an Internet account can claim expertise in this area, despite the fact that it may be contributing to many deaths and illness.

Over the past year, over five million died around the world of this COVID-19, while tens of millions of others are suffering from long COVID-19, a disabling condition that nobody knows much about, but is associated with getting the condition and then, never quite recovering even though they may no longer be transmissible.  I see people losing their businesses, their employability as well as their quality of life, because of the continuation of this pandemic, and the utmost refusal a selfish minority of people that refuse to abide by reasonable public health guidelines.  Long COVID-19 is alleged to found among 10 to 30% of survivors.  They try to cope amidst crippling fatigue, headaches, weakness and other health conditions.  Some can continue to work, but many cannot.

So far, disability insurers are rejecting claims of long COVID-19, although at some point, they will have to accept them, as they did in the past for fibromyalgia, regional sympathetic dystrophy, myasthenia gravis, Lyme Disease, myeloencephalopathy syndrome, amongst other conditions and illnesses we researched over the years to assist our clients in qualifying for disability benefits.  We currently have a few that are suffering from long COVID-19 and have no more money to their name.  Unlike these protesters out there that seem to be drowning in funds to pay legal bills, full page ads, carpooling and various organization strategies to get to the current federal election campaign, particularly Trudeau..

Throughout the pandemic, I have become more disgusted by the level of antipathy and ableism that the anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers have been showing to the people with real disabilities.  This is not to say that there may be some people out there that cannot take a vaccine, or use a mask, but their numbers are certainly not as high as the anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers are exemplifying.  As a person with a disability, I sometimes would love to see these people have to live with a real disability that challenges them from their privileged perch in life, such as not being able to drive, not being able to work, or not being able to function in a day to day way, or requiring care from other people. 

Virtually all of them at these protests are walking fine, talking fine, often carrying signs or other props to register their anger, as well as being able to shout in concert with the other sheep they hang around with, citing the same disinformation that any other of their ilk would cite to anybody that asks.  They claim to have an independent mind, but none that question the veracity of their own experts, most of whom have no credentials to say what they have said, or the wrong ones.  These people are usually quite privileged, as many of them have funds to pay for full page ads, legal fees, videos, full colour flyers, filled to the brim with their lies and outrage.  If they were worried about where their next meal is coming from, I am almost certain they would be protesting about that, but they are not.

In exploring the origins of their claims, the Centre for Countering Digital Hate found that over 65% of the fake information about the vaccines, COVID-19, etc, have come from the Disinformation Dozen.  These individuals are named, identified and all of them, except for perhaps Robert F. Kennedy, have their hands into the alt-right.  Members of the alt-right only care about rights as they pertain to themselves only.  They do not care about the rights of others, or the rights of one's community to be free of certain menaces.  Most want unabated free speech, where even yelling Fire! at the back of a movie theatre would be acceptable.  They want the right to express their hateful feelings for members of excluded groups or racial minorities.  They want the right to teach or publish these thoughts onto others, so that others will adopt their cruel ways of thinking. In many ways they already are and we are seeing the harm that this is causing.

These ideas of freedom are shared by the alt-right, the same people who do not want to pay any taxes or follow any laws set down by any government that are only in place for safety reasons.  Many of them are gun nuts, flagrantly racist, anti-immigration and against any kind of social safety net the state may offer or provide to those less fortunate than themselves. Many of us watched them live on television when they tried to stage a coup at the White House on January 6. When one asks them if they wear seat belts when they drive, many say they do, but are unable to explain why.  The actions of these people in different parts of the democratic world have brought back the likes of polio, whooping cough, measles and to some extent, tuberculosis.  These diseases will in turn become endemic and usually become a killer only for those who are very poor or very vulnerable.  The same groups of people the alt-right hates, and desires the world to be rid of.

These people claim our Charter of Rights and Freedoms disallows these kinds of infringements.  This has not yet been proven, but attempts to take it to various courts so far has proven to be wanting in specifics.  The Charter of Rights and Freedoms also has a s. 1 whereby any act or omission on the part of government that can be deemed as unconstitutional can be deemed justifiable in a free and democratic society, or what some might refer to as the "public interest".  The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is not about ".me, me, me", as these folks seem to believe.  It is about balancing the interests of individuals against that of the public interest, which is very much at stake here when people are dying, hospitals are getting crowded, people are getting long COVID, etc.  

Many claim religion is a protected right.  It is, but the right to gather in person when there is a global pandemic amidst public health orders is not necessarily a protected right.  The Justices in this decision did say 'this assertion is greatly overstated', as there are many ways a religious organization can deliver services to its parishioners, citing examples such as online services, drive-in services, private prayer, and so on.  Travel restrictions imposed on travelers returning to Canada before the widespread availability of vaccinations were also found to meet the "justifiable limits" clause. When I posted this to a discussion group, many responded to say this would be overturned on appeal.  This is highly doubtful at this point, as courts really do not want to be in the business of restricting people's rights.  Our common law situation seems to trend to least restrictive settings.  I agree there are more cases out there being tested and as they move up the ladder to the Supreme Court, I am confident our laws would be upheld for many reasons.

To me, the people who are challenging these laws are people with a lot of money behind them, as they obviously are not committed to changing many of the laws that are unfairly and permanently impairing the rights of others, such as poor folks, people with real disabilities, racialized people.  Many of these fights for narrow interests are usually taken up by such right wing litigation groups like the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms.  One of my friends approached that group recently to see if they would take up the cause of equal marriage for people with disabilities, but of course, this does not fall within their mandate.  We have rights to refuse a vaccine, but we do not have positive rights to enjoy the same fruits of our labour that other people do, or to engage in the same and equal marriages that other parties have without losing most or all of one's benefits.  We can die with our rights on, is what they are saying, because we do not have the financial backing that the alt-right has.

Actions have been taken by anti-maskers to harass businesses and local governments.  The mistake they put in the provincial law called the Reopening Ontario Act implied businesses were supposed to serve any person who walks in their door without a mask who claims to be exempt.  We are not allowed to ask for proof, or what makes them exempt.  Totally open to abuse.  Those I know claiming that exemption walk, talk, breathe and act fine and healthy.  In fact, I do know a couple of people who could claim exemptions that put on a mask anyways, because they are afraid not to.  The anti-maskers ruined it for them.  If they want to further their case to a human rights tribunal, they would likely lose, if they have no documented reason for exemption.  If claiming a breach of human rights, one needs to prove there is a disability or a legitimate creed (that opposes masks, for example).  Sadly, some have abused this "right to not disclose" to almost extort some businesses.

I am absolutely dismayed that these fringe elements have the right to do this, knowing that what they are doing is destroying some of our social fabric that keeps Canada together.  They are also potentially forcing us into another lockdown.  Governments are trying to avoid another lockdown by setting up vaccine passports of like, so that if people seek to attend non-essential businesses like restaurants, night clubs, bars, gyms and the like, they would have to show a QR code or something to prove they have been fully vaccinated.  Instead of showing their support of something like this, the anti-vax crowd went bananas, because they want absolutely no public health restrictions at all and to let many people die, not caring who becomes collateral damage from their rage.  They are two year old children taking a fit because once again, they are not getting their way.  To many of us, if they want lockdowns, let them enjoy the effect of lockdowns without dragging the rest of us with them.

Of course, Ontario is not making their plans effective until after the federal election.  The federal election will be reviewed in a companion piece later.  I have become less of a participant in elections lately, as it seems this is so scripted and how the so-called democracy we have has been decimated.


Monday, April 26, 2021

FOLKS, GET READY FOR A LONG RIDE OUT OF THIS PANDEMIC!

Like most of you, I am tired of the lockdowns, the restrictions, the ridiculous rules and conflicting advice given to us by government and public health authorities.  The most recent directive to send us all home again on April 8, 2021, similar to how they did on January 12, 2021, has only created an explosion of all the anti-maskers and wannabe stars on social media telling the general public to go about their usual business, not wear a mask, go visit friends and family and attend their stupid protests, and then they point the fingers elsewhere when our numbers keep going up (and ICUs being filled).  I am tired of hearing how more and more vulnerable people are catching this virus, simply because there is a small but vocal contingent of our population that want us all to deny this is really happening.

These people that organize the protests are not disadvantaged people, or even people who have lost their businesses.  Most, if not all, have and always had the resources to promote, publicize and organize around their dangerous and delusional ideas.  They can afford full-page ads in newspapers, fully choreographed "documentaries" that supposedly prove their claims, have money to travel between provinces or even across the border and yes, most of them have the cash to pay legal counsel to defend them if they get caught.  These people are *not* suffering at all, yet they do not care if you are suffering.  When asked about what to do about those who are vulnerable, some of their leaders basically said "let 'em die".  I hear false claims from them that it is just the very frail elderly that are dying of this virus, despite recent reports of people as young as thirteen getting ill.  More and more of them are middle-aged, much like the demographics of the people that have gone to these "protests".

First, these protests are not about anybody's "freedoms". Nothing has been done by our governmental authorities to snatch any our freedoms away or to dispense with our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  These are in fact the very same people that claim that because they cannot go down the street marching against having Muslims (or certain other people) in our community, or to write conspiratorial articles promoting hateful things about vulnerable minorities, that their "freedom" of speech is somehow compromised.  These are also the very same people that believe people with disabilities with high care needs have less rights to live than people like themselves, if a choice ever came down to it.  Many of the people I watched marching in my own community were the same people protesting at our MPs offices telling Syrian refugees to "go home".  When asked why they think that, they actually believe that Muslims will come into our country, outnumber us and force us all to accept sharia law.  Yet these same people are often members of Christian right organizations, whose ideas of a similar theocracy are so salivating to them that their freedoms again are the only ones that are important.  I do not find any difference between a radical Muslim or a radical Christian, as they both promote and push fascism, rejecting (or killing) out groups and promoting in groups.

If one cares to notice, the only churches that are opening against the laws of the pandemic are those specific Christian denominations that typically operate in a cult-like manner, convinced that being able to have a freedom of conscience and to practice their religion means they need to congregate in groups of 3000 inside a building (without masks), when in fact millions of Canadians of less extreme faiths are praying everyday from their homes, watching services on Zoom and reading their books of faith, as well as having online prayer meetings with other members of their community.  Because we are not permitted to crowd into buildings to offer prayers, or attend sporting events, or have large parties, or have happy hours or whatever one's taste may be, means nothing has literally been taken from us.  Nor does this discriminate on anybody's religion. This is a temporary measure and if only people would listen and be patient and stop holding super spreader events, we may be able to get back to all of these activities someday.

Another path to 'normalcy' is the vaccine.  I am pleased to see a high demand for the vaccine in the community and expressed frustrations by many who have tried to sign up for a vaccine online but have failed to secure an appointment.  Further, as soon as the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine lowered its age limit to forty years of age, more people were signing up to clinics to get their vaccines.  Last Friday, my husband and I got our AstraZeneca jab, which resulted in 36 hours of fever and flu like symptoms which readily subsided with rest and Tylenol.  What is important to me is this shows that the vaccine is doing its job.  Almost all of those marching in protest are not only anti-mask, anti-lockdown, but anti-vaccine as well.  A large number of them would not even vaccinate their children against serious childhood diseases, something I believe should be part of something that child welfare experts should be cognizant of, particularly if outbreaks begin to happen.   

Members of this cult call themselves independent thinkers, even though I have yet to hear a single independent thought from any of them.  They say they do not get their news from the mainstream media, but obviously the only other place they would get it is the social media, which is rife with falsehoods and disinformation.  If you do not believe me, ask for their sources, and every single one of them has the same sources on offer.  These "sources", if at all medically trained, are often disgraced from their profession for some reason, or are being investigated.  Others are not real doctors, or they are people on Youtube ascribing themselves with whatever credentials they want people to believe they have.  How does anybody know that the person on Youtube is really that person and that this person indeed has those credentials?  Fakery has been detected way too many times, which is why I completely bypass social media for any of my hard information.  Anybody can start a Youtube channel and say whatever they wish, but this does not make that statement any more true than if I stood on a downtown street with a bullhorn and shouted out particular opinions of my own.  

A good read of their sources, as well as the platform upon which they are published, is a good way to tell whether they have any credibility whatsoever.  Certain platforms are used by the alt-right, where they seem to want to allow any and all expression whatsoever, except of course, when that expression is anything that disagrees with their delusional beliefs and disinformation. I simply stay out of those platforms, where they can all stay as far as I am concerned and become each other's echo chamber. Occasionally, there are people on these forums that become missing and I am aware of some of them, as they actually end up in hospital and die of COVID-19, even though they refuse to talk about it.  Many of them do not believe there is COVID-19, or that people can die of it, so they deny this reality even among their own number.  Many protests have been ascribed as super spreader events, particularly where a particular area is crowded out and people listen to speakers.  With not a mask to be found on any of these people, I am sure within a week or so, some of them will fall ill, maybe a couple might die.  When asked about this reality, they say they do not care if they end up dying of COVID or anything else.  What they fail to understand is that while they might not care if they themselves get sick, but what about the number of people they are making sick?

Second, none of these protesters care about the rights of the real victims of the pandemic.  That is people with disabilities, older people, poor people, ethnic minorities (we already know that!), amongst others.  These people feel invincible.  This reminds me of people in my younger days that used to drink themselves under the table and then try to drive home after, because nothing was going to happen to them ... until it did.  I know many young and middle-aged people who contracted COVID-19, among which a few died.  Roughly half of those that survived remain disabled in some way.  Two are currently seeking disability benefits because they can no longer work.  One of these people used to think exactly like the "freedom marchers" of today, who once believed it would not happen to him, until it did.  Most days, he could not get out bed.  He is always short of breath.  Driving anywhere takes too much energy for him.  Those that go to these protests and so-called freedom walks would know this man, although I cannot say who it is.  They would not care anyways.

Third, these anti-maskers belittle people with disabilities.  Like, when did they even start or begin to care about the interests of people with disabilities?  Suddenly we have a large group of people that cannot wear a mask because of a disability?  Yeah, sure.  They are making light of people with real disabilities that are unlikely to even get out of their homes because of the impact of these real disabilities.  I had a couple of people phone our office to ask for representation against a business for refusal of service due to the fact they were not wearing a mask.  It is interesting how they disappeared after I spoke to them about what a case like this would involve, such as having a medically documented disability (that they know they do not have and cannot prove).  There are stories about how some of these anti-maskers are extorting small businesses, which they claim to be fighting for in the midst of this pandemic.

I would really like to see prior proof of this kind of vigorous advocacy by these same people for people with disabilities; for example, to have a livable income, equal access to decently paid employment and affordable housing.  Where were they when these fights were abound?  I do not remember a single one of them at any of these meetings, rallies or media events, when such issues were being explained.  Over the last thirty years of my life, directing many of these organizations (of which none of them were members), attending meetings with government officials, holding public rallies and so forth, not a single one of them were there.  At the beginning of the pandemic, in fact most would not give a toss about people with disabilities by saying they "already" had enough to live on, while each of them, even in a couple, were able to easily get $2,000 a month each to survive for several months while many of their jobs were temporarily lost.  If that is not privilege, I don't know what is.  Their nerve to suddenly claim they have a disability now that prevents them from wearing a mask is just ridiculous if not pathetic.  There are very few people who legitimately cannot wear a mask, so this is why I find it almost impossible to believe anybody that approaches me with such a claim (especially if they drove to where they met me, or seem to walk and talk okay). Among the ones I do know, one can visibly tell they are disabled (e.g. on oxygen, CP, etc.).

Fourth, I want out of this pandemic.  I want to see an end to these lockdowns.  However, just opening everything up and damned the torpedoes, is just going to overload our ICUs and cause many more unnecessary deaths.  It is just unfortunate that some people are too selfish to recognize the limitations of their own bubbles they live in.  I am indeed critical of some parts of the lockdown we are in, as some things are locked down that should not be, while other things remain open that should not be.  It appears that when these lockdowns were ordered, none of the justification for the same came from the Science Table that Ford's government was supposed to listen to.  Instead, he would just try to give police powers they did not even want to stop people and ask them why they were not staying at home, as well as shutting down playgrounds and other outdoor facilities.  When the blowback came hard, Ford disappeared and cried the crocodile tears to the public that he did not mean it that way ... of course, I do not feel sorry for Ford.  He should have done his job right in the first place, to prevent this third wave, as well as not neglected people in long-term care and other congregate settings, as well as people living on very limited disability allowances.  If he had to listen to the number of such people I hear from regularly, who want to seek MAiD (medical assistance in dying), he would have a good reason to cry real tears.  

Instead, he needs to be taken out of this leadership position and have another Cabinet member take over immediately, possibly Christine Elliott.  Politics needs to be taken right out of the pandemic recovery.  Let's do as the Science Table says, and then after that, let the politicians provide the supports to those that need them, such as businesses that were forced to close, individuals losing money because of price gouging that is openly going on during the pandemic for PPE, groceries, transportation, etc.  We also need to get the vaccines into as many arms as possible.  I do believe that once enough people get vaccinated, we will begin to see the lowering of numbers and less people dying, which should be the goal for everybody and our ultimate goal as well, which is to end the lockdowns.

Your thoughts?


Sunday, January 31, 2021

The ERA of Fake News, Clickbait and Hyper-Partisanism

Since the present pandemic began, or even a bit preceding this, the idea of Fake News became popular.  This was popular among interests that wanted to get their readers to believe certain lies in the community.  The anti-vaxxers tell unwitting parents that the normal childhood array of vaccines cause autism and indirectly, try to discourage their parents from vaccinating their kids.  The anti-maskers try to lie about the efficacy of mask wearing and how somehow, being required to do so in the midst of a global pandemic, is an infringement of our Charter rights.  The travel requirements posed by our federal government to limit the spread of the variant COVID-19 virus are now aligned with sending people to the gulag.  The reason they had to step up on this was because local resources set out to enforce in-home quarantines were not successful, with roughly half of these cases breaking the quarantine.

Those leading the fight to defeat these restrictions only care about the rights to infect others, to go wherever and whenever one pleases during a pandemic and to life all restrictions at a time, when some restrictions may be necessary.  Every country around the world was affected by the pandemic and they all imposed restrictions, except for some time under Donald Trump who just believed at first that the virus was a hoax, or was like the flu and it would just "go away", as deaths began to mount in that country.  The US did, in fact, become number 1, after all in this pandemic: the most cases, the most deaths, the highest transmission rate.  This was because Trump did not set any public health standards and state initiatives were mixed and as a result of inter-state travel, many of these were not as effective as they could be.  

I consider some of these so-called constitutional rights groups that fight for our so-called rights do not consider democracy and the interests of the community as a whole.  To these people, it is perfectly fine to be forced to live under a bridge because you cannot find a job or are too sick to work in one, and be unable to afford to live somewhere, but their rights are on ... they do not have to wear a mask, at least.  And they can attend their wacky religious cult at its building despite very clear public health orders about indoor gatherings. One of these same groups recently took up the cause of trying to diminish the universality of our Canada Health Act and provincial health services (in BC) by fighting on behalf of a BC doctor and two private clinics.  It did not matter to the proponents of that suit that if they won, that health care in Canada would become further balkanized and people with fewer resources would be de facto denied health care due to being unable to pay or afford to carry the right insurance.  Groups like this also go to places like the US and tell them lies about our health care system.  While it is far from perfect, people do get the help they need and emergencies are dealt with promptly.  Unfortunately, that has not been the message given to people in the US, many of whom see Canada's health care as "socialist" - again, a term they do not know the meaning of, or what exactly they are accepting.

Then came Trump.  I would love to know how he dazzled millions of Americans, including those living in a abject poverty.  How they actually believed that Trump would act in their interests, nobody knows. Under the US' former administration, a health care marketplace was put into place, which was a small beginning, but certainly not the completion of Obama's final plans to make health insurance accessible and affordable to everybody.  Under this plan, more Americans received some type of health coverage than they did before this was put into place.  Along came Trump. He then tried to tear down Obamacare under the guise that this was "socialist" and fascist for requiring people to sign up.  Many people would sign up and have the same coverage under Medicaid if finances were an issue.  Insurance companies were no longer allowed to discriminate on the basis of pre-existing condition.  Trump took this away under the guise that nobody should have to sign up, that this was somehow an infringement of people's rights to sign up for health care.

Trump would carry on promising everybody that he would create "great health care" that would be good for all Americans, yet there was not a single step done in that direction.  He lied to everybody, yet his supporters believed him, as many of them lost coverage they might have had under Obamacare.  He campaigned against Hillary Clinton when she ran for the presidency as his opponent, citing some ambiguous scandals or crimes she allegedly committed.  He would hold rallies where his supporters would yell "Hillary for prison 2016".  If there was such evidence, would you not think that she would be charged with some type of crime and tried for it?  Even Martha Stewart and Conrad Black were tried and convicted for offences that were less than that alleged for Clinton.  Of course, when nothing like this is pursued, this is obviously hyperbole.

Then combine this with the social media.  The social media is the worst place to obtain accurate information about anything, even political or community events.  Everybody has an opinion, but nobody has the facts.  The concept of privilege becomes more visible online, as people feel more free to attack minorities, low income people, refugees, among others.  They are safely ensconced behind their computer screens, not paying attention to the impact of their words, nor do they care.  Again, there is a reckless regard for the truth, as well as an unwillingness on the part of the dominant participant to see beyond their own privilege.  In speaking about minorities, etc., those posting or commenting know a "friend of a friend".  This is not factual, nor is this statistical, even if the story about the "friend of a friend" has some truth in it.  However, repeating the story about the "friend of a friend" on social media leads to others with equally privileged lens helps to spread lies and stereotypes about "the other".  This creates one type of "othering" on the Internet.

Another type of "othering" is the social acceptance of division.  On PBS, I watched an episode before the US election, where neighbours in a duplex were supporting different Presidential candidates.  On supported Biden; the other supported Trump.  The Trump supporters only watched Fox News, were suspicious of new ethnic communities joining their neighbourhood and were against entitlement programs, never mind the fact one of them was receiving some type of state disability after being off work for almost a year.  The Biden supporters watched CNN, were not concerned about new people in the neighbourhood and felt that during the pandemic, more support should be given to individuals who had lost their employment.  Even the whole concept of wearing a mask became a political issue, with Biden supporters wearing one, Trump supporters not.  

Online, Trump supporters often used hyperbole to describe their opponents.  Instead of addressing the specific comments their opponents made, they would refer to their opponents as "liberals", "communists", "socialists", etc., of course, not even knowing what the real meaning of these words are.  To me, this is a poor admission that they had lost the argument, although they would never see themselves as losing the argument.  These arguments are usually baseless and not based on firm information; if links or "evidence" is involved, fake news outlets often get cited, or references to somebody's blog or a recent news story is used.  When complicated arguments about the pandemic and what should be done about it are produced, rarely do we see peer reviewed research to back either side of the argument.  If somebody does produce peer reviewed research, they are told it is biased because some organization for "vaccine choice" does not agree with it.  I do not know what this does to further anybody's knowledge of the subject matter.

There are even more "news stories" published on social media from fake news sources than anywhere else.  Just google whatever you want and you will find fake news on at least some of the sources that come up.  I personally do not find it productive to follow a leader like Trump, Scheer, O'Toole or anybody, for that matter, if I do not know or care about their policies.  Policy is what I follow, not politics or partisanship.  Unfortunately, Trump has seemed to attract a number of adherents to cult-like thinking and for some, dangerous conspiracy theories.  I heard them before.  The Second Coming of Christ.  Okay, if the end is near, why are you telling everybody?  Why are you still working?  Why do you even bother to shop for groceries or clothing or whatever?  Why do you even bother to try to convince others of your beliefs?  If this was true, you would just wait to get raptured, because, obviously, this is what you think is going to happen.  You don't need to dress up for it, feed yourself before the rapture or earn money, because the Lord is supposed to take care of all of that ... so just go. Trying to spend all your time on the Internet convincing others the end is near, particularly those that are critical thinkers, is a waste of time.

Other conspiracy types tend to unknowingly side with the "alt-right".  Free-dumb is mistakenly taken for "freedom".  The alt-right have come up with all sorts of terms to describe the "other".  One I get a particular kick out of is "antifa".  I never met anybody who considers themselves part of "antifa", nor is there any such organization.  When you ask one of the alt-right people where one can find the nearest "chapter" of "antifa", and who its president, secretary, treasurer and so on, are, they are baffled.  They have no idea what you are talking about, but then again, you are not the one who is making up words that do not make sense.  Yes, over the summer there was a blast of protests by a movement called "Black Lives Matter".  This was not a violent movement.  In discussing this online, one guy said that Black Lives Matter burned down cities, and when you asked them to name one city they burned down, they cannot do so.  There is always some people that join certain protests to cause trouble, who are actually not even part of the protest.  

During the G20 in 2010, a group of people known as the Black Bloc, were solely responsible for a considerable amount of damage to police cars, buildings, etc., while the main protesters tried to steer away from them.  I do not know if somebody like the Black Bloc came into the couple of protests that did arise in problems with the Black Lives Matter but, violence and destruction in that movement was minimal when you consider this movement erupted all over the world, in many major cities and included people of all races, genders and ages.  Nevertheless, at many of the US protests for these groups, police officers bearing riot gear were ready for them and in some communities, white vans drove by, stopped and picked up some of them to take them somewhere (and in watching the videos, one cannot tell what they did to deserve this.

Nevertheless, when former President Donald Trump and his brethren decided to bring his supporters to the Capitol and encourage them to be strong and take back the election that he kept claiming was "stolen from them", ten to fifteen thousand of them proceeded to the Capitol to carry out acts of destruction, violence and even citing angry words like "Hang Mike Pence".  Some of them had intent to potentially kidnap some of the legislators and push them out.  They were trying to prevent the inevitable from happening, which was the certification of the election results in favour of Joe Biden.  At least five people died that day and several days later, one of the Capitol Police Officers committed suicide.  Unfortunately, members of the alt-right had nothing to say about the destruction, violence and civil disobedience this day brought.  A few tried to blame it on "antifa", whoever they are.

As times goes on, we are realizing this intrusion was planned ahead of time.  Somebody let these people in to the Capitol buildings and directed them down the rabbit warren of offices so they knew where particular people worked, such as Nancy Pelosi (Speaker of the House), Chuck Schumer (now Majority Leader of the Senate) and Mike Pence (former Vice-President).  There were only four hundred police officers on duty for the Capitol that day, while that force is two thousand five hundred strong.  Other police forces were called in for backup, but it took several hours for them to arrive.  It was as if this was planned and orchestrated to maximize the amount of damage this crowd can do.  Among this crowd were members of the Proud Boys, Soldiers of Odin, local militias and Q Anon.  People were witnessed wearing t-shirts showing the words "Six Million was Not Enough" and "Camp Auschwitz".  All of them were white, mostly male although some females were involved as well.

For months, Trump and his gang spread the lie that he actually won the election and the somehow, there was massive fraud in the election process.  There were no less than sixty-two lawsuits filed and presented at various levels of court, including the Trump friendly Supreme Court of the US.  None of them would hear the case because the lawyers, interested in maintaining their law licenses, admitted they did not have any evidence of "massive fraud".  After this, Trump began to contact and effectively threaten state election officials, many of whom were Republican.  They refused to budge, citing that the election process was fair and secure.  He fired his top officials who also told him the same thing.  One such election official, from Georgia, recorded a telephone call made by Trump in an attempt to get him to change the votes.  If this was not clear tampering with an election, what would be?

Some people from Q Anon, a major conspiracy theory group, actually believed that Trump would come back, arrest Biden and then take power again and when this did not happen, they were upset.  I swear that if Trump offered cyanide laden Kool Aid to his followers, most would have happily taken it.  From the minute Trump was running for election, I saw through him and warned others about him.  I was called all sorts of names, which I will not repeat here.  Many of my fellow Canadians are unfortunately stuck in the Trump swamp as well.  Over the years, I lost a few good friends of mine who were once progressive, believed in universal health care and better support for people living on the street, living in poverty and so forth, who got swept up with the Trump virus.  I have nothing to say to them anymore.  I do not want a similar leader here in Canada.

These same people write posts about Trudeau committing treason and admitting known "terrorists" into Canada and so forth.  I ask if they would prefer the CONS that would simply strip us all of universal health care, have to pay out of pocket, remove all safety nets including worker's comp, ODSP and CPP, and none of them seem to care.  They either believe it would not happen to them, or these Conservative leaders were much like the ones heading from Mulroney and backwards who kept social programs as a sacred trust.  These "new" Conservatives are nothing like the older ones.  The "new" ones are usually millionaires, having been born that way and have no idea what it is like to have to pay rent, pay bills or to actually look for a job.  Many have not held any real jobs.  

Justin Trudeau could have been like that (as he was a trust fund baby too), but he chose to work: he taught school, which is a licensed profession.  This is more than what can be said for the majority of our Conservative leaders.  I do not see how any of them would have any understanding or knowledge whatsoever how their policies impact or do not impact on the rest of us.  Under Harper, I tracked how much more money ordinary people around me kept in their pockets as a result of his policies.  After reviewing their tax returns (as a group) and their weekly pay stubs, most actually paid MORE in taxes than prior to Harper's government.  I knew a few that did pay less in taxes, but they earned well over $120,000 a year.  The reason people paid more is because the wealthier set paid less.  Even Doug Ford was trounced upon by Moody's and Dominion Bond Rating Services for not bringing in enough revenue (because he chose to blow billions of dollars at the outset to cut taxes for his wealthy clique).

Yet, many people continue to rant on about how they have proof the end times is near.  They refer to the "Great Re-Set" and Agenda 21, which I read and shows absolutely nothing about what they are saying.  Maybe this pandemic might be an opportunity for some government leaders to re-think how they manage the economy, but I really do not think this is going to happen.  Throughout the pandemic, only outfits like Amazon, WalMart and other big companies made big bucks, while small businesses closed or lost money.  Small businesses need the help, not big oil and gas, or Amazon or anybody else.  The larger companies have access to credit, hold assets that can be leveraged and so forth, while most small businesses do not have that advantage.  Yet it is small business that does the most hiring.  Exactly what does any government, or even supporters of the conservative agenda (which is to subsidize Big Oil and Gas, tax breaks for the wealthy) think is going to happen when 50% of small businesses collapse?

I do not consider myself a left or right political analyst.  I write about what I observe.  I fully support the free market.  Unfortunately, what we had was not the free market, but an oligopoly.  We are becoming more and more like the US, where social class is starting to look like a caste system.  Even my friends that make over $120,000 a year under paid less taxes under Harper have recently expressed concerns about this themselves.  Others I know are willing to pay a little bit more taxes if it meant that we still had a strong health care system, a solid social safety net and help for the homeless.  In the midst of this pandemic, people are losing their homes, their families and their infrastructure.  What we need is a proper discussion as to how to get from here to clear and leave the conspiracy theories and fake news behind.

Your thoughts? 





Wednesday, April 8, 2020

OPEN LETTER TO DOUG FORD: COVID-19 AND SOCIAL ASSISTANCE

You are disappointing me.

You are disappointing a whole lot of other people in Ontario.  Not only disappointing, but you are also endangering even more people in Ontario through your actions or rather, lack of actions taken to protect people who are homeless, on OW, ODSP or very low income, from the virus.  In effect, this also hurts others who have to be outdoors.  This is exactly how community spread started, Mr. Ford, because many people have no choice but to be out in the community.

Your message to everybody is to stay home if they canWork from home, if they can.  Only go out for absolutely essential trips.  Registered.  Yet, you are talking out of both sides of your mouth, Premier Ford.

On one hand, the well heeled can go home, use their nicely decorated spare rooms to operate their computer and take phone calls redirected from their workplace and thus, protect themselves and in effect, others from this COVID-19 virus.  We see it on TV.  We talk about this online.  This is not real, Premier Ford.

None of these people obviously live with hoarders, where there is no room to spare.  Program funding to assist such persons was cut under your government.  Nobody can work or even live at home under these conditions.  None of the people you are addressing are holed up in a rooming house with addicts, crack dealers and vermin of all kinds.  Kind of difficult to get anything done at "home" in one of those places.  None of these people we are seeing live in homeless shelters.  Tell them to self-isolate all you want, but they don't have the space.

None of these people who you think can "work from home" live in over-crowded conditions either where they have to spend their meagre social assistance cheques to live with three or four other people in the same position, or who couch surf at the home of a friend.  It must be nice, Mr. Ford, to have a room of your own - to work from home.

People on OW and ODSP never received enough to live on.  Many of them are barely alive, suffering from all sorts of malnourishment and fatigue, despite just a few months ago, you contemplated getting more of them to go straight to work.  Straight to jobs that do not exist.  Especially now, that COVID-19 struck the community.  Many or most of these people are immune compromised, not only because of any disability but because they have not eaten well in yearsFood bank food does not enhance people's health.

The federal government has announced a number of measures to assist people who suddenly lost their jobs, are losing revenues from their businesses and so forth, as well as workers who lost a significant portion of their income.  These programs have been developed quickly and put into people's accounts; when gaps were found, the feds stepped in to try to remedy them quickly.  The feds did not disqualify anybody from benefiting from their programs if they relied on provincial programs, such as OW or ODSP.  They opened the door to federal and provincial cooperation; the province of BC responded by increasing their version of OW and ODSP by a few hundred dollars a month and by exempting federal support.  They are also assisting with rent payments, among other supports.

When it came down to you announcing how Ontario was going to respond to the challenges of COVID-19, you failed to take this opportunity to improve the lives of many people whose very lives have been made significantly more difficult under this pandemic.  Your only answer to these people is to stay at home and give hundreds of millions of dollars to charities that really don't do much to improve the lot of these people anyways.  You are telling people to stay home, while at the same time telling these same people, immune-compromised people, to go line up outside of food banks to get three days worth of six month old, mouldy food.  Would it not be better to put more money in the pockets of these people so they can buy their own groceries and get them delivered?  Was this not one of your election promises?

There are also a minority of people on OW or ODSP that may qualify for the federal supports.  This is less than 75,000 people.  To qualify for Canada Emergency Response Benefit (or CERB), all somebody needs to show is they earned at least $5,000 last year or within the prior 12 months and are currently out of work or not receiving self-employment income.  This is currently under review as some people had their hours severely cut, but they are not out of work entirely.

ODSP's response is to tell those that ask that this is EI and they will deduct this dollar for dollar from their ODSP supports.  This is very harmful, especially when a spouse or other family member is the one that has been working and supplementing the family income so they can both eat and live under a roof month after month, but now they are unemployed, they have to choose. Was it not you just a few months ago suggesting that people should try to work when they can?  So they did.  Now what?

Guess what?  These people are not going to stay home!  They are going to find work under the table and will take the virus with them, or take the virus from wherever they go and come home with it ... thus spoiling your campaign to 'flatten the curve'.  Why do you ask?  If you had to choose between the possibility of getting sick or having to live without food every month until the end of this pandemic, what will YOUR choice be?  I don't know about you, Premier Ford, but I have been told informally by people who:

  1. are informally working with older people, driving them around to appointments or to get groceries and doing yard work for them (as a way to get money in their pockets to help feed themselves, albeit putting their elder clients at risk);
  2. opening up informal home cleaning and renovations businesses, operating off their cell phone, to do small jobs for people (because they need food and other necessities because their income  went down and their housing costs are still the same); and 
  3. getting into their old cars and driving for "Speedy", an illegal version of Uber type transportation services and not taking precautions with who they take and protecting themselves and others.

I know many of these people, Premier Ford.  Many were laid off from their usual jobs they had before the pandemic and now they are being told if they applied for CERB, they will lose their ODSP or have an overpayment that might take a year or two to pay off.

Talk to your public health folks, Premier Ford, and ask what the impact of having 10% of the social assistance caseload be forced to get out of their houses to work anyways, pandemic or no pandemic, because they CANNOT AFFORD TO STAY HOME.

Over 130 organizations quickly sent you a letter to tell you not to leave OW and ODSP recipients behind!  They told you to raise social assistance rates so they can purchase their own groceries and not have to rely on food banks.  They told you to allow the small minority of people on OW or ODSP (or their spouses) to get and keep their federal benefits, including EI and CERB, during this pandemic.  These benefits are no less important during this pandemic than other benefits you currently exempt as income from OW and ODSP such as legal settlements, pain and suffering, residential schools, mercury water fund, etc.

A very long list follows of all income exempted under ODSP's directive 5.1:

Income Exemptions

  • Earnings exemptions (See Directive 5.3 Deductions From Employment and Training Income);
  • Earnings of dependent children;
  • Earnings or payments under a training program of recipients, spouses and dependent adults attending secondary school full-time(See Directive 5.3 Deductions From Employment and Training Income);
  • Training allowance and cash reimbursements of child care and transportation for individuals who reside in a prescribed First Nation community and who are participating in an employment training opportunity for up to 12 months. (See Directive 5.3 Deductions From Employment and Training Income);
  • Earnings of persons attending post-secondary school (See Directive 5.18 Exemption of Earnings of Post-Secondary Students);
  • The portion of a payment from the sale of an asset, used to purchase a principal residence, an asset necessary for health and welfare, an exempt asset, or an asset that does not result in the recipient exceeding the prescribed asset limit;
  • Interest earned on liquid assets up to the prescribed asset limits, e.g. $40,000 for a single recipient;
  • An amount up to $10,000 in a 12 month period per member of the benefit unit, in the form of gifts or voluntary payments for any purpose from any source; (this includes monies from trusts, life insurance policies, honorariums and windfalls). Casual gifts of insignificant value, e.g. basic clothing, meals, occasional food purchases are also exempt.
    • Honorariums are generally payments made to individuals to recognize services provided, where payment is not required. For example, a person may volunteer or be asked to participate on a committee and may receive an honorarium. In these cases, honorariums are considered voluntary payments and may be included in the $10,000 exemption for voluntary payments.
    • Honorariums paid in a way that is similar to a salary, to fulfill an obligation to compensate the recipient for services provided, are treated as employment income, and not as voluntary payments under ODSP. In these cases, the usual earnings exemptions apply.
  • Payments from any source in the form of gifts or voluntary payments used for disability-related items and services or for education and training incurred because of the disability of a member of the benefit unit.
  • There is no limit on the value of these contributions, provided they will not be reimbursed from other sources. For this provision to apply it is not required that the intent of the voluntary payment is for the purchase of these types of items/expenses only that is used for these purposes.
  • Gifts or voluntary payments that will be applied to the purchase of a principal residence, an exempt vehicle, or that will be applied to the first and last month’s rent necessary to secure accommodation. (See Directive 5.8 Gifts and Voluntary Payments for more detailed information regarding treatment of gifts.)
  • RDSP related exemptions:
    • gifts or voluntary contributions made to RDSPs by family members and other third parties;
    • interest earned on and re-invested in an RDSP;
    • the federal Canada Disability Savings Grants and Canada Disability Savings Bonds; and
    • all withdrawals from an RDSP for any purpose.
  • Refundable tax credits including the:
    • Canada Child Tax Benefit
    • Canada Child Benefit
    • Ontario Children’s Activity Tax Credit
    • Ontario Trillium Benefit Payment;
  • Ontario Child Benefit (OCB) payments;
  • Payments from the Ontario Child Care Supplement for Working Families (OCCSWF);
  • Payments from the Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB);
  • Payments from the Canada Pension Plan Orphan Benefit (also known as surviving child benefit;
  • Payments from the Quebec Pension Plan Orphan Pension;
  • Payments made under the Canada Pension Plan Disabled Contributors Child Benefit;
  • Payments made under the Quebec Pension Plan Disabled Person’s Child Benefit;
  • Payments from other jurisdictions that are equivalent to the CPP Orphan Benefit or QPP Orphan Pension or the CPP Disabled Contributors Child benefit or QPP Disabled Person’s Child Benefit.
  • Child support (Effective January 1, 2017). Please see Directive 5.15 Spousal and Child Support for more detailed information;
  • Payments received under subsection 147(14) of the Worker's Compensation Act, known as B165 payments;
  • Payments received for property damage and temporary living expenses through the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program (ODRAP) other than payments for loss of income;
  • Payments (cash and in-kind) received by evacuees of the Kashechewan First Nation between October 2005 and September 2006, from a municipality or a Tribal Council made on behalf of the federal Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (Canada);
  • Insurance payments made for temporary living expenses and to replace or repair lost/damaged exempt assets or assets within allowable asset limits but not payments for loss of income;
  • Mortgage payments paid by disability insurance purchased by an applicant/recipient on a mortgage for his/her principal residence;
  • A forgivable loan under the First Nation, Intuit, Métis Urban and Rural (FIMUR) Housing home Ownership Assistance Program.
  • A forgivable loan or a grant under the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program (RRAP) that provides assistance to on-reserve low-income homeowners to bring their homes up to safety and health standards, or improve energy efficiency.
  • A forgivable loan or grant under Ontario Renovates that provides assistance to low-income homeowners to bring their homes up to safety and health standards, improve energy, efficiency and/or increase accessibility of the home through modifications and adaptations; and, create a new affordable rental unit within an existing single family home;
  • Payments made under the Investment in affordable Housing (IAH) - operating components that exceed the maximum shelter allowance up to the actual shelter costs;
  • Payments made under the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI) payments for:
    • rent deposits;
    • establishing a new principal residence;
    • maintaining the health and welfare of a member of the benefit unit in her or her current residence;
    • arrears relating to shelter costs; or other housing and homelessness-related services, items or costs approved by the Director of Ontario Works.
  • Payments made under CHPI for personal needs made to domiciliary hostel residents up to the amount equivalent to the ODSP amount issued for personal needs to recipients residing in a long-term care home.
  • Financial grants, items or services that are issued for energy-conservation in homes through Conservation and Demand Management Programs offered by local Electricity Distribution Companies;
  • Financial grants, items or services that are issued for energy-conservation in homes through Demand Side Management programs offered by local Natural Gas Distributors;
  • Benefits in the form of a cheque or voucher received through the Water Filter Fun. program;
  • All direct financial assistance received from the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport’s Quest for Gold - Ontario Athlete Assistance Program;
  • Funds received from the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development or Canada Student Financial Assistance for education costs such as books, tuition, instructional supplies, transportation costs, child care and compulsory fees;
  • Funds received from the Ministry Advanced Education and Skills Development under the Second Career program for education costs.
  • A bursary received by a full-time student enrolled in a secondary school under 8(1)18 of the Education Act;
  • The Dr. Albert Rose Bursary to assist public housing tenants attending post-secondary school;
  • Payments from an RESP, intended and used for education costs, received by a recipient or any other member of a benefit unit as well as gifts and voluntary payments into an RESP in addition to the $10,000 gift and voluntary payment exemption. See Directive 5.11 Post-Secondary Education;
  • Proceeds from a court judgement or legal settlement or an award from a statutory tribunal (such as compensation resulting from being a victim of an automobile accident, sexual assault or violent crime) received as damages or compensation for pain and suffering, due to injury to or the death of a member of the benefit unit. See Directive 4.6 Compensation Awards;
  • Compensation received as settlement for a claim of abuse sustained at an Indian Residential School, other than compensation for loss of income;
  • Pre-judgement interest awarded as compensation for the delay in receiving damages for pain and suffering as a result of injury to or death of a member of the benefit unit, See Directive 4.6 Compensation Awards;
  • Independent Living Allowance payments from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board received annually by severely impaired workers;
  • A full income exemption applies to the total amount of a compensation award for the following:
    • awards for pain and suffering as a result of an injury to or the death of a member of the benefit unit;
    • expenses actually or reasonably incurred or to be incurred as a result of injury to or death of a member of the benefit unit;
    • loss of care, guidance and companionship due to an injury to or the death of a family member under the Family Law Act;
    • non-economic loss under section 46 of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 or section 42 of the Workers’ Compensation Act.
  • Interest earned on the capital of an inheritance retained in trust up to the allowable limit of $100,000.
In my view, federal benefits are being paid through CRA, not the EI Fund and are considered emergency in nature, much like many other legal settlements and other funds and class actions, etc.  The purpose of this federal benefit is to keep people indoors and not venturing out.  Denying people enough funds to support themselves while "sheltering in place" will only result in many people going out and risking it by working under the table.

I intend to spread this letter wide and far.  I intend to send this to public health officials, because they understand much more than you do that putting low income people into this position will help spread the virus and thus, defeat any attempts of your otherwise strong leadership in trying to flatten the curve.

I also intend to find out after this pandemic is over exactly who got sick and who died.  This might open yet another can of worms about whose lives are valued in Ontario, while others are not so valued.  There was even talk that if it became a choice as to who gets access to ventilators that poor folks and people with disabilities will be likely denied.

Just tell us what you mean, Premier Ford.  If you want us all to stay at home to help flatten the curve, then make sure all of "the people" can afford to do so.