Honestly, what happened today made up for the disappointment over not getting chosen for the chance to produce a TV series that would have been loosely based on my life.
CUPE Ontario had their union convention this week, and today their focus was on union bargaining rights. However, they also wanted a few community speakers to talk about the need for the government to raise the rates of social assistance and minimum wage, so that poor and marginalized people can live with dignity and remain (or become) healthy.
I was one of those community speakers. I represented the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP), who asked me to write a speech for the occasion.
Here is my speech:
In 1995 Mike Harris brutally slashed ODSP and OW rates by 21.6 %. Despite McGuinty’s promises of poverty reduction, the Liberal government has not only failed to keep their word, but has actually plunged people who are on ODSP and OW deeper into poverty and further below the poverty line. Because of that initial 21.6% cut, plus the ever growing inflation for the last 16 years, which no politician ever seems to take into account, people on ODSP and OW are struggling to survive on funds 55% below where they should be.
We live upon truly meagre amounts, sometimes having to choose between rent and food. Does the government care about this fact? Not on your life! They strive to humiliate us further by, first, taking the Special Diet away from us, and then closing down homeless shelters, and getting rid of the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit. See, not only does the government want to keep poor and marginalized people impoverished, but they also want our quality of life to be precarious and dangerous! How would they like it having to choose between food and rent each month? Could they cope with having to sleep out in the freezing cold every night because funding for more beds had been cut? And, I am positive that they would protest loudly if their essential funding, which allowed them to secure an apartment, buy furniture, and stave off eviction, was suddenly cut!
But they don’t care about poor and marginalized people at all! Wynne, like McGuinty, only cares about eliminating the deficit. Even though it’s very clear from the government’s own records that the greed of big corporations created this whole mess, they expect the poor people of Ontario to pay for it. In the recent budget, they actually bragged of cutting corporate taxes by $8.5 billion a year since 2009. Not only that, but they openly boasted that now Ontarians get less government funding than people in any other province.
The government should be truly ashamed of itself for prioritizing the happiness of big corporations, instead of focusing upon the welfare of its most marginalized people.
We need to all band together, and keep on making noise. Louder and louder, and even louder still! Until they realize that we won’t stop and we won’t go away! They have to understand that our health and dignity are worth more than any deficit or big corporation!
Shamefully, I had been too late to go to the rally they'd had beforehand, but people from CUPE and OCAP all said that this didn't matter, they wanted to hear my speech anyway inside of the Sheraton Centre. (I was glad to hear this because I had stayed up until 2am the previous night finishing it and then entering it into my text-to-speech app on my iPad.)
I gave my speech to approximately a thousand people, and they all seemed to hang onto every word, occasionally adding words of agreement and encouragement. At the end, much to my amazement, I got a standing ovation.
Even when I was going home, people kept stopping me and telling me that they had been in the audience and had heard me and agreed wholeheartedly with the content of my message.
I sure didn't feel invisible today!
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