Why the history of poverty keeps repeating itself: Cohn

November 14, 2017
Article Source
Toronto Star

Nearly 1 million Ontarians are on social assistance, but you wouldn’t know it from the lack of attention they get.

Yes, that's an enormous number of people. No, it doesn't translate into 1 million votes.

Low-income people tend toward lower election turnouts, poor children aren't voters, and welfare families can't afford campaign donations. But the bigger reason why poverty remains a low priority for politicians is the cost — political and fiscal.

Allocating too much money for welfare risks antagonizing other voters who fret about waste or dependency. And who want their own needs and entitlements taken care of first — like hydro rate reductions, child-care subsidies, or middle class tax cuts.

No one likes the problem of poverty, but they rarely love the solutions, either. Perhaps that's why almost no one paid attention this month when a massive review of the province's poverty challenges yielded an ambitious prescription for what needs to be done.

My Toronto Star colleague Laurie Monsebraaten, who has been tracking this issue all along, was the first journalist to report on the story. And perhaps the last, for virtually no one else picked up on the news buried by the Liberal government in an avalanche of other announcements lest it attract unwanted attention.

It's often said that no news is good news, but poor news can be bad news for politicians. Especially when the report, A Roadmap for Change, calls for a more than 22-per-cent increase in welfare over the next three years, with an estimated $3.2 billion annual pricetag by 2020.

The last time the governing Liberals tackled poverty, they recruited ex-NDP cabinet minister Frances Lankin. The 2012 report she co-authored called for a radical overhaul of the system, undoing the legacy of ex-PC premier Mike Harris who had sliced and diced welfare payments in the 1990s — segregating the so-called "deserving" disabled from the seemingly "undeserving" poor.

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