With the Canadian federal election coming up October 19, one issue that keeps coming up is the middle class versus the rich. Yes, the middle class seems to be disappearing, but disappearing to where? Much of it has fallen into the poverty level of living, if you can call that living.
The worst of poverty “living” is social welfare or as it is called in Ontario – Ontario Works. A study done by Poverty Free Ontario shows 2011 (latest year statistics available apparently) statistics for those living on Ontario Works compared to those not on Ontario Works who live at the poverty level. For example, a single adult living alone in Ontario on Ontario Works gets $7,452 a year, compared to a single adult not on OW but who is in the poverty level of $19,930.
Although Ontario Works clients received a small increase last November there is still a big gap between the two figures. Much of that blame goes to a former Conservative premier Mike Harris who reduced Ontario Works payments in half in the 1990s.
The title of a report on children living in poverty in Toronto, Ontario, Canada says it all. “Toronto holds onto its shameful title: Child poverty capital of Canada” The study states that 28.6 per cent of children in Toronto live below the poverty level, with that percentage changing with specific areas of Toronto.
Today, Toronto is releasing its 20-year busting poverty plan. City councillor in charge is Deputy Mayor Pam McConnell. There is a long list of what is to be implemented during the 20 years. And a list of low income categories appears at the end.
Here are links to the above stories:
All very well. But seniors aren’t listed.
In fact in all these reports, there is not much about seniors living below the poverty level. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, I’m one of those. And this election doesn’t do much to address seniors financial and health issues, in my opinion. The Liberals’ Justin Trudeau keeps talking about the middle class versus the rich. Stephen Harper and the Conservatives already raised the eligible age for receiving the Old Age Pension to age 67. NDP leader Tom Mulhaire wants to raise the Guaranteed Income Supplement.
As a senior I am grateful for what I receive. But not grateful for what I have no choice to eliminate from my life because of limited finances. Unfortunately most of that is in the health area, a lot of which is not covered by OHIP, the Ontario provincial health plan. Outside the plan, I focus on eye care, although eye tests are covered by OHIP once you reach 65. But glasses aren’t. Neither is dental – it never was unless you had dental surgery in a hospital. I have a dentist but can’t afford him. I can’t afford audiologists (except if they offer free hearing testing). Physio-therapy, which might help my osteo-arthritis, has reduced coverage. Many medical tests are no longer covered by OHIP thanks to former Ontario Liberal leader Dalton McGuilty (as my friend calls him) – don’t excuse me here – McGuinty, kicking some of them off the covered list.
Case in point. Three years ago I had what appeared to be a severe Vitamin D deficiency. If I had gone for blood tests to determine this, I would have paid. So, I played guinea pig, taking mega-doses of Vitamin D from late fall to early spring. It seems to have worked. And getting extra health insurance coverage (read “private”) is out of the question – not when there is a cap on coverage in total dollar amount and percentage – now 80 per cent instead of the 95 to 98 per cent coverage you could get in the 1990s. Not when you choose your coverage a la carte and pay high monthly premiums.
The Toronto report on poverty being released today lists areas where improvements need to be made. I hope more dental coverage for low income residents is in the next few years. Some of us seniors may not be around for the next 20 years.
No wonder many people are finding it difficult to choose who to vote for next Monday. Many of us want to get Harper out. We may end up with a minority government of NDP or Liberal. Would they join in a coalition government? Would that be a good thing?
Only time will tell.
Sharon A. Crawford
Only Child Writes