Tag Archives: Ontario

Only Child on federal election and poverty levels

Only child ponders upcoming Canadian Federal election

Only child ponders upcoming Canadian Federal election

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:

http://www.povertyfreeontario.ca/poverty-in-ontario/status-of-poverty-in-ontario/

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2015/10/13/toronto-holds-onto-its-shameful-title-child-poverty-capital-of-canada.html

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2015/06/23/toronto-releases-20-year-poverty-busting-plan.html

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.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under Goverment Legislation, Health, Health Insurance, Health Seniors, Help and Support, Old Age pensions, Only child, Poverty, Progressive Conservatives, Seniors

Only Child finds more solace in Aurora

Main street middle of Aurora looking south

Main street middle of Aurora looking south

So far this summer I have made three trips back to Aurora, Ontario, where I lived from 1975 to 1998. Twice to meet old newspaper buddies from our community newspaper writing days; but also to go to Aurora’s  Doors Open and with my friend Carol to the Farmer’s Market.

This is the small town (now a much larger town) where my ex-husband and I raised our son, Martin, where I kick-started my freelance writing, editing and writing instructing career. Where I became involved with community groups from a noisy ratepayers group to a horticultural society, to an arts and crafts group. And through my writing and the other parts of my life met and made many friends. Some I’ve kept in touch with or re-connected with.

Unfortunately, some of the older ones (i.e. older than me) have died (four I know of) and that’s scary, because it means the next of us in age, including me, are well, next on the dying list.

Death aside, just seeing Aurora – the changes and the sameness was interesting and soul-filling. I still like walking down the main street, which is a lot nicer now with the shops – some the same and many new. I can still walk along the side streets off the main street and see the old houses and their front gardens. But I do not like the big condo that looms right on main street almost right across from a boarded up grocery store (was the IGA-Sobeys chain – and my main grocery store when I lived in Aurora). I’ve heard that another condo is going up there. I kept my back to it when waiting for the big blue VIVA bus to take me back to Finch subway station in north Toronto.

I love zipping up and down Yonge St. between Finch and middle of Aurora on these sleek modern buses – once I learned how to use the machine to buy the tickets. It’s easy – just follow the step-by-step instruction which appear as you go along. And the machines are right by most of the bus stops. Service is much oftener than the old GO buses when I lived in Aurora. Same for the in town buses for Aurora and Newmarket – more often and better routes. These York Region buses also do some of the VIVA routes but make more stops.

It was good to reconnect with old newspaper buddies. I had kept in touch with  a few  –  Bob, Barb and Jim  over the years and one of the others I reconnected with – whom I didn’t really know very well back then in the late 1970s, Sheila, we have connected and phone each other and email sometimes. One of my former editors is ill and in a wheel chair but he and his wife want to join us on the next dinner outing there – sometime in October before winter rears its cold, wet, ugly head.

I also reconnected with one of the librarians at the Aurora library that I used to know. Reccia is sometimes down in Toronto, cat-sitting for her daughter when her daughter is away. Her daughter’s place is close to me, so yesterday I met Reccia for lunch at a cafe near her daughter’s place.

Reccia found me sitting on the park bench outside Aurora Public Library August 15, when I was waiting for Sheila and Rob to pick me up for dinner. It was just after the Doors Open – which gave me the opportunity to see the restored Hillary House in Aurora (doctor’s house it used to be called as there were four succession of doctors, from the mid-1800s. I actually knew the daughter of the last doctor there in the late 1980s and early 1990s  when she was in her late 80s. She has been dead for a few years).

I also got into somewhere I would never get in except for Doors Open – the Masonic Temple. It reminded me of a church – no wonder it was originally a church as I found out from the Mason who gave us the history. Currently, this carpeted place has sky blue velvet armchairs along the outer perimeters, a lectern at the back and three throne chairs on a small elevated platform at the front. Empty space in the middle except for a table with a Christian Bible, the Torah  and other religions’ “bibles.”

Carol and I drove up this past Saturday for the Aurora Farmer’s Market. Quite large and quite a variety – soaps, gluten-free baked goods, fresh produce from the farms, jewellery, etc. Yes, I bought something from each of those categories. Afterwards we drove (well, Carol did the driving) to Goodwood Ontario to Richter’s Herbs and I finally got my sage plant to replace the one killed over the winter, plus more rosemary, basil and some thyme. Afterwards we drove to Newmarket and ate outside at a restaurant overlooking Fairy Lake. By the time we got there, we were eating Lupper (Lunch and Supper).

And I plan to go back for that newspaper get-together dinner in October – on the blue VIVA bus.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

 

 

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Filed under Friends, Libraries, Only child, Public Transit

Only Child says why I won’t vote Liberal June 12 –it’s the laundry

Only Child contemplating voting June 12 .

Only Child contemplating voting June 12 .

We have an election coming up this Thursday in Ontario, Canada, and I’m not voting Liberal, the incumbent party for too many years where Dalton McGinty (McGuilty as my friend Kathy calls him and she’s right) screwed up in so many ways, in so many issues.

True he had to resign (where were the rotten tomatoes when he did so?). And I have respect for Kathleen Wynne, who took over from Mr. McGuilty. However, it was too late when she got in. She is not perfect and I don’t agree with everything she says and does, especially the fiasco of handing out food vouchers for those who had food spoliage from the ice storm that hit south western, southern and eastern Ontario in late December 2013. Pickup places were set up first in Toronto and then south western Ontario but it turned into a near riot. Not enough vouchers – twice when it was held in one place, for example. I didn’t bother going as I didn’t really lose much and others needed the payback more.

It could have been handled differently. Those Toronto people on Ontario Works received a cheque or direct deposit to their bank accounts for the $50 allowed. Excluding the small amount, why couldn’t this method have been done for others? The province of Ontario has our bank account info for direct deposit from our CRA tax returns for provincial sales and other tax credits.

And it’s not the big big expense over the cancelled gas plant and its repercussions that is the reason I won’t vote Liberal.

It’s my laundry and my high continually rising Hydro costs.

I can’t do my laundry when I want to because of Mr. McGuilty’s stupid hydro rates set-up. Peak time, Mid-Peak time and Off-peak time. The latter, with the lowest usage rates is 24 hours on weekends and statutory holidays, and weekdays from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. This means in spring and summer if I want to hang out my laundry during a weekday I have to put it in the washer and do the wash cycles after 7 p.m. in the evening to hang it out the next morning.  I don’t get up until 7.30 a.m. and with the little sleep I have time for I am not getting up at 6.30 a.m. or earlier to do a laundry. So I’m confined to weekends (can get tricky when there is a boarder also doing laundry) or have to do the washing cycles before I go to bed and leave the wet clothes sitting in the washer or laundry basket(s) until I’m up and can get them out.

The second one ties in with the first – the extraordinary and unnecessary rise in hydro cost for the consumer in Ontario the last 10 months – three increases – much of which is to pay back a hydro debt for mess-ups by Hydro One and Mr. McGuilty and the rising cost for delivery of the actual power to our homes. Besides creating the peak/non-peak rates, Mr. McGuilty also brought in these smart metres to record our exact usage of hydro. Pay-as-you-go would be fine except for where the money is going. In Toronto, water and waste bills increased a lot – but the City is using that money to improve and restructure old sewer and water systems. Hydro One messed up with some customers bills. I didn’t get hit – yet, but then I’m under Toronto Hydro. But some customers in Ontario received inflated incorrect bills in the thousands.

Smart meters? Right!

I also won’t vote Conservative because Mr. Tim Hudak will take us back beyond the dark ages of the 1990s. Remember the Mike Harris era? Hudak has been compared to Harris and Hudak comes out much worse. Hudak would eliminate 100,000 jobs (service cuts for Ontario employees – government and government related – teachers and health professionals). I’m not a big fan of unions, mainly because of the strike provision and believe many more services should be made necessary with no strikes allowed. But eliminating jobs to save money and here’s the stupid part – create more jobs? I’ll admit I don’t know all the ins and outs and ramifications. Apparently Mr. Hudak doesn’t either as critics have said the math in his equation doesn’t make sense, doesn’t balance.

I wonder who did the math for Mr. Hudak.

So, I will be voting New Democrat. And before those that remember yell “Rae Days” (after the first Ontario New Democratic premier Bob Rae), hold on a minute. Rae created these days of unpaid holidays to be taken one-day at a time because the province was in debt. Andrea Horvath, the current ND head, isn’t Mr. Rae. She’s not perfect, but I’m willing to give her a chance.
Unfortunately, I can’t vote for her directly. Unlike voting in the municipal elections where I can vote for who I want as my area’s councillor, I can also vote for who I want as mayor – this can’t be done for provincial (or Federal) in Canada. The New Democrat person in my riding, Michel Prue, is fine by me. He has been elected for the past few elections and he (and his administrator) helped me with my problem obtaining a photo ID card which I blogged about a few months ago.

So, that’s the way it stands with me. I don’t need complicated. Just the main issues that affect us the most.

As for the laundry issue, my mother might turn in her grave. She could do the laundry whenever she wanted and hang it out. She did the latter sometimes in winter and brought in frozen, but dry clothes.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford
Only Child Writes

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Filed under Ice storm Toronto, Water Rates

Only Child condemns high utility bills

Only Child  digging in her purse for non-existent money to pay soaring utility bills

Only Child digging in her purse for non-existent money to pay soaring utility bills

Like many other individuals I am going broke just keeping up with paying all the high utility bills. And only one utility service has a legitimate reason to raise the rates. Two of the others are penalizing the consumers for their (the company, not the consumer) mistakes. A few, like the phone company, cable TV service and property taxes are just normal rates tied into inflation. This latter I may grumble about but it is acceptable.

So, who are the two companies “stealing” from the consumers – why Enbridge Gas (and other gas companies) and all the municipal hydro companies as well as Big Daddy in Ontario – Hydro One.

Enbridge apparently can’t learn from past mistakes. For winter 2012 into 2013, gas consumption for heating homes rose. Enbridge didn’t factor this possibility into their equal monthly billing. Most of us got hit with an extremely high bill to pay off the difference at the end of the company’s fiscal year. That’s what I found out when I called to complain. Apparently they no longer raise the equal billing rates mid-winter season if necessary. Guess they received too many complaints about that set-up, but my guess is that not as many complaints as the number who complained of the year-end monstrous bills. Consumer advocate here (me) pushed for a deal and got the okay to pay half one month and half the next month.

So, the equal billing amounts were raised only a smidgeon for this 2013-2014 inter and we consumers thought we were getting a good deal – at least compared to what the hydro company was doing. Hah? Now the gas companies, including Enbridge, are raising the rates starting with April’s bill. Enbridge’s rate increase is 40 per cent while Union Gas (southern Ontario) is 28 per cent. Enbridge claims that it had to buy “more spot market gas” and that costs more. See http://www.thestar.com/business/2014/03/27/enbridge_gets_hefty_interim_rate_increase.html

My first question is the obvious one: why didn’t these companies factor in that we might just get another bad winter, if not worse and just maybe they might have to purchase more gas elsewhere? Hello consumer company big whigs – severe weather is now the norm – everywhere and every season. Tunnel vision doesn’t work.
The second question is – why should we consumers have to pay for their costly mistake – or at least to the tunes of 40 per cent and 28 percent, which the Ontario Energy Board okayed? This same energy board is investigating ways to make it not so bad for consumers to pay. Why couldn’t they hold off payment until they found a way? Talk about doing something ass over backwards. So, as usual, consumers are stuck. Those who have gas stoves and gas fireplaces will get hit even harder. Fortunately, I have just the gas furnace and water heater. And here I thought I was “lucky.”
To make matters worse, the head of the Industrial Gas Users Association, Shahrzad Rahbar compares it to getting a root canal and do you blame the dentist for that? Bad comparison. The dental patient may be responsible for dental problems requiring a root canal. But consumers responsible for a gas company’s mishandling of  their bad choices and lack of foresight? I think not – at least not to 40 per cent and 28 per cent all-at-once increases. See http://www.thestar.com/business/2014/03/28/natural_gas_rate_increase_angers_consumers.

I know – you have to turn on the gas furnace with an electrical switch and thermostat. Apparently that wasn’t always so. Back in what I’m now more and more realizing were the “good old days” you could get your gas furnace going without electricity.

And now for the other utility money-grabber and that situation is even worse. The gas companies are merely guilty of stupidity but Hydro One and all the Ontario municipalities (the latter have to base at least some of their costs on those of Hydro One) rate increases are for the wrong reason.

In a nutshell, we consumers are paying off Hydro One’s debts.

There is also another shady going-on with Ontario Hydro customers – some smart meters giving excessively high readings, causing some users to go bankrupt from over $2000 monthly hydro bills. Smart meters? Stupid meters. Stupid idea Hydro One and former Ontario premier Dalton McGuilty (McGinty). There are 600 plus complaints about this one to the Ontario Ombudsman so he has launched an investigation into these dealings. Some people say it should go much farther into a fraud investigation. See http://ottawa.ctvnews.ca/ontario-ombudsman-launches-hydro-one-investigation-1.1670529

I can’t remember how hydro and gas bills were set up when I was a child (my parents had oil heating, not gas in our little bungalow) but we were billed for water at a flat rate. I’m not saying we should be billed a flat rate today. And water rates are going up on a continuing but scheduled basis. However, Toronto Water and Waste is doing something with this money. They are upgrading all the old sewers pipes, water pipes – the infrastructure that goes back 50 plus years, and doing extra on their part to stop basement flooding in Toronto areas prone to that. So, while I may complain about the high water rates, at least I know my money is being put to good and necessary use.
Unlike hydro rates, which despite the mess-up with some “smart” meters, has gone up three times in seven months.
Something is really wrong here. We can conserve energy (heating, etc. not our own personal energy) until the proverbial cows come home, but it doesn’t seem to matter much.
Come to think of it, with this situation, do the cows really want to come home anyway?
What do readers think? Are you experiencing similar utility hikes where you live?
Please comment.
Cheers.
Sharon A. Crawford
Only Child Writes

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Filed under Consumerism, Extreme Weather, Only child, Sharon A. Crawford, Weather

Only Child Revisits Aurora

Only Child revisits Aurora where she lived for 23year

Only Child revisits Aurora where she lived for 23 years

I went back to Aurora, Ontario where I lived for 23 years. This wasn’t my first trip back since moving to Toronto in 1998, but my “first” since 2009. That and the two garden centres outside Aurora that Carol and I visited provided a welcome distraction from the kerfuffle of the consumer screw-ups and mis-communications of the past few weeks.

So, on Saturday, Oct. 12 Carol and I drove (well she drove) a bit north of Toronto to the first garden centre – Black Forest just north of King City. I’d never been there before. The entrance of plants and structures was interesting and inside – well, I’m sure it is very colourful earlier in the season with flowering plants. But that Saturday it was somewhat bare over in the plant section. No offence to Black Forest but more a harbinger of what is to come. With the switch to standard time lurking (first November weekend) the roll to all being downhill weather-wise has started.

The garden ornaments were interesting and inspiring. But Carol and I bought some bulbs, which is what I had come for. I bought tulip bulbs.

On to Pathways to Perennials – a truly fairytale place to visit to temporally escape all the crap in the world. P to P has a winding road (with forest on both sides) into the actual centre and an outdoor/indoor cafe. We didn’t go to the cafe but stepped inside the gift shop. More bulbs – I bought narcissus and hyacinth and Carol bought a small mirror. Outside we toured their small garden and here’s where the impending doom of winter showed with only a few perennials still blooming or not yet dormant.

From there we drove into Aurora – lots of changes even since 2009. The pub where we would eat (outside in the summer) is no longer there but we found another one, a small chain, but one with great food and it was even warm enough to sit out on the large patio which almost surrounds the outside. Afterwards we wandered around the unique plaza, St. Andrews Village, this Shoeless Joe pub is in, including into Starbucks. The IGA grocery store (or one of its derivatives) is no longer there and neither of us could remember its actual store location.

Carol left her car parked in the parking lot there and we walked down the few blocks to the centre of Aurora. The plan was to visit the somewhat newly renovated Aurora Museum (now the Aurora Heritage Centre) but it closed at 4 p.m. and we missed it by about 20 minutes or so. Carol had never seen the newer Aurora Public Library so we made a quick visit there. Then we headed up the street a bit and crossed over to see my old friends Mike and Lorraine Evans who run the Aurora Downtown Hardware Store http://auroradowntownhardware.tel/ They’ve been there (with varying store names) for 39 years.

Mike and Lorraine are a phenomena in these times of crappy customer service. When I lived in Aurora, I would go into their store, let them know what I was looking for and one of them would either find it or order it in. When I had to buy a new microwave, Mike even drove me home with it because I don’t drive and the microwave was too heavy to carry. The duo (they are married) also provided me (and other regular customers) with the names of reliable and competent handymen and I used to hire one of them regularly.

They are an interesting couple – in their mid-sixties – she has long grey hair and comes from New Zealand. He has grey hair (and it’s all there) and might be a few years younger than her. They have a daughter in her mid-thirties. And they have a cat, Leo, whom Carol and I met. Leo was sitting in Lorraine’s chair near the back and looked very content.

And yes, both Carol and I bought a few items we were looking for. When we walked in the store and I introduced Carol and said “hi” I went right into “I need to get a few things which I can’t seem to get in Toronto and don’t get the service there that you and Mike give” – or something like that. So Lorraine went into action, finding the merchandise and asking questions about what we particularly wanted from the selection they had. She even pointed out something on sale in one category.

Too bad we can’t “lift” them and their business into Toronto.

After that we drove back to Toronto and all my problems.

No, I don’t want to move back to Aurora. I know I’d just get bored after a few months. I need the city for the many cultural, etc., events and my friends here. But it was a respite from hassles. And with the great bus service up and down the main drag into the north end of Toronto, I realized I can do the visit myself. Not in winter, so not before the end of March (I have a reading from my book Beyond the Tripping Point, along with other Crime Writers of Canada members at the Aurora Public Library March 24).

I told Lorraine and Mike about it and they said, “See you on March 24.”

Check out Aurora, Ontario, Canada at http://www.town.aurora.on.ca

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Gardening, Home and Garden, Libraries, Peace and quiet