Put Food in the Budget

The Put Food in the Budget campaign began in January 2009 in response to Ontario Premier McGuinty's decision to exclude an increase in social assistance rates from his poverty reduction strategy. The campaign has grown in four years to include the participation of people in 40 communities across Ontario.

 The original Put Food in the Budget demands to the government were:

  1. an immediate $100 a month increase in social assistance rates pending the results of the promised review of social assistance, and;
  2. to set social assistance rates at a level which would ensure a life of health and dignity for all.

Voices for Change Halton’s involvement in the Put Food in the Budget campaign includes:

  1. making a detailed submission to the Social Assistance Review Commission in 2011;
  2. participating in the provincial campaign to send Christmas Cards to Premier McGuinty calling for a cancellation of a proposed corporate tax break in the 2012 provincial budget;
  3. participating in the 'Dear Mr. Premier' consultation in the spring and summer of 2012 where Ontario residents told Premier McGuinty what the impact his proposed ‘austerity budget’ would have on their lives.
  4. View our November 2012 Bulletin (PDF)

Observations on the “Trial” of Kathleen Wynne

Having travelled to 23 Community Hearings in Ontario and having asked for the following question to be answered: ‘Do the changes of social assistance the Premier Wynne has introduced put food in the budget of people who are poor in Ontario? The Put Food in the Budget - Poor Peoples Inquiry "trial " in the Court of Public Opinion was held on February 19th in Toronto.

The event coordinator was Alyssa Ginsburg; campaign Organizer was Mike Balkwill; with Special Prosecutor Jess Bryson. The defendants' role was played by actor Victoria Murdock as Premier Wynne. Defense Witness actor Richard Glen Letttookon the role of Ted McMeekin, Minister of Community and Social Services. Charles Sousa, minister of Finance was portrayed by a "suit ". This "trial" was live streamed on the internet.
 
The portrayal of the Defense Witness was so exact that some people in the Gallery got caught up in the moment, with outbursts of their displeasure to comments made by those playing the roles of the Premier and Ted McMeekin. There was some serious heckling going on.
 
Members of the jury were well represented by Joe Bowen -  Community Action Network, Perth; Pauline Bryant -  Bread and Bricks Social Justice Group, Toronto; Pamela Chinn -  Sistering, Toronto; Sonia Ellis - Elementary Teachers of Toronto; Barb Nahwegahbow - Cultural activist, writer and jewelry artist; Carrie Lynn Poole-Cotnam - CUPE Ontario; and Michael Patterson - Anglican Church of the Incarnation, Oakville.
 
Charge # 1: By choosing not to significantly raise social assistance rates in her 2013 budget, did Premier Wynne fail to live up to her Public commitment in January 2013 to make social justice her top priority?

Witness for the Prosecution Charge # 1: Irene Breckon - Anti - Poverty Coalition, Elliot Lake; Cyril Francis - Jane Finch Action Against Poverty, Toronto; David Galvin - Campaign for Adequate Welfare and Disability Benefits, Hamilton; Andrea Hatala - ODSP Action Coalition; Donna Labonte - Voices Against Poverty, Windsor; Sheryl Lindsay - Executive Director, Sistering; Vicki MacMillan - Community Action Network, Perth; Winston Morrison - Migrant Workers Alliance; Mike Ormsby– Artist; Andrea Perry - Health Providers Against Poverty.
 
Charge # 2: Premier Wynne did not significantly raise social assistance rates; therefore she knowingly misled the public that social justice is her top priority; and instead Premier Wynne chose to serve the interests that benefit from continued poverty in Ontario. 

Witness for the Prosecution - Charge # 2:  Lily Baumgarte - Put Food in the Budget campaign; John Clarke - Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP); Deirdre Pike - Hamilton Organizing for Poverty Elimination ( H.O.P.E. ); Miles Magner - Ontario Public Services Employees Union (OPSEU); Chris Ramsaroop - Migrant Workers Alliance.
 
The Gallery (the audience) listened to the witnesses and the jurors and then they discussed the evidence in small groups. The Gallery then voted and provided direction to the Special Prosecutor as to inform the verdict that she announces.
 
Ultimately Premier Wynne has not insured that the people of Ontario who receive Social Assistance have enough money to ensure that the UN declaration of Human Rights will be upheld. That is that "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and wellbeing of himself and of his/her family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his/her control ".
 
I cannot help but wonder how these conditions still prevail in Canada or anywhere in the world where the government’s choice is to ignore and neglect our most vulnerable citizens. There are many good people helping in society to eradicate these conditions however, Charity is not Justice. There are people in our society that are incapable of working for short periods of time or perhaps never holding down a job. Does this mean that they are less of a human being? Many are living in deep, deep poverty while the government keeps handing out Corporate Welfare. We need to vote for leaders that care for the betterment, social and economic wellbeing of all its' citizens and who are accountable for their actions and promises.

Marie Gailing

VFCH Member

Join our contact list

We do not accept poverty as an inevitable feature of society

Follow the work of the Voices for Change movement as we attend rallies, workshops, and conferences and create powerful awareness about anti-poverty progress in the Halton region.