A Christian leader's call for social justice

An Open Letter to Laurie Scott
Member of Ontario Provincial Parliament
Minister of Labour

Dear Laurie:

We last met at St George’s, Haliburton. I officiated at a funeral that you attended, and we spoke briefly after the service. Thank you for coming to support the family at that time.

I write to you today because I am becoming more distressed at each announcement from your government. Last night I read that you are abandoning the basic income pilot project. During the election campaign you promised to keep that project. You must know that it has been tried before in Canada, in Dauphin, Manitoba, and currently elsewhere in the world. Some of the benefits from the Dauphin experiment were a drop of 8.5% in hospital visits, an increase in high school graduations, and an increase in time mothers were able to spend with their babies. Those are all benefits dear to the Conservative agenda.

You are also reducing the increase in welfare payments to 1.5%, a reduction from the 3% that welfare recipients had been promised. Since the most recent cost of living figures indicate an increase of 2.5%, this is effectively a decrease in income for the poorest in our society of 1%.

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Both of these changes that you are bringing into force will help to reduce the taxes on the wealthiest people in our society, at the cost of food and housing for the poorest. I am disturbed that our provincial government is willing to call upon the poorest to sacrifice for the richest.

I said above that I am becoming more distressed at each announcement. This is not simply because each announcement dismantles another part of our society. It is also because it indicates a frightening trend.  It brings back painful memories of when Mike Harris closed 28 hospitals and fired 6,000 nurses. I saw firsthand in my parish some of the other pain his health care system changes affected. His government brought in a means test for patients on oxygen. What he didn’t realize was that patients with lung conditions would meet the requirements for oxygen, since the removal of oxygen immediately caused stress, whereas heart patients would not meet the threshold of the test because the effects of reduced oxygen on heart patients is cumulative, taking days to produce enough stress to endanger a patient. I buried some of the people who did not meet Mike Harris’s requirements.

So, it does get personal for me when I see our government removing programs and social supports without taking the time to think and plan. Why remove what is working before you have even a hint of what might replace it?

It is the action without thought that scares me the most. We have watched tragedy after tragedy unfold in the United States under Donald Trump, and (Ontario Premier) Doug Ford seems to be heading in the same direction. 
Please, Laurie, take a stand to protect the most vulnerable in our province, and do your best to reign in Doug Ford’s plan of demolition.

Faithfully yours,

The Rev. Canon Dr. David G. Barker
West Guilford, Ontario