Filling in the Blanks – Advocacy With Purpose

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House of Friendship Advocates With Purpose For a Poverty Free Ontario

“Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.” – Edmond Burke

Ontario residents vote for their provincial representatives tomorrow, June 12th. (Here’s how, by the way!) The idea of representing another person’s (or group’s) interests is tricky at the best of times, and it’s easy to be cynical: do our leaders really want to act in our best interests? Could they, even if they wanted to? Aren’t there just too many interests in the first place?

We could throw in the towel and leave politics to the politicians. This seems to be what Edmond Burke was getting at (see above quotation), arguing that his role as a politician was to do his job without accountability to the wealthy landowning men who elected him. However, many of the hardworking men and women who make up our government today would tell you that Mr. Burke was dead wrong.

Yes, we live in an incredibly diverse community, and no, we don’t all see eye to eye, sometimes on very basic questions. (And yes, it’s probably also true that there are some politicians with questionable intentions.) But today’s politicians are people who have decided to dedicate a huge part of their life to public service. They have a genuine interest and passion for listening to people and trying to plot a course to a better future for all of us. That is to say, they try to respond to their constituents and to public opinion.

Who Will Listen?

The problem is not that politicians never listen, but maybe, rather, that they are most likely to listen to the loudest voices. The loudest (and, relatedly, most persuasive) voices typically belong to the most privileged members of our community. We cannot buy full page ads in the Globe and Mail, or commercial time during the Stanley Cup, but my experience is that we should not discount the power of an email, phone call or letter as a means to shape political debate. By putting our views out there in letters to the editor, radio call in shows, impromptu debates around the kitchen table over dinner, letters and calls to your local politician, newspaper articles, things we post to our Facebook pages and other social media (if you are so inclined) we all get a bigger piece of the picture and take one step closer to a better community for all of us.

Filling in the Blanks

One way we have been trying to engage with people at the Food Hamper Program for the upcoming election is to provide a platform for them to share their experiences and discuss how they overlap with government services and programs.  We supplied our patrons with cards with four sentences on them, encouraged them to fill them out and committed to sharing the results with all of the candidates in the two electoral districts we serve hampers to: Kitchener-Centre and Kitchener-Waterloo (which we have already done).

Here are the four sentences:

  1. Living on Ontario Works (OW) or the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)* is…
  2. Every day I struggle with…
  3. If elected, please remember…
  4. I want to say…

A few people respectfully declined to fill out the card. One woman shared that she doesn’t vote, because she feels ignored and undervalued, and didn’t believe that a project like this made any difference. Following her comments, another woman, relatively new to Canada, took and filled out her card. “It’s small, but who knows, we should do it.” For the most part, patrons responded enthusiastically. Their comments provide a brief glimpse into the struggles that people face every day in our communities. See below for a sample of their responses.

Living on Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program is…

  • Terrible. They are rude and insensitive. They make it impossible to get off.
  • Just ending
  • Very hard to eat a proper diet
  • Hard, but thank God for it.
  • Difficult.
  • Hard.
  • OK. But the rent allowance is not enough.
  • I applied for ODSP and it is taking way too long! I hope the process improves.
  • Stressful and hard to budget on
  • Good. Nice to know there’s help like them when people are in need.
  • A major financial struggle as most of the money goes to rent costs. No extra for utilities and food.
  • A struggle.
  • Hard to survive.
  • Hard to get started. E.g. low month pay, hard to go to work.
  • Just eat and live so you don’t die. No fun.
  • Low income is a struggle.
  • Getting harder and harder to survive on.

 

Every day I struggle with…

  • Trying to find daycare and work while the subsidy won’t help until I work
  • Diabetes
  • Depression and working recovery
  • Money, parenting
  • Money and survival
  • Rent
  • Money for food or extras i.e. new shoes for a toddler.
  • Bills and our community startup is gone. It’s hard.
  • Pain and depression and I feel like giving up.
  • Finances
  • Making sure there is food and that bills are paid.
  • Food supply and proper nutrition.
  • Being unemployed and trying to find work.
  • Fresh food.
  • Paying my bills and having enough to eat.
  • Rent.
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Food.
  • Money, bills.
  • Money.
  • Food, money, transportation costs.
  • Healthy meals or transportation.
  • Food, pay my bills (Leading a normal life).
  • …Not having enough money. Even though I work almost full time hours.

If elected, please remember…

  • Coverage for lancets under Ontario Drug Program
  • That people who use these services live way below the poverty line
  • BE FAIR
  • To help the homeless
  • Rent control
  • Us.
  • We need more supports to get off assistance.
  • The small people.
  • Less fortunate.
  • To help people.
  • Not to cut social programs.
  • Kids.
  • Transportation costs for people seeking work.
  • The low income families.
  • That we need more to get self started.
  • Inflation.

 

I want to say…

  • Make it easier to get somewhere!
  • That we need more help not more Mike Harris cuts to people who need assistance. We are not all bad people.
  • Not everyone is able to succeed as much as others. Be fair.
  • How come the cost of living goes up by 2% every year but not OW or ODSP?
  • Rent control
  • That low income families are just as important.
  • Help the real people.
  • I’m in hardship.
  • I hope you do what you say you’re going to do for a change.
  • We feel forgotten and underprivileged.
  • Please make more support for low income people especially older people (55) who can’t find a job
  • Please bring back the clothing allowance for children.

 

*Last year, roughly half of our program patrons received one of these two forms of social assistance.

 

 

 

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4 Responses to “Filling in the Blanks – Advocacy With Purpose”

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