Thousands could soon be left out in the cold - literally

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By Todd Lihou - Editor

You know what word I love? Bonkers…I can’t get enough of it.

It rolls off the tongue so effortlessly, and with so much slapstick and vehemence, that it makes me smile every time I say it, or hear someone speak it.

“Heard what happened to Jack?”

“Nope, what?”

“Guy went bonkers.”

“Really?! Wow!”

The latest group to add “bonkers” to its own personal lexicon has got to be that bastion of politically-motivated manoeuvring and deception – Queen’s Park.

It would seem, folks, that someone at Queen’s Park, more specifically the Ministry of Community and Social Services, has gone bonkers.

How else to describe what we are being told will be a massive social service cut that could – quite literally – leave thousands of people in Ontario out in the cold.

Provincial government cutbacks have forced the dissolution of the so-called Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit program, among others.

The program helps poor people pay for things like massive energy bills and rent arrears to keep warm in the winter and a roof over their heads.

There’s about two million bucks that won’t be spent in Cornwall and SD and G to help these people, thanks to the cuts.

What’s worse is that many of them don’t even know what’s about to happen.

City hall has been trying, desperately, to get the word out. The issue has gone around the council table more than a few times – more likely than not, so that the media wags will report on the subject in an effort to educate the public.

But the reality is city hall’s involvement in the process is somewhat limited. While the city has a social services department that administers things like welfare, programs like the Ontario Disability Support Program are handled by the province.

And so far the province hasn’t said as much as Jack Poop about the service cuts.

I know…bonkers, right?

Coun. Bernadette Clement, who is also a legal aid clinic lawyer, recently told me that the people she deals with through her office are almost completely unaware of the cuts that loom large on the horizon.

What this means is a flood of people descending on the city’s Ontario Works office next month when they realize that the programs are no longer available. The cut comes into effect Jan. 1.

I feel terrible for the overworked staff in that office. There’s a storm of criticism on the horizon and the local welfare office is about to become a lightning rod for anger and confusion.

City council is furious.

"It drives me crazy when we have to deal with a situation like this," said Coun. Denis Thibault recently. "Here we are cutting the services and the funding to the people who can least afford it, at the same time as we are providing retention pay and three-plus per cent raises to a number of services that are provided by our municipality."

You should be angry too.

What has essentially happened is the province has made a huge decision that will impact thousands of people – and has effectively left municipalities like Cornwall holding the bag.

They better hold on tight, ‘cause it’s going to get bumpy.

Organizations: Social Services

Geographic location: Cornwall, Ontario

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