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New Tecumseth Free Press Online
First Posted April 30, 1999

To email: Tony Veltri .

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'The cuts to Legal Aid seem particularly cruel'

Posted April 15, 2019

A friend summarized the Doug Ford budget better than I can: "Cuts to education, health care and social services, but by geez, we'll all be able to have tailgate parties, drink in some public areas, save money on wine tax, be exposed to more Happy Hour advertising and start our drinking at 9 o'clock in the morning, seven days a week. Whoopee! Thank God the Ford government has its priorities straight. People are going to 'want' to be drinking more when all the cuts sink in."

An all-out assault on one of the highest rated public education systems in the world should drive us all to drink. Why would any government take a sledge hammer to excellence? We expect government to make things better, not destroy things that are the envy of the world. Cutting out thousands of teachers from the system and increasing class sizes to more than 40 students in all core subjects will see too many of our kids unable to succeed. Students now must take a mandatory four E-learning courses to graduate high school. How on earth will that improve our education system? Just an aside - I wonder who designs and sells these courses. Those companies certainly seem to have the Premier's ear - E-learning courses work well for students who have a high degree of self-discipline and resourcefulness but those are our best students, the ones who will go ahead and learn under any circumstances. Those who struggle in school are now facing a challenge they may not be able to meet.

The cuts to Legal Aid seem particularly cruel. The Law Society of Ontario warns these cuts will hit the most vulnerable. Immigrants and refugees will no longer be able to present their cases to Immigration boards with the help of a lawyer to steer them through the sometimes byzantine rules of our Court system. I have pointed out how well Canada settles newcomers, with robust systems already in place to help newcomers integrate and prosper. Now one of the pillars of that system, justice, has been knocked over.

And the cruelty continues. Ford's government has removed funding for two of Toronto's safe injection sites. These sites prevent overdoses and provide users with pathways to rehabilitation. The crisis in opioid addiction is well-documented. Big Pharma created and promoted strong pain medication that doctors sometimes over-prescribed. Many ordinary people, who had suffered accidents or other painful medical conditions became addicted. Forget about the old stereotype of no-account druggies. These are everyday people who through no fault of their own became addicted to a substance impossible to shake. This ongoing opioid epidemic has seen fatalities spike as fentanyl has entered the illegal drug trade.  One facility has claimed it saved 750 overdoses in the past two years. And what is Doug Ford's way of dealing with this crisis? Close safe injection sites. The Toronto medical officer of health Dr. Eileen de Villa, put it bluntly: "I expect you will see deaths." Ford's excuse is that he wants to focus on rehab, but as many have pointed out, rehab doesn't work on dead people.

"I expect you will see deaths." Cuts and cancellations. People who at last had some stability in their lives are going back to the food banks now that the basic income project has been cancelled. Parents of autistic children are wondering how they'll be able to cope now that funding has been slashed. Planned funding for mental health programs has been cancelled. Decreased student aid for low income families and cuts to university funding will transform Ontario from the most highly educated population in the world to something far less.

But not everything has been cut. Ford found $31 million to fight the federal government for taxing carbon, which I believe should be re-branded to 'forest fire prevention tax,' or 'flood prevention tax' or just 'extreme weather prevention tax.' We'd probably be more willing to pay it. He's also found money to pay for tv advertisements against the tax and for putting stickers on gas pumps that in effect lie to us, since these stickers will inform fuel consumers of the cost of the carbon tax on their fill-ups but will fail to mention all of us will be receiving rebates for the tax on our income taxes.

The cancellation of many renewable energy projects will cost a price Ford is perfectly willing to shell out on our behalf. No efficiencies there. Ford has hired an ex-cabinet minister from Alberta to advise him how to get wine and beer in corner stores at a cost of $1,000 per day. And we can afford a new license plate slogan. "A Place to Grow," which makes me think, grow what?

Considering all the cuts and Ford's "buck-a-beer" priorities other slogans might better express current times: "Ontario: There Will Be Deaths," or "Ontario: No Climate Change Here;" maybe "Ontario: Going Backwards;" and of course, "Ontario: Drinking Helps Us Cope"would summarize the province we now live in more accurately.

Barbara Delargy is a retired English teacher currently living near Everett. Reach her at barbaradelargy@gmail.com

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