The Star is making the most of its Monday news hole to plug its so-called poverty agenda (see also post below). The front page of their Life section is devoted to some folks who belong to “Make Poverty History” in Durham Region. One of them is retired welfare worker Ron Dancey:
Twenty or 30 years ago when he was assessing applicants at the Durham Region welfare office, Dancey was confident he could make a difference in people's lives. He could get to know his clients, their children and their needs, and find ways – albeit limited – to help.
All that changed, he says, with the election of Mike Harris as provincial premier in 1995.
"He put us back to the 1950s," Dancey says.
Except that it was a computerized version of the 1950s, he adds. Decision-making was taken out of the hands of welfare workers. Spread sheets and hard numbers replaced compassion and humanity. A misplaced number or even a typo in a computer file could hold up a cheque for days, Dancey recalls.
It wasn't always like that.
"We could get them the money and fix the paperwork later," he says. "It was very frustrating."
Gosh, you’d think Ron would have a word or two of thanks for Mike Harris, for halving his workload: on Harris’ watch, over 600,000 people left welfare, most for a job.
Then again, if by cutting welfare rates and implementing workfare, Mike Harris accomplished more in six years than I had in 30 years of handing out cheques and fixing the paperwork later, I might be a tad embittered too.
When you put this story and others like it about “ending poverty,” together with the Star’s front-page story about redefining GDP to include relative measures such as “ratio of top income earners versus bottom income earners,” then a rather glaring Catch-22 emerges: the same people who talk of ending poverty are also careful to keep changing its definition, so that the poor are always with us. Now why would they do that?