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OCAP Highlights Poverty in Toronto

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Issue: 7 Section: Canadian News Geography: Ontario Toronto Topics: poverty, OCAP

September 12, 2003

OCAP Highlights Poverty in Toronto

Demonstrators at an August 23 OCAP protest: "It's overwhelming, in a country with such wealth, to see people lining up for soup kitchens." More photos from Indymedia Ontario
With hard-line campaign promises boasting a strike ban for teachers and more tough talk for homeless people and immigrant families, Ontario's Conservative Premier, Ernie Eves, called an election for October 2.

Eves' announcement came a little over a week after the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) hosted its latest protest against the Tory government, now in its ninth year of provincial rule.

Over 500 poor and homeless people, social activists and trade unionists gathered in Toronto's prestigious Yorkville shopping district on August 23 to share a free meal and draw attention to the economic disparity in Canada's largest city.

"It's overwhelming, in a country with such wealth, to see people lining up for soup kitchens," said Kelly O'Sullivan, an inner city community worker and President of CUPE Local 4308. "These are things we saw and heard about in the 30's during the Depression. It happens everyday and there's no justification for it. It's a direct outcome of this government's policies and agenda."

The Conservative government's first act in power was to cut welfare rates by 21 per cent. Since then, they have legislated a 60 hour work week, clawed back the National Child Benefit and kept the minimum wage frozen at $6.85 ($6.40 for students). Tax cuts remain a staple of Tory policy in Ontario.

"Those tax cuts were financed by cutting social housing, by cutting welfare, by cutting people's basic entitlements," said John Clarke, an OCAP organizer, during the feast in Yorkville. "You have such injustice going on in this province that it needs to be challenged massively and with a force that can actually defeat it and defeat the political forces that are responsible for it."

The Walkerton tragedy, the killing of (unarmed) First Nations activist Dudley George by provincial police and an escalating housing crisis in Toronto are among the issues expected to haunt the Conservative campaign.

For their part, OCAP members promise to confront the candidates over the next month, pressing for an end to what they call "an attack on the people".

"There's no plans to back off on the Tories until they're good and gone," OCAP organizer, Mike Desroche, told the Dominion on the day Eves called the election. "And we certainly have no intention of backing off on the Liberals as long as this (political) climate exists across the country."

Eve's predecessor, Conservative Premiere Mike Harris, resigned from office on the morning of an OCAP demonstration that shut down the Bay Street financial district for several hours in Toronto in October, 2001.

--Daron Letts

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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