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The poverty gap

As the provincial election hits its mid-way point, it’s distressing to see that an essential issue, especially for Hamiltonians, has been avoided like the plague by the three main political parties.

While the Progressive Conservatives, Liberals and New Democrats talk about how they will create jobs and fund transit, while falling over themselves as they debate the Liberal scandals, one of the most poignant scandal is how politicians are ignoring how they will assist Ontario’s poor and vulnerable.

There are more than 50,000 people in Hamilton who rely on social assistance and 376,000 people across the province, including children who use food banks every month

Addressing the province’s poverty crisis should be just as important as hydro rates, jobs and fiscal responsibility. Candidates should be talking about raising the minimum wage, increasing social assistance rates, providing dental, eye and other health-related care, boosting affordable housing stock, and addressing the widening income gap between the haves and have notes in Ontario.

But politicians traditionally ignore people living in poverty who are crying out for help. The sad fact is those people who could have so much influence in an election campaign don’t vote. Hamilton poverty activists are attempting to remedy that problem by going door-to-door over the next few weeks to encourage people who have so much to lose and use their democratic right and vote. Imagine the impact if even half of those 50,000 people voted?

The Liberals have promised much to help those less fortunate, from increasing the minimum wage and social assistance rates, to providing more money for affordable housing, but delivered far less. Over the last few years the Liberals have even slashed program funding for those on Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Programs, forcing municipalities, such as Hamilton, to pick up the tab.

The NDP have talked a good game about helping the vulnerable and seniors on poverty, but recently, the party has more often than not taken them for granted.

And the Tories have a track record of blaming the poor for the province’s budget deficit. Tory candidates have been harping on the party’s one million jobs plan as the silver bullet to eradicating poverty in the province.

For whatever reason talking about the poor by candidates doesn’t translate into votes at the ballot box. But it’s time that attitude change. While people, especially those living hand to mouth, feel excluded from the democratic process, by not participating in the election means allowing the parties to determine their future.

Imagine the impact if even half of those 50,000 people voted in an election campaign?

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