Sunday, April 23, 2017

An Open Letter Full of Questions for the Ontario Disability Support Program. Louis Shalako.






























Louis Shalako







Dear Angela Adam, ODSP;


Thank you for the recent decision on income support.

I have some questions. It’s important that I have this information in order to make proper business and employment decisions in the future. Depending on what the answers are, the information will be used to decide whether or not to ask for an internal review or, ultimately, to appeal the decision on income. I need this information quickly, as you guys always set a real short deadline for asking for an internal review or an appeal. It’s part of the ODSP shell-game, isn’t it?

It’s a bit troubling, the way ODSP staff simply ignore my questions. There’s no doubt I have a right to this information. To withhold that information is highly-suspect.

I use the Nikon camera for the publishing business. I use it for running the Go Wit Ventures blog, for which I get paid, and I also use it for self-promotion. I have asked the question before, and got no answer. Is the camera an allowable deduction?

The publishing business requires the internet and a phone. It is an absolute requirement. The same is true for publishing a blog and website for my clients. I need a phone just to get calls regarding part-time work making pizza dough. What portion of the phone and internet is an allowable deduction against income? And if the answer is ‘none’, why not?

My part-time job and both businesses require the internet and the phone. How did you apportion these costs against income from these endeavors? If I wasn’t working, if I wasn’t publishing, I don’t need the internet at all, and the phone would be for emergencies and two or three personal calls a week.

I bought an alarm clock so that I could go to work on time. I didn’t have one before—was that an allowable deduction from income? If I wasn’t working, I wouldn’t need one at all.

When I purchase a professional marketing image from Canstock to make a book cover, is that an allowable deduction from income?

When I buy paper, or stamps, for the business, is that an allowable deduction from income?

Was there any question or dispute regarding business/employment mileage? If so, you really need to tell me.

I asked, in writing, why did the previous social worker, Shanno Bolton, make me split off the businesses and go to two sets of books? Was this intended to help the client maximize their allowable deductions, or was it to help the ODSP maximize their claw-backs?

Another question that was ignored.

If I received a donation from someone who wanted to encourage my writing, would that be considered as 'income' by ODSP?

No one has questioned my right to work or to operate a business under the guidelines of the ODSP. Imagine the sheer frustration of being at the mercy of the ODSP bean-counters, and having absolutely no information at all, and yet I’m being told I have the right to appeal. This is all too typical of how ODSP treats clients. And it’s not just me—it’s all of us.

That, Angela, is simply unacceptable.



END

This letter will be hand-delivered to the ODSP in Sarnia on Monday, April 24, 2017.  The names of ODSP staffers are real. While the client has the right to privacy, public institutions such as the ODSP do not. They are 'accountable' to the people.

Louis has some books and stories on iTunes. Please take a moment and check them out.




Saturday, April 15, 2017

How to Spot a Fake Opinion. Louis Shalako.

Eugene Delacroix.
Louis Shalako




How to spot a fake opinion.

There is such a thing as a fake opinion. It’s very useful in the political arena.

What it does, is to generate a little heat, ladies and gentlemen. It’s nothing more than propaganda, and it is intended to work on the minds of the government, of the media, and the voters.

A fake opinion, when an ordinary person gives it, is nothing more than an expression of disapproval. It doesn’t have to be true to be spoken with a great deal of sincerity. And as often as not, it’s the farthest thing from the truth.

***

There’s a lot of talk lately about fake news and how to spot it. The problem is nothing new as anyone who has ever glanced at the headlines on the tabloids displayed by the grocery checkout knows very well.

Very few people will seriously believe that a celebrity gave birth to a Sasquatch or an alien baby. Why anyone actually buys them things is a very good question. Why anyone would want to write shit like that is easier to answer. They sell copies of the newspaper or magazine. 

They sell to the least common denominator in society. That would be any man with a penny, back when it all first started. They sold so well the model has been adapted to the internet and monetized in new ways. That’s the big difference.

The fact is that people enjoy crazy stories. Yet there was never any doubt that the vast majority of the people could distinguish between what is real and what is fake.

Now to the present day. On Facebook one day, the algorithms presented me with a news story on a page set up for that purpose. People click like on that page, they will get updates on all kinds of news stories, mostly Canadian. It’s a Canadian news page of sorts.

You’re not friends, okay, you’re a subscriber now.

The story was about Ontarians being ‘up in arms’ about ‘skyrocketing’ hydro costs. When I hear that, I take a quick look out the window—nope, no one up in arms out there.

That is for sure…

In Canada, ‘hydro’ means electricity. At one time hydro-electricity was the major source of supply. It has since dropped to about thirty percent of total production. This province has, in fact, diversified the means of production and upgraded deteriorating transmission infrastructure.

That is a fact—a real fact.

There is controversy—in that sense it is a news story. They didn’t interview anybody.

There was no expert analysis, although there might have been a link or two to outside sources.

They were quoting some statistics, which, arguably were true. They were calling the government’s policy of supporting alternative energy production a mistake. They were calling it a failure, a disgrace and they always managed to insert the word ‘liberal’ in there.

It’s when I got to the comments that the picture became a little clearer. There must have been thirty, forty, fifty comments. It wasn’t a discussion. It was a lynch mob—whipped up to a frenzy, on the face of it.

People were saying that the Premier should be ‘hanged’, people were calling her a ‘lesbo-bitch’ and there was nothing in there that was specific to the government’s policy. The most important thing to remember in that article and that comments-section was that the Premier was the worst person in the world.

The one thing you will never find in such an article is any specific suggestions as to what the government or even the next government should do about it. That’s because the commenters, surely, had no knowledge or expertise in the field of power generation and policy. I say that because otherwise, surely they would have mentioned it. I can assure you they weren’t shy although a lot of handles were clearly not their real name. There was never, ever, any mention of personal conservation—turning off the lights, turning off even one of the average five televisions in the typical middle-class family home.

No, these people were entitled to cheap electricity, even though we all know the world is changing and the old ways are no longer sustainable.

Their comments represent resistance to change—that much is valid information.

As a reader, interested in the subject, it would have been nice to see less focus on the Premier and every mistake she’s ever made, and a bit more on what someone thought should be done about it.

Why not take a minute and tell us what you’re arguing for—and how best that might be achieved.

The province, once the controversy began over rising electricity costs, promptly dropped the sales tax, to the tune of eight percent. The government’s soon-to-be-revealed plan to further reduce costs will reputedly cut bills even further, to a grand total of 17 %. I can assure you that the government does listen—fuck, they even listen to me sometimes, which can be both humbling and a bit frightening at the same time. I mean really—when you think about it.

But then, I don’t hate their guts, do I?

***

The tone of the comments section, certainly, shows that even if bills were cut in half, it will never be good enough. You could reduce electricity bills to zero and their tone wouldn’t change much. This is the key to understanding fake opinions.

Nothing is ever good enough—short of throwing out the government of the day, and replacing it with, presumably, some of you people.

If you had anything important to contribute to the discussion, well, uh, perhaps that would have been a good time to bring it up.

For example, someone (somewhere else) mentioned that people in rural Ontario might have appreciated the opportunity to form co-operatives, in order to band together and create their own power-generation companies. They would have been able to take advantage of the exact same (and rather lucrative by many credible accounts) power-generation contracts that the government has signed with other firms. My impression is that the suggestion actually has some merit—but there’s no guarantee that anyone in rural Ontario would have taken it up and done anything with it. It could very well be just a red herring—just another person criticizing a policy which is unpopular in their particular neck of the woods. There was also no word on how this might reduce costs to the consumer. Hey—it could also be a very sincere suggestion.

So, if your party leader fails to win the next election, how are you guys going to feel about it?

Oh, I get it: drag them out of the Legislative Assembly, hang them from the nearest lamp-post and set the body on fire? Cut ‘em down and piss all over them while you make their kids watch…???

Right?

No.

No, of course not.

You would never say that about one of your own, now, would you?


END



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Friday, April 14, 2017

Social Progress Versus the Ontario Disability Support Program. Louis Shalako.

Louis got the big Magnum P.I. mustache going.


Louis Shalako

ODSP, the Ontario Disability Support Program, is the single most complained-about provincial ministry.

It falls under the aegis of the Ministry of Community and Social Services.

Yet there are some pretty obvious improvements that could be made quickly and effectively, changes which would go a long way towards improving the lives of the clients and making the program a lot more tolerable. There are times when it's not. There are times when it is intolerable. It’s really just a question of funding those improvements, isn’t it? Honestly, I know the government would love to do this—they just have to get it past those pesky taxpayers.

Right?

We all know I’m right, ladies and gentlemen.

For starters, people on ODSP can receive gifts. For a single person, this amounts to $7.000.00 per year. They can get a gift of seven grand dropped in their lap and it will not affect their monthly pension benefit one bit.

They won’t lose a penny, and they didn’t have to lift a finger to get that gift. Bearing in mind, not every client will ever receive such a gift, which in itself is one of life’s little unfairnesses—something the program simply can’t do anything about.

But here’s the real problem. People who go out and earn the exact same figure--$7,000.00 in a year, will be able to make up to $2,400.00 (by my interpretation of the guidelines) and the rest is subject to a fifty percent claw-back on earnings.

This has always been the big problem with the ODSP. It’s a pension for the disabled, who at the same time, have the right to work. I actually got this in writing from former Premier Dalton McGuinty. According to his letter, “…you have the right to fully participate in the life of the province.”

The difficulty is when we work, sometimes very hard, to improve ourselves, and our lives, and to raise our income—surely one key aspect to any plan to improve the quality of one’s life. Or anyone else’s—and this is another bit of a problem with the ODSP. We run smack into one big brick wall, ladies and gentlemen.

When staff are spending more time looking for ways to reduce costs, cutting back on someone’s benefits when they earn a few bucks, and they’re still well below the poverty line, when the social worker really ought to be looking out for the client. The worker should be looking to get that person every conceivable benefit that they might qualify for.

Surely social workers are not cops. They are not doctors, nurses, or psychiatrists. They are supposed to be social workers.

Their job, surely, is to help the client get the most out of the program. Their job is to help and assist the client to make their life better, or to rebuild it entirely in some cases.

The goal really should be to help people improve the quality of their lives. It is true that many clients simply won’t be able to make much of improved opportunities for employment, but then, not everyone is going to get a gift of $7,000.00 either.

And yet there are provisions for that in the guidelines.

There are two basic questions. How much would a reduction of the claw-back, and raising the allowable earnings limits actually cost the taxpayers?

How much does the government spend now, in trying to fairly administer a system which puts up some pretty obvious barriers and disincentives to work. Everyone from the top down knows very well that without any other employment, without any other sources of income, including gifts, the average single client of the ODSP is living thirty-five to forty percent below the poverty line.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, just isn’t fair.

Is it.

Here’s the thing: we know change is possible. This very government just raised the mileage allowance for medical and business travel from $0.18/kilometre up to $0.40/kilometre.

For someone who travels to another city for medical treatment, life just got a little easier.

The government actually squirts that money out in the form of electronic payments. For business or employment travel, there’s no outlay by the government, but it’s an allowable deduction from income. That sort of thing is important when someone is trying to develop, or take advantage of, employment or business opportunities.

After the Tories were booted, and we never got a single raise in ten or fifteen years, the Liberals began giving an annual raise—it’s not geared to the cost of living, but when I actually qualified, years ago, under the old Family Benefits Act or whatever, my freaking social worker told me in no uncertain terms, “You will never receive a raise in your entire life...”

I don’t know what to think after all these years, but at the time I wondered why she was mad at me!

It’s difficult to account for otherwise. The point is, taking note of inflation over many years, our pensions have been getting smaller and smaller from day one—and this government knows that too.

That’s because guys like me tell them—we tell them every chance we get. And I hope you will too, ladies and gentlemen.

The fact is, we could use your help. It might even make the difference—it might make a big difference.

As for the government, they could probably use a bit of help too—

...right about now.

Just think about that one for a minute.


Thank you for reading.


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