Wednesday, October 31, 2018

A Workable Plan for the Reduction of Poverty In Ontario. Louis Shalako.

Louis Shalako

This is a workable plan for the reduction of poverty in Ontario. Yes, it will cost a little money, which will result in savings elsewhere. Only one example, this would be in hospital admissions for mental health/addictions, which term has had an unfortunate tendency to become all one word in media coverage of issues related to poverty.

It is an unfortunate tendency to lay the problem of poverty on mental illness and addictions, which is an unfair moral judgement as well as a conflation of two separate and distinct issues.


The roots of poverty are structural, and therefore the solutions must also be structural.

This program specifically addresses the Ontario Disability Support Program and Ontario Works, (welfare). As a highly-trained Canadian journalist, the author has been embedded in this story for 24 years, and he is very familiar with the ODSP program in particular. He is proficient at interpreting guidelines insofar as that relates to his employment and business interests. When the landlord is taking seventy percent of an ODSP pension in rent alone, working means eating. For whatever reason, this writer has become rather fond of eating over the last 59 years or so—

Raise the rates, annually, at greater than the rate of inflation, which currently stands at roughly two percent.

Raise the allowable earnings limit, which currently stands at $200.00 per month for a single adult.

Lower the rate of clawback on earnings over the limit from its current fifty percent to thirty or even twenty-five percent.

Under CPP (D) guidelines, clients can earn up to $5500.00 annually, and they don’t even have to report it. I would recommend the same level for ODSP/OW clients, in order for the province to be more in line with federal policy. This would save much administrative time for Ministry staff, resulting in higher morale, less staff turnover, and real financial savings. 

Presently, with $100.00 in Work-Related benefit and an ‘automatic’ business deduction of another $100.00, it now stands at $2400.00 per year. (That automatic deduction is a trap. Staff would prefer that clients NOT keep track of each and every receipt, each and every kilometre. It is, after all, a real headache to administer such a client, who is perfectly within their rights to pursue employment and business interests.)

Raise the mileage rate for employment/business/medical travel from $0.40 per kilometre to $0.45 or $0.50 per kilometre. Note that medical travel is a cash disbursement, while the rate for employment/business travel is a deduction from gross income. It is interesting that Ministry staff probably receive (in cash disbursements) more like $0.55 per kilometre when traveling on business when using their own vehicle. The per-kilometre costs of operating a vehicle are well-known and have been studied extensively. This government might ask what the Canada Revenue Agency recognizes as a legitimate rate of mileage/reimbursement, and 
model their own program accordingly.

Raise the work-related benefit from $100.00 per month per single adult to $200.00 month per single client. Adults with families should get an additional hundred a month benefit per child.

Keep rent controls in place, as presently constituted, for three to five years, in order for the province’s most vulnerable citizens to have some reasonable time to catch up.

Raise the provincial minimum wage to $20.00 per hour by 2024.

A special housing benefit to augment the federal housing benefit, slated for 2019, although details are presently sketchy.

A dedicated university fund, initially $25-million per year, in order for ODSP/OW clients to get the skills and education required to break the cycle of poverty and to address the skills shortage presently plaguing the province.

There’s more, which I will address in a future post.


Please read this additional coverage.

Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

On Anxiety. Louis Shalako

Louis Shalako

Every so often, I get a mild bit of anxiety. I'm not curled up in the fetal position, in a corner behind the bed, or anything like that, but it is a definite physical sensation.

Years ago, I had panic attacks for a period of about nine months, and I really did think I was going crazy. I was losing control, something I had always prided myself on. I was never out of control. Not me. I could handle anything. I was just too cool, which sort of gives away the age bracket I was in.

No, this was something different, something that nothing in the past had really prepared me for.

I was seriously worried that I might end up in a mental hospital for the rest of my life. They would take away all of my rights, my freedom, my dignity, and I would never get out.

The heart races, and palpitates, you're sweating, the walls are closing in and it's hard to breathe kind of anxiety attacks...a person would have taken almost any pill, even committed suicide, if that shit went on long enough.

That thought, that I really was sick, just added fuel to the fire, as much as anything else that was going on. You can't control an anxiety attack, all you can do is ride it out. Just getting up and going outside helped when it got really bad...

I did go to a psychiatrist, and take meds like Paxil and Seroquel, which essentially turn you into a zombie, and I gave that up after a few weeks. It's not what I wanted. I could not live like that. Take the Seroquel, you're unconscious in about five minutes at bedtime. Take a Paxil upon waking up, and you're still sitting in your underwear in front of the Weather Network at three or four in the afternoon. You have no life.

Maybe I just wanted my life back, eh.

And I got it back. I had to work at it, but I got my life back.

Looking back, the turning point was kind of personal, but it did happen, and I got through it. 

Put in general terms, the source of the stress went away, and the panic attacks just ceased.

The thing is, without a car, (I'm using the shop spare van to go back and forth to work), I just haven't been getting out much.When I get the transportation challenge settled, and maybe get out and walk a trail a little more often, the odds are that it will help considerably. What I need, is to sit on a beach, or to ride my bike on some crummy little back street, go and sit down by the river.

Right now, we're still kind of stuck here.

There's all kinds of time to think—and to worry.

I'm spending too much time, alone with my thoughts.

Anyways, thank you for listening.


Image: Anxiety, by Edvard Munch.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Am I Living In a Filter Bubble? Just the Facts, Please. Louis Shalako.

Louis Shalako

Am I living in a filter bubble?

I don’t know. Why do you ask?

Are you genuinely concerned for my informational needs, or is this just a polite opening where we quickly move on, to saying that I don’t agree with you and that therefore I am an idiot?

When someone says ‘people are living in filter bubbles’ it is possible that they have an agenda. They want to begin their lecture now...

In my case, I would have to say the answer is no.

On the Toronto Sun website, I am allowed ten free articles per month. Sometimes I go to the site and find a story that interests me. I can get the same story somewhere else, in fact I usually have already. What interests me is the spin.

What interests me is the reaction.

The spin is one thing, the comments section is often pure swamp for some reason. Now, when I am reading an acknowledged leftward-leaning news source, the spin isn’t quite so apparent. 

We must assume it is there, perhaps rendered invisible because for the most part we agree—there’s nothing there so egregious that it begs contradiction. We might quibble on the details, or the dearth or abundance of coverage of any particular issue.

Recently, the big story provincially is the rise in the minimum wage. I can read liberal papers, and see what stories they carry. Then I can go off to the conservative papers, and see what they are saying. And yes, I already have my own opinion. Most of us do—we already have our opinions.

The columnists have their own slant, and they’re carrying the flag to some extent when they write for public consumption, i.e., the sort of folks that subscribe to that particular outlet, and presumably to that particular outlook.

I’m not a card-carrying party member. In the past, and I am fifty-eight years old, I have voted Green Party once. I have voted multiple times for the NDP and the Liberals, federally and provincially. I know who on city council has run in federal or provincial elections and for what party they ran. Once I was sorely tempted to vote Conservative, mostly in protest of an incumbent Liberal that I didn’t much like.

To have a range of opinions, which don’t always coincide with any particular party template, to more or less agree with a position, perhaps to support a side would be a better expression, is not the same thing as living in a filter bubble. Of course I’m looking for facts to support that. That’s because I have an agenda too.

It’s pretty simple, actually.

I would like to know the facts.

When I read a local paper, I am perfectly aware that head office has a conservative or liberal outlook on things. And things are complicated—the real trolls in the comment section seem to have a simple, ideological answer for everything, and anyone who doesn’t agree is living in a filter bubble.

Because we’re not too fond of listening to them. That’s why it quickly gets so personal when someone disagrees or tries to introduce some facts which have been left out. They have the pulpit and they don’t want to let it go.

They have their beliefs.

They don’t need to convince themselves or their fellow-travelers. They need to convince that silent, middle of the road majority, who, if they are listening at all, must be rather appalled by all of this. All of these opposing claims—contradictory claims.

Looking at my search history, I can see that I read dozens of stories and publications daily.

For the most part, these are credible sources of a liberal social, economic and political nature. 

They are the more forward-looking and thoughtful publications out there, and yes, that does include the local (arguably, socially, a little bit conservative) paper a lot of the time. Every once in a while, we run into a real dog and we wonder why anyone would even bother…anyways, that is my bias.

It’s a lot better than what the amateurs are saying when they get all riled up on ideological grounds and then turn everything into character or moral judgements, using the most simplistic and bigoted reasoning known to man.

Maybe that’s because things are complicated.

And amateurs are amateurs.


Louis Shalako books and stories are available from Amazon.

Thank you for reading.