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"Raise the Rates" campaign targets Liberal convention

Reg McQuaid

March 25, 2014

To the samba beat of Rhythms of Resistance, and shouts of "Stop the War on the Poor, Raise the Rates Now!", around seven hundred banner-carrying, pot-banging protesters marched from Metro Hall to the Ontario Liberal Party convention at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Saturday, March 22.   
Contingents of people, forced to live on miserly Ontario Works (OW) and Ontario Disability Support Payments (ODSP) allowances, streamed to Metro Hall at 1 pm, from six gathering points throughout various Toronto low-income areas. These were joined by busloads of social assistance recipients and supporters from Ottawa, Kingston, Sudbury, Kitchener/Waterloo and Hamilton.
The march concluded at the front entrance of the Convention Centre, where speakers from the sponsoring organizations demanded the Wynne government raise social assistance rates by 55 per cent now, thereby restoring the spending power lost since 1995. They also demanded an immediate increase of the minimum wage to $14, the restoration of Special Diet and Community Start Up Benefits, and no merger of OW and ODSP, which is a disguised attack on Disability benefits.
The march was organized by the Raise the Rates campaign, which includes the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) and many anti-poverty groups.  Endorsers included Jane-Finch Action Against Poverty, Parkdale Against Poverty, Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty, Kingston Coalition Against Poverty, Poverty Makes Us Sick Waterloo Region, CUPE - Ontario, OPSEU, Steelworkers Local 1005 and  many more.
Marchers faced sub-zero temperatures and a biting north wind, symbolic of the  insensitivity and  lack of response from  Liberal Party members inside the well-heated Convention Centre. However, the spirits of the protesters remained high, as speaker after speaker denounced the neoliberal austerity agenda, which seeks to balance the budget on the backs of the poor. Governments have maintained huge tax cuts for corporations by continuously lowering the standard of living for the poorest people. Speakers expressed the determination of anti-poverty groups to keep up pressure on politicians of all stripes, until they act upon people’s demands to be treated with basic human dignity.  
As a parting gesture protesters emptied boxes of macaroni noodles in front of the posh entrance to the Convention Centre. Two days earlier OCAP had disrupted the Ontario Liberal Party's annual lavish fundraising dinner by unfurling a banner demanding a raise in social assistance rates and littering the floor with macaroni. In the face of grinding poverty across the province as a result of Liberal policies, a dinner that boasts of $1,500 a plate is a slap in
the face to people struggling to pay the rent or put food on the table.


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