The big news in Toronto this week is Rob Ford's plans to sell off public housing. You knew it was coming, and the time is ripe with the Public Housing board in disarray and Ford threatening to dismantle it.
Of course this has real estate developers "salivating" with the opportunity to cash in on this windfall. But what will it mean for those who will be forced to move out? The new redneck mayor is promising a 'shelter allowance' in lieu of subsidized rent, but how much of an allowance would he be prepared to give?
This is another attack on the poor. According to the authors of Persistent Poverty: Voices From the Margins, the average cost of a two-bedroom apartment in Toronto is $1,134 per month. And since many of those living in public housing are families, they would have difficulty living in less.
The working poor making minimum wage, barely earn enough to cover that, before paying for food, clothing and other basic necessities. Those on social assistance are allotted $791.00 per month maximum, and that's only if you have children, and 358.00 as a "basic living allowance".
One of Rob Ford's campaign promises was to deal with the "immigration problem", and we know that many of Canada's poor are immigrants. Is putting an end to public housing part of that strategy?
When Ralph Klein was premier of Alberta, he announced that:
"Bums, creeps and unskilled workers are not welcome. We will use cowboy techniques to deal with people who rob our banks, add to our welfare rolls, add to our unemployment lines and create rising crime rates." (1)And as part of that strategy he provided those "bums, creeps and unskilled workers" with bus tickets to British Columbia. Mike Harris in Ontario also toyed with the idea of shipping out our "undesirables".
Klein eventually had to stop, when the BC premier complained that he was also sending them convicted criminals.
But what happens if there is a mass exodus of the disenfranchised? It may solve Rob Ford's problem, but what will it mean to other communities already hard pressed to provide the very basic necessities to its citizens, many victims of the recent Wall Street created "economic crisis"?
But then a few people will get filthy rich and isn't that what's really important?
Maybe Don Cherry will put them up.
1. Hard Right Turn: The New Face of Neo-Conservatism in Canada, Brooke Jeffrey, Harper-Collins, 1999, ISBN: 0-00 255762-2 4, Pg. 52