“FORD WANTS TO PUSH THE POOR OUT THE DOOR. And give an American corporation a chance to make a lot of money doing it,” says Smokey Thomas.
The president of OPSEU (Ontario Public Service Employees Union) says the Ford plan to turn the administration of welfare into a for-profit private enterprise will only add to the misery of being poor by forcing welfare recipients into low-wage dead-end jobs.
Americans profit from our poverty
Fedcap, a Manhattan-based firm, will get paid for how quickly it pushes clients off welfare in the Peel region—regardless of how many of them may be disabled, suffer from addictions, or have mental health issues.
“All this does is create wealth for a foreign interest,” says Thomas. “It creates no benefit for people who get social assistance in Ontario. They will simply enter another kind of poverty — the working poor — or they will end up homeless or worse.
“But Ford will not talk about that, or the fact there is a documented 27 per cent increase over the last three years in food bank users who have a job. So what kind of jobs are you creating, Mr. Ford?”
Scheme has never worked
The Ford government’s latest experiment with welfare reform has been tried before in Australia and the United Kingdom. The results were not good.
In both countries, privatized welfare systems blew up because the contractors running them were rewarded for moving clients quickly from welfare to work—whether the clients were ready or not. Contractors were penalized if clients stayed on public assistance.
It was in the contractor’s interest to push people into jobs, even though they were not physically or psychologically ready for regular work.
Anti-poverty activists point out a great many of the people who depend on welfare have so many personal issues to work through, on top of being poor, that few are able to participate in any type of social engagement, let alone labour-market engagement.
In Australia, a comparable program has been a “bureaucratic nightmare”, according to a senate report. The $7.3 billion scheme has resulted in a welfare system where contractors are “rewarded financially for churning people through jobs that don’t last”.
The British Conservatives cancelled their experiment after six years. Many people ended up off welfare with no work, entirely dependent on charity, sleeping in bus shelters.
Not exactly 'for the people'
“I certainly think church groups should be paying attention and be aware of what’s going on,” said Sr. Sue Wilson, who runs the Office for Systemic Justice in London, Ont. “The government has made clear that their main goal is to pull money out of the system.”
In 2018, the American federal government found Fedcap had swindled 443 of its workers out of $3 million in pay and bogus fees. This same firm is now responsible for finding employment for welfare recipients in Ontario.
It’s typical of the kind of bad choices Doug Ford keeps making, says Thomas.
“If you are truly ‘for the people’ then do what the people need. Find ways to create real opportunities for people to lift themselves up, not ways to put them further into a hole.”
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