Healing Gaia

Charity Begins at Home and Ends with Government Policy

Charity is no replacement for good policy. Canadians deserve a government that will invest to improve lives.

By Doreen Nicoll
Published April 13, 2015

Since I volunteer with several community organizations working diligently to end poverty, hunger and gendered violence, I was more than a little interested in Steve Arnold's article in the Hamilton Spectator about the Burlington and Greater Hamilton United Way (BGHUW).

Charities funded, in whole or in part, by BGHUW received fourteen percent less money in 2014 and ten percent less 2015. The cuts happened even though the BGHUW raised over 6.8 million dollars during its annual September to December (2014) blitz. This was still more than its intended target amount.

Charities and non-profits receiving partial funding from BGHUW must fundraise independently to meet the remainder of their annual budgets. However, these organizations are prohibited from soliciting donations during the fall blitz. To do so would mean their BGHUW funding would be terminated. Effectively, this ensures the BGHUW has exclusive fundraising rights during that time. Now you know the real reason behind all those spring galas to support local charities!

Administrative costs for BGHUW accounted for twenty-four percent of 2014 revenues. Combined administrative and fundraising costs for 2014 totaled 1.6 million dollars.

In addition to rising administrative costs, BGHUW is facing donor imposed restrictions dictating which charities can benefit from these donations. Almost seven hundred thousand dollars, ten percent of donations, fall into this category.

The 68 agencies receiving funding from the BGHUW consistently need to expand the services they offer because the provincial and federal governments have not adequately addressed the systemic causes of poverty, hunger, and gendered violence. Eventually, marginalized members of our society will rely on agencies funded by the BGHUW when essential social programs are cancelled in the name of reducing taxes and balancing budgets. But, what happens when donations drop off? Or, too many donors dictate where the funds can be allocated?

The Common Sense Revolution of Mike Harris caused many of the social ills that we are dealing with today. Under the Harris government a total of three billion dollars in costs was transferred to regional municipalities financially ill-equipped to deal with these new expenditures. Downloaded services included the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), Ontario Works (OW), child care, housing, public health, land ambulance services, policing, and public transit funding,

Since the Harris, years Ontarians have experienced misspent tax dollars: $60 million on ornge air ambulance; $1 billion on eHealth; $300 million on the MaRS building bail out; $1 billion for cancelling construction of two gas-fired power plants; and $263 million spent on SAMS, the Social Assistance Management System software program that caseworkers across the province use to manage ODSP and OW client files.

Surely, if there's hundreds of millions to spend on managing client files then the provincial government could find the money to increase ODSP and OW payments by 30% to bring recipients up to the poverty line.

The Harper government is not without its share of scandals that wasted taxpayer money. During its first five years in office, the Conservative government overspent its ad budgets by $128 million.

In 2013/14, Natural Resources Canada spent almost $440 million on programs to support the oil and gas industry, about 10 percent over budget.

$24 million was spent on ads promoting Canadian oil and the Keystone XL in the United States.

In 2013, an $11 million advertising fund was created for Employment and Social Development Canada to portray the government as a proactive job creator. This money included two and a half million spent during hockey playoffs to promote a skills training program that never existed.

Income splitting benefits a small segment of wealthy Canadians but the revenue lost from taxes will be approximately two and a half billion in 2015/16 alone.

Abolish the Senate and Harper's government would save over $92 million annually (conservative estimate - no pun intended). Add to that the cost of audits and investigations into Senate misconduct.

Canadians deserve a government that will invest in policy that improves lives: full-time positions with benefits instead of precarious, part-time jobs; a national living wage; national housing plan; national child care plan; and fully funded universal health care for a start.

When so much money has been wasted by both levels of government, it's time to speak up and let representatives know that charity just won't do!

Doreen Nicoll is a feminist and a member of several community organizations working diligently to end poverty, hunger and gendered violence.

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By Hmm (anonymous) | Posted April 25, 2015 at 21:50:23

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted April 26, 2015 at 08:18:35 in reply to Comment 111085

Such a devoted capitalist should recognize that time is money, and if someone doesn't have a lot of one, they can certainly donate the other. Why don't you man up and take the initiative, and list for us your volunteer experience?

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By Mike harris (anonymous) | Posted April 26, 2015 at 05:42:35

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted April 26, 2015 at 08:17:22

Great articles Doreen. Haters will hate - probably makes them feel inadequate. Canada just ranked #5 in happiness in the world - below all the scandinavian countries. It is our robust social ties among the qualities that make this such an amazing country. America ranks lower than Israel, between Brazil and Mexico.

Individuals that live on a more primitive level of consciousness see everything as very dichotomous - to them having a good safety net is exactly the same as Stalinist socialism. I hear it in the factory floor conversations around me. Conservatives trend toward a frightening darwinistic form of capitalism that is anti-science and prefers the poor and sick to die or go to prison.

The countries that are more cohesive and intelligent have a healthy thriving public realm, services that help all their citizens, and, when they're down, help people get back to health and productivity so they can grow into productive contributing members of our nation.

It is worth protecting our core Canadian values, and for some people, they should start at home to experience the difference, and maybe start to change. Some of these comments make one wonder how they speak to their wife, or kids, or neighbor.

As for the liberals, they relocated a gas plant away from a neighborhood that didn't want that source of pollution near them, and fought hard enough to make it happen. I don't agree with everything they do, am concerned about the current round of privatization, but I only wish more governments had the courage to modify plans according to constituent wishes.

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2015-04-26 08:20:54

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By Explains (anonymous) | Posted April 26, 2015 at 10:42:19 in reply to Comment 111092

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By notlloyd (registered) - website | Posted May 12, 2015 at 07:17:14 in reply to Comment 111098

Don't quite know why this was greyed out. They did lie. They did make the decision for crass political purposes. It would have been cheaper to expropriate the neighbors and keep the gas plant there. They did destroy their emails. The long term impact does cause more pollution than less so they are either nothing close to green or they are just a very good example of political evil at its worst. Remember, this event spawned the only criminal investigation of a sitting government in Ontario history.

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By NotaHater (anonymous) | Posted May 11, 2015 at 23:03:49

I think that anonymity makes it easy for the haters to attack the poor and vulnerable.

I would love to see a just world, like a fly on the wall, when these haters lose their jobs, lose their homes, lose their incomes and then come across people they previously attacked who will simply turn around and tell them to go f ... themselves ... that they are useless eaters and they should go away and die.

I don't care about the wealthy people because in my opinion, they have done nothing for us but whine and complain about paying their fair share and selectively giving to causes of THEIR choice, not necessarily the needs of the community. No, Virginia, charity does not work and only serves to further divide an already tenuous society.

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By notlloyd (registered) - website | Posted May 12, 2015 at 06:58:57 in reply to Comment 111552

Are you just trying to prove your own point? Lots of hate and prejudice in there. Try writing the same post without being anonymous.

Comment edited by notlloyd on 2015-05-12 06:59:50

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