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!
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