In Ontario, a single person receives under $600 per month if they are on social assistance. With that amount they are expected to pay rent, buy groceries, travel to job interviews and take care of essential needs.
If that single person is disabled, Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) pays up to $979 per month.[i]
If you qualify to receive this government assistance, it is likely that you have been unable to find employment that will provide better than this. Even if you work full-time at a job paying minimum wage, you will still make an annual income that falls below the poverty line.
If you have special dietary needs because of a health condition, food allergy or disease you may qualify for up to an additional $250 per month.
On March 26th in Toronto, Doctor Roland Wong appeared before the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario for a disciplinary hearing to determine whether he followed professional standards in prescribing the special food allowance to more than 14,000 patients.[iii]
He did this so that poor people could eat healthy food. He is being investigated to see if he stretched the rules in order to provide nutrition to people who did not qualify to eat healthy.
Dr. Wong did not come to his hearing alone. ‘His poor supporters rolled in with walkers, combat boots and a red banner that declared “Raise Welfare and Disability Rates.” ‘[iv]
It is well documented that poverty and poor health go together. The more money you have, the greater the likelihood of living longer and healthier. If you address poverty, you reduce the need for healthcare.
In one of the richest nations of the world, we do not provide enough for our most vulnerable citizens. With the current release of the Ontario budget, there is a freeze on social assistance and disability allowances.
In a press release this past week, a group known as ‘Doctors And Lawyers For Fair Taxation’ [v]appealed to finance minister Dwight Duncan to have fair taxation practices. They are high wage earners who are saying ‘Tax us. We can afford it.’ They recognize that taxation most affects the poorest.
If there are doctors and lawyers who feel a responsibility to the poor, what is to be our response to addressing poverty and equity issues?
New Song Church identifies itself as a group of people called by God to get involved in poverty. This is a passion for us. People who attend this church long term tend to have compassion for the well being of others.
The theologian Frederick Buechner said, ‘The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s hunger meet.’[vi]
I hope that you have discovered the deep gladness that comes from God and responded to the hunger of the world.
As followers of Jesus Christ, how are we to live in response to the world around us? The gospel of Jesus Christ is good news for the poor and bad news for the rich. Is Jesus bringing you good news or bad?
[vi] Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC, http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/76809.Wishful_Thinking