Happy Holidays York Region

York Region Council refused to trash their vehicles during the transit strike

I hope everyone is having a happy holiday season. I know it's been especially tough for some I'm sure, including striking transit drivers and their families as well as transit users and theirs. Both are being affected by the lack of action to end this strike, and both are beginning to suffer the effects of having no or limited access to work.

In some cases the Y.R.T. drivers are part-timers, but even those working for supplemental income purposes are doing so often times to keep their houses afloat or simply maintain what they have but were once able to maintain without the extra income. That's what inflation does folks, and when the rising costs begin to outweigh the notsorising income levels then something has to give. Thus the Mexican stand-off which has become the York Region Transit strike.

The strike is taking a severe toll however on those that rely on it for work and every day life connections. A normally reserved young lady of 18 or so is heard screaming  at her lone parent who happens to also have a chronic illness, "You cash poor fuck!", when refusing to cover yet another taxi from their isolated community to her workplace and spoken in frustration about not being able to get to her job again. This recurring household tension is magnified in communities that may be otherwise isolated from most amenities, work or activity centres.

Imagine having your car suddenly not only taken away but your transit to work or food as well and on top you're isolated. Then your phone is disconnected because you've been unable to get to work and back with enough left over to pay it. What would you do? Would you stand for it? I doubt it. Yet they expect these riders to sit by and be used as pawns while their lives are put in turmoil, future school plans are scrapped with no income now able to be saved, kids unable get to high school or dropping out, homes lost and on...someone has to be held accountable for the lives it's destroying!! But who?

If you ask the Regional Council or its Chair, Bill Fisch, it has absolutely nothing to do with them. Nope, they are not in the mix they've arbitrarily decided. Now there's a funny word. Back to that later. At any rate, these fat cat councilors, a mixture of privileged mayors and Regional Councillors who are sworn to look out for all its residents and who are failing them badly, make no mistake, and who also very quickly turned down my proposed resolution to council a few weeks back to leave their cars at home during the strike.

Council's silence speaks volumes and mirrors their record in council of pandering to paying off debts and balancing books on the back of money earmarked or designated for social programs - such as the G.T.A. pooling dollars which they "redesignated" for their own purposes instead of using it for what it was successfully fought for to be returned to York Region from Toronto because we purportedly needed it for our own programs by dozens of honest citizens groups who believed they'd do the right thing. Well they didn't. They've given a pittance to where it was supposed to go while smuggly putting together a balanced budget largely on the back of it in 2011.

Here's an example of how out of touch this York Region council is with reality. Here we have transit riders, presumably many of whom are low income earners, increasingly who may now be facing eviction from their homes because of lost income, yet the rules of the anti-homelessness program that is distributed by the Church of the Salvation Army (lest we forget they are a religion) on behalf of the Region eliminate them from qualifying. That's right the anti-homelessness programs are not open to low income earners and these rules are set out by the Region of York, or so I was told by the local S.A. head Brian Bishop a year or so ago when I asked him to justify why they excluded the lowest income earners from qualifying. I told him they should refuse to distribute the funds under those conditions then. I had been there at the time at the invite of Mr Bishop to follow up on a complaint we'd received from someone who felt their family was treated disrespectfully through their qualification process.

I'll bet many people don't realize that 80% of all the Salvation Army funding for all their programs comes from government sources. Don't take my word for it, I read it on their website. They are like the perfect cross between corporation and charity (they are a church) that gets to walk through unchallenged, and with an American CEO who makes over 3.3 million dollars a year, a well paid servant of the Lord methinks..so be wary of the wonderfullness of charities as solutions for our social ails for they all have issues, and accountability for such is best served through government distribution, not charities that claim to offer dignity through feeding the poor.Give us a break, there is absolutely nothing dignified about how people have to open up their lives to complete strangers in order to simply to access food or extra groceries or toys at Christmas..enough of the government handouts to charities and give it right to the people..because right now they need taxis  to get food and to work and doctors and hospitals and pick up medications - not toys - thousands of which will now sit in warehouses.

Vote for PACCs one minute video contest finalist above One Paycheck Away Here! 

With the transit strike on and snow falling, residents like Dan and Ashley who have to get by in wheel-chairs will feel the pinch too, living in a town with no grocery delivery and taxis that refuse to even if you can afford them, and having to rely on a system that asks them to book a week in advance that he and his girlfriend are unable to take together often, having different kinds of wheelchairs...and on and on..slowly they lose the will to go out..and then the zest for life wains...and did they ask for this life? Perhaps our social programs money could have been spent here so our disabled could lead normal lives. They even have to rely on hoping charities like Neighbourhood Network can fit them in to shovel their driveways. What about those who they can't get to? These councillors, unions, companies all owe a chance at life to these people and it's more than a freakin blip those I've met as the media would have you believe, but it's been a ship sinker.

This strike could have gone to arbitration which is a fancy way of saying someone who'll negotiate a compromise which is then binding, but Dictator, ah, I mean Chairman Fisch and his cohort band of merry councilmen and women) and mayors are holding steadfast and likely secretly drooling at all the extra money they think they'll have to spend at the end of this. My seeing this on the council's last meeting agenda about how to spend it, was a reminder that they are saving millions a month on the backs of the poor during this, and no wonder they are trying to distance themselves.

Sorry dudes and dudettes, you made the original deal, you fix it. If you want I'd be happy to step in and negotiate as I'm trained in group facilitation and experienced at bringing parties of differing views and opinions together with a positive result - such as our P.A.C.C. hosted and york Region approved social audit "Behind the Masks.. testimonials from those marginalized by income"of which it seems few, if any of the recommendations, have yet to be acted on.

Well I can tell you one thing..come election time each and everyone will be held accountable, so maybe this was the shake up we needed to show this council for what it truly is which is certainly not one that is doing all it can for its most vulnerable residents - true signs of any sick civilization used to privilege. Yup the beginning of the end for them methinks..and definitely the smug Dr Dolittle himself Chairman Fisch.

Curious to note The York Region Food Network, the one true ally in the fight against social injustice in York Region, even though their connection is food related, has been apparently evicted from the Inn From The Cold Building by the Inn From the Cold people..Hmmm..WONDER WHO PULLED THAT STRING! At any rate I hope this doesn't now jeopardize the fresh foodbox programs and the regular Thursday food and supplies distribution the PACC has been running for several years now...we'll see..looks like someone wants to be headmaster!

P.A.C.C. in cooperation with some community groups including from Bray and Mulock community associations along with P.A.C.C. distributed Y.R. Food Network's food boxes, and an anonymous toys/clothes donor, were successfully able to provide toys, food, fresh food, toiletries diapers, supplies etc for several communities for distribution and neighbourhood xmas parties which was very appreciated - especially by those mothers without vehicles to transport the supplies and who may of had to spend much more than usual of their xmas budgets in just getting around over the past months.

Y. R. Food Network's Yvonne Kelly & Director Joan Stonehoecker speak at Int Day for the Eradication of Poverty. The friends of the hungry have been squeezed out of  510 Penrose, the wannabe York Region "hub" for poverty issues. They were the only advocate for the 'poor" in that building, to the rest they are 'clients", "cases"and 'patrons"..too bad.

Special thanks to P.A.C.C.ers Linda and Kristine who were both instrumental in making sure people accessed the Christmas and holiday goodies and that a good time was had by all!

Tom out!

Minister Hoskins Informed York Region Strike Inconvenient Only

P.A.C.C. generated report pictured above about the York Region Transit strike on C.B.C.

Occupy Newmarket at Yonge and Eagle St Sat Dec 10

Whew! Where to begin? Maybe with the guy on the street riding his bike, who explained to me that he couldn't get to work (Toronto/Bradford) or now afford presents for his kids for xmas and asked what is he to do? Some are thinking "we have toy drives" I bet. That's because we've been slowly brainwashed into believing that's an accepted solution. Charity is not the best way. Maybe he wants to be able to pick out his own presents that his kids actually asked for, and with his dignity fully intact, or you know, perhaps experience the joy of getting something for someone you picked out especially for them! Want to rob people of that feeling? Well, that's what charitable solutions do. Or how about the Mom I met who's kids and self haven't seen her husband for over 2 weeks because they have to stay at friends' homes in order to get the kids to school, as they live in Richmondhill and school 15 miles away in Aurora? And what about those arts school kids who the school board refuses to bus, even though they live in some cases 10's of miles away? What of them in all this?

The local mainstream media would have you believe that transit riders blame the drivers, with one penning "having searched the blogs it seems most are against the drivers", as Y.R.M.G. Writer, I believe David Fleischer put it, or something to that affect. Really? Because we've been blogging about it for months now, and we blame the Y.R. Council mostly as they made the deal that got us into this mess, then sit back on their hands? Remember us? P.A.C.C.? The voice for low income residents in York Region? The ones who attracted and Hosted (RE: Coordinated), Co-convened and Co-authored York Region's only ever social audit this past year called 'Behind The Masks testimonials from those marginalized by income" that the York Regional Council adopted recommendations from, and that the Ontario wide I.S.A.R.C. Social audit referenced extensively in its own report, Persistent Poverty, voices from the margins, citing the quality of the York Region collected data? That P.A.C.C.! He obviously didn't follow our blogs or videos or any P.A.C.C. video reports...Get with the program buddy! We don't care who ends it just do! Do it now! This council knew it to be a problem all the way back to 2008 when they also had a shorter transit strike and did nothing since. Am I the only one finding it ironic that the council meeting agenda included how to spend all the savings being made from the strike - on the backs of the lowest income earners who are getting shafted!
P.A.C.C. Chair Tom Pearson got an ovation from a packed Regional Council chambers including union members on Thursday after asking for a resolution that Council leave their cars at home for the duration of the strike as a means to speed up the process. It was declined.
They are doing a good (snow) job though because I had an opportunity to speak with the newest guy in charge of the poverty reduction plan today at the Ontario government's Poverty Reduction Strategy's Third Progress Report in Toronto. The usual yes-people were there like The Daily Bread Foodbank's Gail Nyberg and other hanger's on and of course new in-house converts the 25in5club, of which I was once a believer in myself. Too bad they chose selling out over truth.

Speaking of which, truth is the management of YRT / Viva has been terrible from the get go, with a big U.S. style city transit guy bringing in a goonsquadlike security force to a system that seemingly never needed one before - and this only after implementing the youth and homeless trapping 'honour system" that allows people to walk on without interaction with the drivers, thus eliminating the common greeting a driver & rider might have, like people in in towns do, which is what make up York Region, towns, and in them town-folk. Remember them? The robotlike Viva line is certainly not tailored for the rider experience and connects to a YRT system seemingly designed to takes someone up to 21/2 hours to travel a distance that takes 10 - 15 minutes by vehicle because they can't simply schedule connecting buses which is outrageous, and no wonder it doesn't grow, if not for the Yonge St. every 15 minutes, rush hour, VIVA cash cow.
The same day I met the new Minister in charge of the poverty reduction strategy I got his xmas card!

At any rate, I took the occasion to mention the transit strike to the Honourable Minister of Children and Youth Services, Dr. Eric Hoskins, who has been appointed charge now of the poverty reduction strategy for the Ontario government and that it was destroying some families literally, affecting kids who needed access to schools and jobs for not only xmas presents but for education costs as well. He responded that he was grateful to hear the passion in my voice because the Minister had been under the impression that the transit strike has been nothing more than an inconvenience to some! He also asked when it was that I'd made the deposition regarding the Y.R. transit strike to council and I told him of course last week. Really? An inconvenience? Reminds me of a movie title - The Inconvenient Truth - I made sure he knew it was more than that, but couldn't dwell on the point too long because A) he's not really the guy to target to make waves for that issue and B) We were there (5 strong) to represent the Put Food in The Budget campaign and I wanted to stay on track. I later found out the Minister's background is a medical one, he's a newcomer to politics and he has run charities in the past...so I guess you know which way our social programs are leaning - towards charities taking them on which should be a government responsibility. I hope I'm wrong on this one.

In fact a whole section in the pamphlet for the poverty reduction strategy called " Breaking The Cycle - the Third Progress Report - in which they boast to have lifted some 34,000 children out of "deep poverty" in 2009 etc - is about new "partnerships" but leaves out the stuff like the cost of living increases outstripping rate raises and single people still being hung out to dry by the system, and the fact that assistance rates have never returned to pre-Harris 22.5% cuts social assistance rates since the Ontario Liberal's stepped in.. still!

P.F.I.B.'s Mike Balkwill, one of whom we all strategized with about what to do at this soiree in terms of approaching the subject matter inside, had an excellent exchange with Minister Hoskins asking him to "Do The Math", a questionnaire budget type of exercise designed to educate politicians to real costs to people, to which I believe he got a form of commitment and went on to ask for support for the $100 Healthy Food Supplement - the exchange all of which I captured on camera! Unfortunately it's digital tape so you'll have to wait until I can transfer / post it! Ha..But it's textbook stuff ....Advocacy 101!

Watch our PACC Channel video and upcoming report on the growing trend of low income earners having their lives controlled by government interference including our seniors and residents with disabilities!

Now should I win the Canadian Labour Congress One Minute video contest with my entry ONE PAYCHECK AWAY which is one of only 5 FINALISTS from across Canada..because you keep voting for it up until January 20 2012
then I can buy new equipment and post the goods immediately with clarity! Vote for it every day up until Jan 20 and win a chance to win a trip!!! Okay I made that up..but we need the equipment as we get no government funds!!Ha! Hey it's one way to fund raise!

Tom out!

Giant Christmas Card For Dalton Mcguinty Courtesy of the P.A.C.C. backed Put Food In The Budget Campaign

Occupy Transit Stops

Sign at "Occupy Newmarket"
 Please view PACC Channel's 60 second video above One Paycheck Away and vote for it in the Canadian Labour congress Contest via the link!

Hey, if you think about it, occupying a bus shelter or a 'wack" of them is not such a bad idea. I'm not sure it resonated with the Occupy Newmarket group at the recent 3rd official meeting which was held at Newmarket's Fairy Lake Park and then again unofficially at the C.U.P.E. offices the following Sunday for an event billed, "Why Occupy?", an event that's intent  I suppose, was to encourage people to join in answering that very question through a Q and A session. From my understanding - I don't know because I didn't attend - the Sunday unofficial meeting included a few people from "Occupy Toronto" who had come up to share visions I suppose, and help discuss a direction that this movement can all take together in one form or another. Even the "Occupy Aurora" group has joined the fray. Perhaps the world will unite on this, who Knows? At any rate, to my knowledge the bus shelter occupy idea has not been put forward for action (yet), but it was a heck of an idea (mine of course ha!) especially since they're not being used with this transit strike on.

Occupy Newmarket occupies a bus shelter Sat Dec 10 2011

  Like why not set up an occupy for example I thought, in the bus shelter in front of York Region head-quarters, as it would symbolically encompass many of the issues the occupy movements seem to be about such as youth who are losing out on getting to school or even to part time jobs for Christmas season, since they've now missed out on being able to obtain one now and even if they were lucky enough to have a job will likely be sacrificing half their night's wages in cab fares . It doesn't help that the town of Newmarket allowed for a fare hike for cabs last year (during a recession no less), which the lower income earners mostly use as is... and let's not even bother mentioning the countless people who have lost jobs, work, or even homes now because of this strike. Those trying to access the hospital or Doctors in non- emergency visits or for loved ones have also been affected and left to fend for themselves and, unfortunately, not everyone can afford $50 two way rides from taxis which is another outrage. But hell, with the price of parking there, I don't know which is worse. The growing gap between rich and poor would also be part of the symbolic mix, and as well the lower wage and middle class workers who mostly use their transit service with many now feeling the crunch like never before. The lack of action shows blatant disregard and discrimination against lower income earners if you ask me. The entire York Regional Council,  especially Chairman Bill Fisch is to blame, as the union offered to go back to work if they sent it to arbitration, yet still York Regional Council does nothing and refuses to use this, or any route towards ending it, before more people are devastated by it like the "kid" who came to my door for a box of food for his mom last night because they have no car and no food and she could not get to work on time consistently so lost her job. The kid works too - for a minimum wage seasonal contract job - to which I'm not sure how he's managing transportation but the look on his face as he had to "stoop" to asking for food for his mom was enough to remind me why I stay on this "mission", that seemingly has become an ingrained part of my life.
Occupy Investment in Kids not War at Occupy Newmarket Day 1
People were not allowed to have owner-ship in more than one corporation when they were first started in the 1700's
 There is no doubt we need to survive in this world and to do that people must be able to do business, whether through barter or funds or what have you, but the expectation now seems to be to have people carry a debt load.What ever happened to one income families being able to own a home or low income earners being able to live in a place that left them enough to afford a place to live, with enough left over to actually live!? My father came to this country as a skilled person, as he was trained in making dentures, and he wasn't allowed to do that here ( hey some things never change!) but he was still able to buy a home in time, from sweeping floors in a factory.

 Today you cannot even be sure of long term employment it seems since many and much have been replaced by contract work, part time and temp jobs which don't have to abide by the same rules as full-time workers and you are essentially left to your own devises between jobs and they do not have to give you full time hours. Gone are the days of knowing you'd be working one job for one company for a long time. 

 Recently a guy I was able to get a "job" for, someone down on their luck and on the verge of the streets, and I got him a position which lasted 8 months at which point my colleague's company lost the contract. That worker was then left on his own and didn't qualify for employment insurance..he subsequently hit rock bottom (again) before a few months later the contract was returned as the newer lower bidding company had failed to deliver...and back he went...but for how long this time? And how much can someone making $13 an hour save in case it happens again in this climate with inflation climbing at 3% yearly and wages essentially frozen but for incremental increases begrudgingly given by "our elected government"? Is this what we asked for or expect? Is this fair? I think this is what irks the base of the "Occupy Movements" too, because many, many people are just sick and tired of the status quo bullshit they / we're fed...I mean it's become "the norm" to know certain "promises" will be broken once elected - it's accepted as "normal"? Well I don't find it "normal", as well as the more and more I hear about how things are run and how they're all about image and photo-op / branding with messages that are more like an ad campaign of a corporation model, it really, really irks me.

 A Corporation is made up of a group of people lead by a board who have one common main goal which is to make as much profit as possible for its shareholders - by law!- over all other concerns - including environment or community  concerns.  In actuality, corporations are faceless, soulless entities that have the legal standing of a person. Not everyone is aware of that, but it's true ever since a group of smart lawyers had them declared so back in the 1800's. Why it's never been challenged is beyond me. Smart lawyers were also instrumental in using laws such as Bill c140 - enacted to protect blacks from being dispossessed of their land - for corporation use. The 1st year of this law, that was tabled to help blacks, out of 287 claims only 17 were from Blacks, the rest by corporations! Somehow these corporations that were first started as a gift for the people to assist in times of war for bridges, and ship building, & that no one was allowed to have ownership in another corporation of have somehow morphed into what we have today.

 So no, a corporation is not a fun clown like Mcdonald's image or an nice old man like Wendy's or a Rice Crispy "Snack Crackle Pop" guy...No, that's all for convincing you to trust their product...so it's whole premise is based on selling you on a false image. Where did everything get so twisted?

 We need to back away from a corporate government model that I know. Instead of more private partnerships we need less...I want to be living in the Town of Newmarket again - not the Corporation of the Town of Newmarket...Foodbanks get 80% of their donations from corporations who are embraced by people like our minister in charge of the Ontario poverty reduction efforts, who had a photo op with the president of Cambpell's Soups last summer, as they celebrated a 'donation" to the hunger fight' - via soup sales that gave a kick back of cans of soup to food banks in return and makes the corporation look wonderful in doing so, and I guess the minster too..or so she thought, as they seemed to have back-tracked from that a bit..likely a recent Harvard Study which showed those eating canned soup vs fresh had 1,121 times more levels of harmful diabetes and heart disease causing Bisphenol A. Try more money people, it works much better.
Food for thought!

more "Occupy" messages
Strike won't affect this stop much running until only 7:30 pm ..good luck enjoying the new downtown evening riders!

Later, Tom