One of the numerous demonstrations organized by the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) to demand a raise of social welfare benefits.

According to the MasterCard Worldwide Centres of Commerce Index, Toronto is fourth out of the 75 “most influential cities that drive the global economy” for its “ease of doing business,” right after Singapore, Hong Kong and London. The index is based on indicators such as “assessments of investor protection, quality of banking, the ease with which contracts are enforced, and other basic services.” It also considers regulations for urban development as well as social policies. In other words, the index rates the economical and political environment that better suits the needs of the capitalists.

The ease of doing business which makes the Toronto elite so proud means that a family on social welfare needs to spend 33% of its income on food and 72% on rent (making a total of…). From May 2008 to May 2009, the number of people receiving Ontario Works rose by 13%, totalling some 87,450 people. Food banks report that 40% of their new visitors are coming because of job loss or reduced work hours. Clearly, economic crisis has hit hard in Toronto.

The average cost of a Nutritious Food Basket for a family of four (as calculated by Toronto Public Health) rose to $634/month last year—an increase of 7.4% from the year before. Access to affordable housing is increasingly out of reach. In the mid-1990s, there were two low-income families for every one moderate-rent market unit of suitable size. By 2006, there were seven such families for every one unit.

As of June 2009, the ease of doing business for capitalists meant a youth unemployment rate of 20.1%, 4% higher than the national rate. Full-time jobs declined to 78.2% of the total workforce, as the percentage of part-time jobs increased. In July 2009, Toronto’s unemployment rate officially stood at 10.7%. Even though there was an 88% increase in the number of people receiving Unemployment Insurance between May 2008 and 2009, only 35% of unemployed workers are collecting regular benefits.

The ease of doing business in Toronto means that recent immigrants are three times more likely to have lost their jobs than their Canadian-born comrades. And for those who still have jobs, the earnings gap widened significantly. Twenty-five years ago, immigrant women earned 85 cents for each dollar earned by Canadian-born women. Now they earn just 56¢, even though their levels of education have grown at a faster rate. Toronto relies heavily on high immigration levels to sustain its population and fill jobs. The ease of doing business means that 55% of students whose parents were both born in Canada are in the highest income range ($100,000+ household income). In sharp contrast, 64% of students whose parents were both born outside Canada are in the two lowest income brackets (less than $50,000 household income). And Aboriginal students are less likely to have finished high school: 29.6% of them had yet to finish high school, compared to 20.3% for the city as a whole.

The ease of doing business means that 53% of recent immigrants in Toronto are spending over 30% of their income on housing (compared to 46% of established and 44% of non immigrants); almost 30% of them are spending more than 50% of household income on shelter. A disproportionate number of Aboriginal people (12.4%) were living in homes needing major repairs in 2006, compared with 5.7% for the non- Aboriginal population. The active waiting list for social housing increased by 6% in 2008. The number of calls to the Tenant Hotline with questions regarding eviction also increased by 11% in the first quarter of 2009.

The ease of doing business means Toronto was identified a few years ago (2005) as the fifth highest of 37 census subdivisions in the Great Lakes Basin that had high levels of air pollutants (released from facilities that report to the National Pollutant Release Inventory). These toxic releases are mainly localized in the City’s poorer neighbourhoods. Most of Toronto’s beaches still fail to meet provincial standards; the four most polluted of them are closed 40% of the time.

The ease of doing business means families in the top 10% of the region’s population received 10 times the money income (earnings plus other sources of income such as pensions) that those in the lowest 10% had in 2006. In current dollars, that was $167,000 compared to $15,800 for the poorest. This is the highest ratio in the whole country.

In 2005, the City identified 13 Priority Areas for particular investment aimed at “building stronger, healthier neighbourhoods.” The results of the 2006 Census indicate those neighbourhoods had higher populations vulnerable to poverty than the City averages: visible minorities (66% vs. 46%), single parent families (25% vs. 20%) and recent immigrants (14.4% vs. 10.7%). The earnings of 27% of all Aboriginal people were less than the low-income cut-off (LICO, commonly known as poverty line), compared to 18% of non-Aboriginal people.

The ease of doing business means residents in low-income neighbourhoods are at greater risk of illness, chronic disease and premature death. Low income is linked to other factors, such as immigration status, family structure and educational attainment and all of these interact to create significant health inequalities between Toronto’s wealthier and poorer neighbourhoods. It is worth noting that 32% of Aboriginal children live in poverty, compared to 23% of non-Aboriginal children.

The ease of doing business means priority areas for the City’s Strong Neighbourhoods Task Force. Neighbourhoods facing particular economic and social challenges (low income, high levels of unemployment, high numbers of recent immigrants, etc.) are targeted for “particular attention and investment.”

According to this group, “the Greater Toronto Area alone produces nearly 20 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.” It is “home to almost 40 percent of Canada’s business head offices, and has one of the most highly diversified economies in the world.” But for proletarians and the poor, this signifies no more than repression and exploitation; the bourgeois state is selling our welfare to benefit the bourgeoisie.

We don’t have access to decent homes. We don’t have right to a living wage. We don’t have access to a decent education. Our families have to live under the slavery rules of the capitalists. For us, this city is a prison—as is the whole country— and we must shut it down. We must build a new society. We must fight for a new way of living. We must work for our new society, not for theirs. We must work to build socialism!

The bourgeois politicians are always planning new tricks to deceive us. For example, there is this “Investment Board” from the City’s Task Force, which has 15 members. They include representatives from each order of government, school boards, United Way and the Ontario Trillium Foundation. But the so-called “community members” are appointed by the governments. Their plan is to “improve liveability” in the GTA. But for whom? There’s not any member on this board elected by the community to serve the community and fight for it! There’s no money for social housing.

There’s no money for the health care system. There’s no money for public transportation. There’s no money for education. But there has been plenty of money in the past two years to help the rich face the crisis of their system and to exploit the working class! And while they are doing that, they expect us to remain silent and channel our dissent within the framework of their bogus elections.

We are hundreds of thousands who wake with the sun (or the moon) to wage our daily battle for survival. Our fathers, mothers, children are relying on our strength to survive. Is it not time for a revolution?

Lucho Rojas
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