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37 Comments

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Duly Quoted: Paul Ainslie

“I’ve been hearing people gripe for years—’People get a welfare cheque, and the first thing they do is go to the liquor store, the beer store.’ Well, usually when I get my paycheque, one of the first things I do is go to the liquor store or beer store.”
—Councillor Paul Ainslie (Ward 43, Scarborough East), responding to the idea that, when the City begins issuing debit cards instead of cheques to Ontario Works recipients, restrictions could be added to prevent those recipients from spending the money at places like at casinos, liquor stores, and tattoo parlours, as has been attempted in some U.S. jurisdictions. Ainslie added: “You should have some enjoyment in life. I think it’s a little draconian to start saying, ‘You’re on welfare, and this is exactly how you’re going to spend the money we give you.’”

Comments

  • http://twitter.com/willcuthbert Will Cuthbert

    A paycheque is vastly different from a welfare cheque. We need to keep in mind that social assistance is fundamentally designed to help people who are down on their luck provide themselves basic necessities like food, water, shelter etc. Liquor doesn't fall under that umbrella. Why should the public have to pay for someone else's LCBO expenses?

  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    It isn't the government's place to tell someone what they need to make their life livable. If you don't like the idea that someone may spend that money in a way you wouldn't, then don't give it to them in the first place.

  • multiphrenic

    Most people don't spend their welfare cheques on booze or drugs. If you think having oversight into the spending account of welfare cheque recipients makes fiscal sense, realize that you're creating a more expensive system — not a cheaper one.

    If the first thing someone does is spend their welfare cheque on booze and drugs, odds are they're addicted. What happens when you don't give them a cheque? They'll probably commit crimes so that they can get booze or drugs.

  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    Would you also dictate which foods they can buy, which stores they can shop at, what neighbourhood they live in, and how they can furnish their space?

  • mariapd

    But wouldn't they just be able to go to an ATM, take it out in cash and then spend it on whatever?

  • gbread

    I'll be sure to politely ask the government to stop using my tax dollars for welfare cheques.

  • http://www.scotchblog.ca canuck1975

    The idea is that they will save a few dollars by taking it out from an ATM vs. cashing the cheques at the Money Mart.

  • http://twitter.com/willcuthbert Will Cuthbert

    You're absolutely right, most people won't go out and buy those things, but some will and public money shouldn't support those habits. And to your point on addiction, we already pay for services to help people who have drug and alcohol dependencies and other mental health issues. Are you suggesting that we should let people spend our money on these substances simply because they have an addiction? Is there nothing else we can do to help them?

  • multiphrenic

    I am suggesting we stop paternalizing. Of course there is plenty we can do to help many people. But some people can't be helped. They have suffered through a lot of trauma and been through a lot of shit that most of us wouldn't even begin to understand. Drugs and booze are the least of their problems, and frankly, the least of mine.

    It is easy to have an opinion about people you don't know and haven't met. But I really suggest you get to know some of these people. Some are friendlier and nicer than people who don't do drugs and who don't drink. Get to know them, get to understand where they come from, and then come spew rhetoric about welfare recipients suckling on the teat of your (and my) hard-earned tax dollar.

    Morality policing is a very dangerous well to dive in.

  • http://twitter.com/willcuthbert Will Cuthbert

    To an extent. If you're having trouble feeding your children because you used all of your social assistance money to buy liquor, I have an issue with that. No one ever gives me free liquor. However if someone chooses to shop at Loblaws instead of No Frills, I really couldn't care less. Here's an example: if you default on your mortgage, a lot of mortgage providers will link you up to a credit counselling service, they will go through your monthly budget and figure out what you can and can't afford based on your income and how much debt you have. If you owe a lot of money to other creditors, they will negotiate a deal to reduce those payments but only on the condition that you change your spending habits ie. reduce your $100 wireless bill etc. It's a similar thing. The money belongs to the lenders in that case and in this case the money belongs to the taxpayers. We should have some say in how our money is used, at least to a point. If you want to buy liquor, you should have to come up with that money elsewhere, it's a luxury item.

  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    If you're having trouble feeding your kids, for any reason, it's not a matter for welfare to correct, it becomes an issue for child services.

    What is your solution for people who would qualify for welfare but decide, rightly, the government has no business telling them their priorities? Homelessness? Because that isn't a solution.

  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    Go right ahead!

  • http://www.realjohnson.com The Real Johnson

    Your intent is clearly fiscal prudence, but what you're ignoring is that it would be virtually impossible and certainly incredibly expensive to monitor and police what social assistance cheques are being spent on. 

    Who do you propose should “go through their monthly budget and figure out what they can and can't afford based on their income?” And who do you propose pays for that service? Your plan would surely cost the province a great deal of money just to ensure a few low-income people didn't buy some beer. Furthermore, we're not talking about SA recipients going on benders. In order to be eligible for Ontario Works, you have to have pretty much zero assets. The people who would choose to buy beer would quite literally be choosing beer over food.  The people who generally jump through hoops to get on social assistance aren't (typically) the people that would squander the money on “luxury items.”

  • http://twitter.com/willcuthbert Will Cuthbert

    You're right, bad example. But, I have a hard time believing that someone who can't afford to buy food or pay next month's rent would refuse assistance based on the fact that they can't use it to buy liquor. There is nowhere else on earth where someone will give you money without putting come condition on it. Try going to the bank and taking out a loan for booze. You say the government is telling people what their priorities are, isn't it the taxpayers though who would prefer to see their money used responsibly? Or do you like footing the bill for other peoples' alcohol purchases?

  • http://www.realjohnson.com The Real Johnson

    Make sure you tell them you'd like to opt out of OHIP too.

  • http://twitter.com/willcuthbert Will Cuthbert

    I meant the credit counselling example as an illustration of the fact that no one will give you money without putting some kind of condition on it, so why should welfare cheques be any different. 

    There's no way we could afford to have people monitor purchases like that but it's simple to refuse the proposed debit cards at LCBO and Beer Stores. I understand what you're saying, I'm not trying to suggest that anyone on social assistance is constantly drinking their face off, but there are always a few people in every crowd who will find ways to abuse the system. I agree with you that most people wouldn't squander their SA money, so in theory, it shouldn't really upset anyone but the people who do.

  • gbread

    I'm in favour of both, actually. I just thought what Rek said was a bit nonsensical.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Stemmler/644800361 Robert Stemmler

    Further, if the first thing someone does is spend their welfare cheque on booze and drugs, odds are they'll drop off the rolls right quick due to their own inability to follow through with the procedures for staying on. Reaching those folks is a different issue than providing help to the majority that need it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Stemmler/644800361 Robert Stemmler

    See, here's the thing, though: your comparisons are not equal. I wouldn't go to a bank and ask for a loan for booze. I might, though, go to a bank and ask for a loan to open a restaurant. If I did so, I certainly would not be comfortable if the bank gave me a list of approved contractors I could work with, or a list of dishes I couldn't serve in my restaurant, or a list of ingredients I couldn't stock in my kitchen. Do taxpayers have the right to make sure their taxes are used wisely? Of course they do. But we're all citizens, and we all deserve to be treated with dignity.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Stemmler/644800361 Robert Stemmler

    Except, of course, that the ATM would charge them service charges of up to $4.00 for every transaction. And the bank they'd be drawing it from would apply the same charges. And if they don't draw it all out at once (which, considering the transaction limit on most ATMs, is unlikely), that's a recurring series of fees. So they could easily surpass the fee Money Mart charges.

  • http://www.scotchblog.ca canuck1975

    I think that will depend on the agreement the government has with the bank they use. It's quite possible those fees will be waived. I guess we'll see.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Stemmler/644800361 Robert Stemmler

    (and reading over that, I should have written “Reaching those folks is a different issue than providing a welfare cheque to the majority that need it.”I don't want to imply that addicts don't deserve help!)

  • http://www.facebook.com/james.mathien James S. Mathien

    For a long time (I'm not sure if they still do), the Illinois DHS provided grocers with a list of products that people on benefits or using food stamps were permitted to buy.  It was just one more way to humiliate the poor.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Stemmler/644800361 Robert Stemmler

    Unless the government institutes a regulation that restricts the banks from applying fees, it ain't going to happen. And the political party that wants to apply restrictions on welfare recipients is the party that notoriously doesn't like to apply restrictions on business (esp. not that of the corporate kind).

  • http://piorkowski.ca qviri

    Well, again, your scenario doesn't – can't – protect against people who will just walk to the nearest ATM and pay with cash instead. It will, however, protect against people celebrating something going right with a $8.75 bottle of Bodegas Castaño Casona without getting embarrassed at the checkout.

  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    There are people on the street right now because they – inexplicably, it seems – refuse help despite available shelters and other forms of government aid.

    The majority of people on welfare are not decrepit winos or addicts putting their next fix ahead of rent or groceries, so let's not judge them or set the terms and conditions according to the few who are. There are other services and organizations in place to help those people.

  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    I'm not the one saying taxation should be voluntary or how tax dollars are used should be determined by individual tax payers on a case-by-case basis…

    If using welfare money to buy alcohol is such a major problem, the government should stop giving out welfare money to people who use it that way and reap the rewards: more homeless, more kids in the system, more crime.

  • nevilleross

    How about telling the government not to waste money on useless military items like fighter planes that we don't need? Or police helicopters that we don't need since Toronto has a low crime rate? Tray and be pissed off about that for a change!

    One thing that nobody has answered-how will I, as a diabetic, be able to use my drug card to get my meds, and my dental card to help with my teeth? Or is that all (inconveniently) on the card too?

  • nevilleross

    I would just love to see how you would fare when things go wrong for you, career-wise and health-wise: will you still be saying that people on welfare have no right to anything unless they are the 'deserving' poor? On would you realize that people (poor or otherwise) have a right to enjoy the good things in life just like you?

  • nevilleross

    Or, the government should/could stop listening to rabble-rousing right-wing fascist neocon garbage media (the Post & the Sun) and the brainwashed sheeple that read both, and just let things be as they have been. Better yet, try informing said sheeple about what the poor put up with instead of being resentful about somebody not working (as if it's their business anyway.)

  • http://twitter.com/willcuthbert Will Cuthbert

    Look, the poor have the same human rights that we do, casinos, liquor, tattoos are not covered by those. If you gave me money because I was totally broke and you asked me not to spend it on a few specific things, I would be happy to comply because it's your money and you should have a say in how it's spent. If you knew I was going to piss it away instead of feeding myself that month, I wouldn't expect you to give it to me. The “good things in life” are something you pay for out of your own pocket, not the taxpayers'.

  • torontothegreat

    We & THEY have paid taxes at some point. Your classism is showing…

    A family member asks you for 100 bucks, do you feel the need to tell them how to spend it?

  • isyouhappy

    “The “good things in life” are something you pay for out of your own pocket, not the taxpayers'.”

    So what are these relative “good things in life”? I could say that I think high speed internet is a “good thing in life”, or air conditioning, or subway fare etc. Who determines what a luxury is? When we are  in a place of privilege, it's a lot easier to wag a finger and make sweeping generalizations of what a luxury is.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1701005234 Nicole Morgan Schulman

    Most food stamp programmes (in the US) do restrict what purchases are permissible, theoretically on the basis of nutrition (to encourage healthy living).  That is certainly a form a paternalism in social assistance *but* those receiving food stamps generally also receive social assistance in the form of money, which can be used however they see fit.  So it's a bit different.

  • torontothegreat

    I'm confused by 2 things in your post. First you say they have the same rights, then you say casino's, tattoo parlors aren't part of that? So are they or aren't they afforded the same rights as you and I? Otherwise you're suggesting we take “certain” rights away, based on income?

    Secondly you determine who “owns” the money – by legal ownersip laws in Canada, you're dead wrong, BTW. – and you assume its Joe Public or Big Brother.
    I need to ask: Last time you used the “public's” money to go see the doctor, how come the rest of us weren't able to determine if your visit was frivolous or not?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Stemmler/644800361 Robert Stemmler

    Actually, not so much. While many states still send out cheques, the trend has been towards vouchers and money cards. The US is a perfect example of how this whole issue is a slippery slope, since in some places where money cards are used there is discussion to make the cards usable only in specific stores. The idea is to make sure that the recipients spend as little as possible on the items they buy. Of course, this means what they get is the cheapest, lowest quality items available. And that exposes the real issue in all this: some people think that if we have to give money to the poor, we should do it grudgingly, and we should make them grovel and suffer for the crime of poverty.

  • http://paul.kishimoto.name Paul Kishimoto