OTTAWA - On the evening of Wednesday, November 10, members of Under Pressure, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, and No One Is Illegal-Ottawa disrupted an Ontario Liberal Party fundraising dinner. A rowdy crowd of roughly 30-40 people assembled at the Crown Plaza Hotel, where Liberal Party members were enjoying drinks and an expensive supper. The anti-poverty activists tried to make their way into the event, but were pushed back by police. Luckily, one group of protesters had come dressed in suits, and managed to get inside the event, to confront Liberals attending the fundraiser.
"Tickets to this event cost $500 per person, which is almost as much as a single person on welfare in Ontario is expected to live on for a whole month!" said Shushan Araya, spokesperson for No One Is Illegal – Ottawa
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty was the special guest at the event. Under his leadership, the provincial Liberals have upped their attacks on poor people across Ontario in a spectacular way. Not since the days of Mike Harris has a provincial government not only allowed people to live in poverty, but also further cut the limited amount of money afforded each month to people living on welfare and the Ontario Disability Support Program.
"Poor people in Ontario often have difficult decisions to make - pay the rent or pay the bills, put food on the table or buy a winter coat for their kids. But one thing we do not have a choice about is [whether or not] to fight. We are a community in struggle and we always have been. We know that to survive, we need to fight these governments and their anti-poor agendas. Many of us who are in the struggle today were born into the Common Sense Revolution, which viciously attacked poor people. Now, we are seeing a new wave of attacks, but just as we have before, we are ready and willing to fight back," said Pierre Beaulieu-Blais of the anti-poverty group Under Pressure, addressing the crowd.
The demands of the demonstration were to raise welfare and disability rates by 40%, to bring them closer to what they were before the cuts during the Harris years, and also to stop the cancellation of the Special Diet Allowance program, which put up to $250/month into the hands of poor people who needed the money for health related reasons.
"Let's make it clear that the Ontario Liberal Party will have no peace as long as people are starving, dying on the streets, and unable to pay their bills," said Monika Thakker, a member of No One Is Illegal.