Doorstep Postings: The Lost Tribes of Ontario represent the election’s unspoken reality check

CTV News report from Sudbury on April 27, 2022.

This is the 15th in a series of opinion columns on the 2022 Ontario provincial election, written by Josh Lieblein for The CJN.

When I was growing up, any discussion of euthanasia in a Jewish context was peripheral, the subject of rants from religious school teachers capitalizing on hot-button issues or some facsimile thereof. 

For example, an exhibit at the Ontario Science Centre where a German (!!!) anatomist plastinated dead bodies and froze them in the act of pedalling bicycles would be juxtaposed with some Talmudic gloss on how life must be valued at all costs. It was very abstract and theoretical stuff, not close to home at all. 

That is, until I started fielding calls from constituents in a political context, and started encountering the Lost Tribes.  

They write out their monthly income from ODSP, or Ontario Works—or whatever program sustains them—on a sheet of lined paper, bring it with them to the constituency office, and ask how they’re supposed to live on this amount when the cost of living never stops going up. 

They call because the cops have been to their place of residence multiple times and refuse to do anything about the drug deals, the property damage, the violent fights, the on-site sex workers, or some combination thereof.

And they’re the lucky ones, because they haven’t been evicted after their landlord decided to renovate, or fled an abusive marriage with their kids in tow with no place to go—because the women’s shelters are full, and even if they weren’t, they’re not a  place you want to be anyway.  

They email complaining that they haven’t heard back from the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) in months and haven’t seen a dime of child support in that time. Or that their toddler-aged children (born so they could get the baby bonus) can’t get health care because they didn’t/couldn’t fill out the notice of birth registration properly and the government doesn’t know they exist. Or their child’s teacher, principal, and school board trustee have all failed to stop the bullying which has gone on for months, if not years.

You try to help them. You call departments, leave messages, email provincial ministries, make referrals—and find in many cases that they were only telling you half the story, if that, leaving out the parts that don’t make them look like innocent victims.

They react with anger and threats to sit in and not leave until their issue is taken care of. They accuse you of not caring and vow not to rest until you and your party are driven from office forever. And in some thankfully still very rare cases, they level the ultimate in emotional blackmail bombs at you: the accusation that by not solving the issue right now, you are, in effect, ending their lives. 

When confronted with the reality that more and more Ontarians are slipping through the cracks in the ways I’ve described—and trust me, this is by no means an exhaustive list of the various “Lost Tribes” of people asking the government for help—there’s a set of go-to responses elected officials make use of.

It’s the previous government’s fault. It’s another level of government underfunding the people responsible, or wasting the cash they’ve been given. Or, you can send a list of government accomplishments tangentially related to the problem at hand. “Government to Strengthen and Unite Our Communities By Investing In Infrastructure,” says the press release from which you copy and paste in an email to a desperate constituent. 

But nobody really thinks that they’re murdering people by doing all of the above. That’s just not being reasonable. Say, have you heard about the Liberals’ new buck-a-ride program? That’ll make life more affordable for families while reducing gridlock! What’s that? People say they don’t have an extra dollar? Nonsense!

Josh Lieblein can be reached at [email protected] for your response to Doorstep Postings.