This is the continuation of a previous blog entry about my Quest for the West, I’ll end up repeating a couple things in this part so try not to get too bored.
The first reason was my financial situation. I was unemployed, I had limited savings. I had no prospects for work at all and the next option would be welfare. I decided, this time, that I would do something about it before it reached that point. I have been unemployed in my life in the past.
In 2011 or so when my business went bankrupt I didn’t have any money paid into Employment Insurance so I was forced to go on Social Assistance (Welfare) to pay rent and buy food. I had lost my car to the bankruptcy so I luckily didn’t have any expenses like insurance, plating and fuel. I still had my drivers license at least.
I remember that on welfare you were required to “work” seventy hours a month (I think it was a month) to receive your benefits (which barely covered rent and food if I recall). I didn’t mind that at all because I hated just sitting at home doing nothing and where I was living at the time was not a healthy place to be. I volunteered so often for work detail that the supervisor told me to stop because a couple of the other people were supposed to be working and were not. He wanted me to do less so he could force them to do more. If I ever had to go on welfare again I suspect I would find myself doing the same thing. I don’t like welfare but sometimes it just can not be avoided.
I will make it very clear at this point that I believe only about a quarter of the people drawing welfare really don’t need to. I can’t really say for sure whether that’s because they have chosen to give up looking for work, they’ve had too many kids and can’t work and support them, or whatever the reason. I am not going to psychoanalyze anyone or their situation because I just don’t know all the facts involved.
Welfare, or the more politically correct name “social assistance” comes when you have no other choice but to go on it. You work, you pay into EI (employment insurance) but that only covers you for so much so long and then it runs out and if you are self-employed unless you make a lot of money you can’t afford the benefits (pension, employment insurance, et cetera). When your employment insurance benefits run out you still must pay rent, hydro, food, transportation, all the expenses that make life possible while you continue to look for work or support your family. You will hear a lot of people say that “people on welfare are bums who are bleeding the system dry”. That statement is, for the majority, false. I have known a couple people in my life who were forced to accept social assistance and all of them wanted to work, had families to support, and did it because they had no other choice. I do like the idea of being required to “work for the county” if possible while on welfare, it helps you to keep your resume up to date and your body and mind active.
The government doesn’t want you to be on welfare even though they get cheap manual labour from you. They try to help you to find work but sometimes it just isn’t the best time economically and they give you the basics in health care. The government paid for moving expenses for me to leave Ontario and take the job up north. I know, I was a little surprised at the time too that the province of Ontario wanted to give me money to leave, but that’s how welfare works they want you to get back to life and get working again. That job up north was the best one I’ve ever had financially. I got a very good salary, three meals a day, company vehicle, company housing and airfare including two trips “home” a year.
After working up north for almost ten months I had accumulated enough to qualify for employment insurance benefits. I moved back to a small town where I could find a cheap place to live, unfortunately the job market was decimated. The recession had finally creeped into all the corners of Ontario and there just wasn’t any work available including part time. I lived off my benefits for as long as I could and exhausted them at the same time I decided to head out west.
To be continued…
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