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Niagara Region Provincial Candidates Polled on Poverty and Social Justice Issues

For Immediate Release
September 29, 2011

The Social Assistance Reform Network of Niagara (SARNN) is a network of front line health and social agencies, churches, organizations and individuals who have worked together since 1988 to advocate for social assistance reforms. SARNN is a supporter of the non-partisan Poverty Free Ontario campaign being held across Ontario in nearly 20 communities. In order to gain a better understanding of the positions of the candidates in all four Niagara ridings on key issues that are relevant to the health and well-being of our communities, and, in particular, people living in poverty, we posed five questions:

  1. The Commission to Review Ontario Social Assistance is now underway. Commissioner Frances Lankin has stated that the system, which serves over 800,000 Ontarians, needs more than “tinkering”, it needs a major overhaul. What specific changes would you recommend to the Commission regarding the current social assistance system to ensure the system is improved?
  2. The Low Income Cut Off lines used by our Federal Government and Statistics Canada report that a single person is living below the poverty line when their annual income is below $13,000. A single adult receiving Ontario Works receives $598/month, which is only $7,176 per year – far below the poverty line. Over 40 Ontario MPPs have “Done the Math” and agree that the rates are too low and inadequate. Do you feel current social assistance rates are adequate and acceptable? If not, how should the rates be set? Would you support adding an immediate $100 healthy food supplement to social assistance rates? 
  3. In 2009, all Ontario parties supported Bill 152, An Act respecting a long-term strategy to reduce poverty in Ontario. The current strategy has a goal of reducing child poverty by 25% in five years. How would you build on the current strategy and what goal and policies would you and your party set for the next five years in order to ensure all people living in poverty are included?
  4. Low income adults (either working poor or receiving social assistance) do not have access to preventive dental services. Poor oral health is a detriment to overall physical and mental health, as well as a barrier to employment and social inclusion. We need to put the mouth back into the body. Will your party commit to extending preventive dental coverage to all low income Ontario adults within the next 12 months?
  5. Approximately 12.4 percent of Canadian households live in housing that requires major repairs, is overcrowded, and/or costs more than 30 percent of household income. Moreover, an estimated 300,000 people are living without homes in Canada. Locally, the Niagara Region Housing Authority has 5,381 households with 9,800 people on a waiting list for subsidized housing. Having a safe and affordable place to live can be a stepping stone out of poverty. Does your government support a fully-funded national housing strategy that respects provincial jurisdictions, as well as support to maintain existing federal subsidies for social housing units? Would you support a housing benefit for low income Ontarians? If so, what would it entail?

Responses were received from five candidates:

  • Jim Bradley, Ontario Liberal Party, St. Catharines Riding candidate
  • Donna Cridland, Green Party of Ontario, Welland Riding candidate
  • Donna-Lynne Hamilton, Ontario Libertarian Party, Welland Riding candidate
  • Irene Lowell, Ontario New Democratic Party, St. Catharines Riding candidate
  • Saleh Waziruddin, Communist Party, St. Catharines Riding candidate

Candidates varied widely in their responses and support for items such as a $100 healthy food supplement, adult dental coverage, and housing benefits. Many excellent ideas were brought forward regarding how to effectively overhaul the current Ontario social assistance system, as well as each party’s vision in setting future poverty reduction strategies. “Poverty is a significant cost to all of us whether directly or indirectly and eradicating poverty must be a priority in Ontario. We urge all voters to ask their local candidates more about this issue”, says Gracia Janes, the Chair of SARNN.

For complete responses from each candidate, please go to https://povertyfreeontario.ca/pdf/Niagara-Region-Provincial-Candidates-Polled-on-Poverty-and-Social-Justice-Responses-in-Chart.pdf


Media Inquiries can be directed to:

Gracia Janes
Chair, Social Assistance Reform Network of Niagara (SARNN)
Phone: 905-468-2841
Email: gracia.janes@bellnet.ca

Lori Kleinsmith
Member, Social Assistance Reform Network of Niagara (SARNN)
Phone: 289-479-5017 X2445
Email: lori.kleinsmith@bridgeschc.ca


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