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Ontario Government proposes more Poverty Reduction consultations; community groups say it’s time for Premier Wynne to act

Five years after Ontario’s Liberal Government announced a Poverty Reduction Strategy, hundreds of thousands of people still don’t have enough money to pay their rent and buy their food. Food bank usage in Ontario is at record levels – rising from 374,000 people per month in 2008 to 413,000 in 2012, including 160,000 children.[1]

Despite holding multiple consultations about poverty reduction and social assistance reform, the Liberal Government has consistently ignored thousands of community members:

  • In the spring and summer of 2008, more than 75 community consultations on poverty reduction were held across Ontario, including 44 with MPPs.[2] Community representatives consistently delivered the message that livable incomes and a minimum wage to raise a full-time, full-year worker out of poverty were critical to poverty reduction. The Liberal Government of Premier McGuinty ignored this input.
  • In late 2008, people in communities across Ontario urged the government to set a target for poverty reduction in general – not just child poverty. Children live in families, they pointed out, and reducing overall poverty will inevitably help children. This message was ignored, and the government’s target of lifting 90,000 children out of poverty is short by 48,000 as of 2011.[3]
  • In 2011 and 2012, four out of five community briefs to the Commission on Social Assistance Reform argued that adequate social assistance rates was a primary issue.[4] The final report of Commissioners Frances Lankin and Munir Sheikh recommended an immediate rate increase of $100/month. The Liberal government of Premier Wynne was deaf to its own commissioners: the 2013 budget increased social assistance to recipients of Ontario Works benefits by only $14/month.

Dalton McGuinty’s last act as Premier was to cut the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit, which further worsened the destitution of Ontario’s most vulnerable.

Now, after five years of the Liberal Government failing to deliver on social assistance reform, it lacks credibility to call for more consultation in the absence of action on what the community has recommended to date.

We believe Premier Wynne does not need any further consultation to reduce poverty in Ontario. The Liberal government can respond now to the core demands that people from communities across Ontario have been making for five years. Our participation in any consultations on a new poverty reduction strategy will be to assert three core demands.

Our Demands

Premier Wynne government can reduce poverty and demonstrate her commitment to social justice by acting on the following:

  1. Raise the rates
  • Immediately increase the base rate of social assistance by $100 a month without paying for it by cutting other benefits.
  • Restore the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit.
  1. Protect  the well-being of people with disabilities
  • Discuss the Commission on Social Assistance Reform recommendations regarding ODSP with community advocacy groups representing people with disabilities.
  1. Reduce poverty for everyone
  • Raise the minimum wage now to 10% above the poverty line.
  • Set targets that reduce and eventually end poverty for everyone – children, families and communities.

Commitment to Social Justice

We are committed to social justice for people in Ontario who live in poverty. We will not stop until poverty is ended.

A social justice strategy to end poverty requires providing people with enough money for food, housing and everything else that ensures a life of health and dignity.

It is time for Premier Wynne to demonstrate her commitment to social justice with constructive social and economic policies. She can begin by acting on our three demands.

For further information, contact:
Peter Clutterbuck, Poverty Free Ontario
(416) 653-7947

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