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Letter to Susan Marjetti, Senior Managing Director, Ontario Region, CBC Radio

This posting is courtesy of Put Food In The Budget

We are dismayed by the misleading promotion from the CBC Toronto that the donations to food banks from this coming Friday’s Sounds of the Season program will ‘feed the city’. If you share our concern you can click here to send a letter to Susan Marjetti, Senior Managing Director, Ontario Region, CBC Radio.

The research in our Discussion Paper – We Need to Talk. Who banks on food banks? shows that the $600,000 raised by the CBC Sounds of the Season program in 2013 provided on average a one-time contribution of 2.76 pounds of food to those visiting Daily Bread member food agencies. 

It is inaccurate for the Sounds of the Season program to suggest that these food donations will meet the needs of people who are poor – or that these donations will ‘feed the city’.

Charity is a worthy and individual act of compassion. It is completely inadequate however to address the systemic factors that cause poverty.

  • We believe that focusing on public donations of food and money to food banks in one big seasonal event gives the false impression that little more needs to be done.
  • We are concerned that Sounds of the Season creates the false the impression that poor people will receive enough food from food banks.
  • We are concerned that focusing on charitable giving during the holiday season provides ‘feel good’ relief that allows people to enjoy their holidays without feeling additional responsibility for the impoverishment experienced by a large part of the population.
  • We believe that defining ‘hunger’ as the problem, and charity as the solution, creates low expectations of how CBC listeners can act to end poverty. A charitable donation to food banks to prevent people from starving is not an adequate response to poverty. We fear that more effective public action – acting in solidarity with people who are poor – is discouraged by an event that directly and indirectly communicates that ‘charity is enough’.

We believe the voices of people who use food banks, and the voices of people who volunteer at food banks and emergency meal programs, have not been adequately represented in past broadcasts.

If you share our view than we ask that you send this letter to Susan Marjetti, Managing Director of CBC Ontario Region now. (click here)

Background: We wrote to CBC Radio Toronto on September 16 to request that the Sounds of the Season program this year increase its emphasis on the following messages:

  • Poverty is the problem, not hunger.
  • Addressing the systemic roots of poverty is the only way to ensure that people who are poor will have enough food.
  •  Food banks and emergency meal programs do not, and never will, meet the basic needs of people in our communities with low incomes.

On October 6, Susan Marjetti responded to our concerns saying (in summary) “We are confident that our continued association with food banks for CBC fundraisers across Ontario allows us the greatest potential to make a difference in both the immediate need to put food on the table for the 375,000 Ontarians who rely on food banks each month  and address the issue of poverty in our community”.

On October 15 we wrote back to say “We continue to be concerned that the Sounds of the Season program primarily emphasizes ending hunger, and fails to raise awareness about the policies, legislation and collective public advocacy that is required to end poverty.

We simply want the Sounds of the Season program to encourage a more balanced discussion of the limits of charity as a strategy to end systemic poverty in Ontario.

Steering Committee
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Urgent: Community-Based Housing and Homelessness Funding

This is a letter from 27 organizations in communities across Ontario.

Dear Premier Wynne, Minister Jeffrey, Minister Piruzza, and Minister McMeekin,

We are writing as a coalition of concerned organizations to urge you to respond without delay to the growing crisis in housing and homelessness across Ontario. While there are many housing needs across the province, we need your government to commit – as quickly as possible and before the new year – to make permanent $42 million in “transition funding” for critically important housing and homelessness funds administered by municipalities under the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI).

Municipalities across Ontario are in the midst of planning their budgets for the coming year. Decisions about housing and homelessness funding will be made very soon. Municipalities – and the low income Ontarians who live in them – need your guarantee that you are on their side.

Municipalities have been given the responsibility and flexibility to respond to their communities’ housing and homelessness issues through CHPI. But they can’t adequately respond to the need in their communities if the funds are not there to do the job.

When the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB) was eliminated from social assistance beginning in January 2013, only half of previously designated funds ($67 million in 2013-14) were transferred to CMSMs and DSSABs, using a formula that didn’t respond to real time housing needs.

Some municipalities responded to the loss of CSUMB by creating their own, similar funds to provide direct funding for first and last month’s rent, rental and utilities arrears, and other costs that ensure people are able to become housed or stay in their homes. Eligibility criteria and funded costs vary across the province, as do amounts of funding provided. Some municipalities did not create their own locally administered funds, so low income Ontarians in those communities have no source of direct support.

In December 2012, government responded to community concern by instituting a onetime $42 million “transition fund” to help municipalities deal with the loss of CSUMB and the move to community-based homelessness prevention. Those funds run out in March 2014.

In some areas of the province, designated funds for this purpose may have been underspent. This does not indicate a lack of need in communities, but rather the reality that the roll-out of the transition to CHPI funding was plagued with difficulties, resulting in many low income people either not attempting to access or being denied direct funding for their housing and homelessness-related needs. The transition to CHPI funding was also complicated by the new cap put on discretionary benefits. More funding is required for municipalities to find the right balance to provide for the need in their communities, and for low income Ontarians to become aware of funds that might be available.

While the $42 million will not replace CSUMB, it will go some way to ensuring that low income people in communities across Ontario will have the funds they need to secure housing and to prevent losing their housing, due directly to lack of income. The ripple effects of the devastating loss of CSUMB continue to be felt across the province. Low income Ontarians need your government’s guarantee that funds they need to get housing or stay housed will be there when they need them. The least they deserve is to have the additional $42 million in transition funding made permanently available to municipalities.



Jennefer Laidley
Research & Policy Analyst
Income Security Advocacy Centre

425 Adelaide Street West, 5th Floor
Toronto, Ontario   M5V 3C1

ISAC website: www.incomesecurity.org
Social Assistance Review website: www.sareview.ca

Phone: 416-597-5820 x 5155
Fax: 416-597-5821
Email: laidleyj@lao.on.ca

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

Now is the time to tackle Poverty in Ontario

Hope you will consider sending a letter to your MPP with copies to the Premier and Opposition Leaders via the following link urging anti-poverty action as the 2013 Ontario provincial budget negotiation process unfolds. Please share with your friends and networks.


Inequality is taking a deeper hold in Ontario, despite a promise by our political leaders to address poverty. Please urge our political leaders to keep their word.

Poverty Free Ontario Reminds Wynne of Her Commitment to Social Justice

In a letter to Premier‐designate Kathleen Wynne, Poverty Free Ontario encourages Wynne to fulfill her promise as the “social justice” premier.

Click HERE to read the full letter sent to Kathleen Wynne on behalf of Poverty Free Ontario and anti-poverty advocates representing groups and organizations in more than 20 communities across the province.

The mission of Poverty Free Ontario is to eliminate divided communities in which too many adults and children live in chronic states of material hardship, poor health and social exclusion. An Ontario free of poverty will be reflected in healthy, inclusive communities with a place of dignity for everyone and the essential conditions of well‐being for all.

The 8th Day of Action to Stop Wage Theft

12 days of actionToday is the 8th Day of Action in the Workers Action Centre’s campaign to Stop Wage Theft against Ontario’s most vulnerable workers.

At the link following, you will find Agripina’s story. She recounts how she had to go to the Ontario Labour Relations Board to win $8,000 owed to her by her employer.

At the bottom of the page on this link, there is an email set up to send a message to the Minister of Labour demanding action to enforce protection for workers against the kind of experience that Agripina had.


SPNO is sponsoring this 8th Day of Action in support of WAC’s campaign to Stop Wage Theft.

We urge you to send a message to the Minister and to promote similar action today throughout your organization and your local community networks.

The holiday season will be happier for all Ontarians when all workers receive a fair return on their labour.


Call for Cross-Community Action on Social Assistance Review Discussion Paper #2

People and organizations in communities across Ontario who are concerned about the intolerable living conditions of recipients of Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) are urged to send a message to Commissioners Frances Lankin and Munir Sheikh regarding their Discussion Paper #2 released on February 2, 2012.

PFO Bulletin #9 accompanying this call to action offers an analysis which all are encouraged to use in their communications to the Commissioners. A meeting/tele-conference of 35 PFO leaders in 19 communities on Feb. 10 identified the following questions and key messages as priorities for communication to the Commissioners:

  • Why are the Commissioners not hearing clearly expressed community voices for significant rate increases? Discussion Paper #2 does not reflect the strength of feeling nor urgency for action on OW and ODSP benefit levels that condemn recipients to chronic conditions of hunger and hardship. Four out of five submissions recommended income adequacy as a priority. Sixteen city councils representing 3,000,000 Ontarians passed resolutions supporting a $100/month Healthy Food Supplement, which was not referenced at all in Discussion Paper #2 and received one short line in a secondary document on what the Commissioners heard in their consultations. The credibility of the reform exercise is undermined when such clearly expressed community input is ignored.
  • Why do the Commissioners continue to pit the interests of social assistance recipients against those of the working poor in their discussion on an “appropriate benefit structure”? The Discussion Paper perpetuates the historical divisiveness of pitting the interests of the “deserving” poor (low wage workers) against the “undeserving” poor (social assistance recipients). Focusing on the need to balance the “benefit structure” so that OW/ODSP recipients do not receive more in income and services than low wage earners consigns both groups to ongoing poverty – the OW/ODSP recipients struggling to get out of deep poverty (below 80% of LIM) and the full-time, full-year minimum wage earner still falling below the poverty line.  The Commissioners must be encouraged to recognize that, in terms of income adequacy, the interests of these two groups are joined. Social assistance rates must be raised starting now so that over several years no one is living in deep poverty. Simultaneously, additional minimum wage increases must be scheduled over the next two years so that by 2014 a full-time, full-year worker earns an annual income 10% above the poverty line ($12.50/hr).
  • Why do the Commissioners reinforce the myth that social assistance recipients need incentives to take work?  From chapter headings like “Reasonable Expectations” to repeated references to “incentives” for recipients to enter the labour market, the Discussion Paper keeps alive the unfair assumption that people on social assistance who can work prefer to stay on benefits.  It is easier to blame the victims of a poor job market than to challenge Government to create the conditions for the development and growth of decent, life sustaining jobs, which would benefit not only social assistance recipients but workers now struggling on poverty level wages.  What incentives does the Government need to meet the reasonable expectation that the economy and labour market should offer the opportunity and prosperity for all Ontarians?
  • Why do the Commissioners re-open the question of which income poverty measure should be used in social assistance reform? The Government clearly set the Low Income Measure (50% of median income) as Ontario’s official income poverty line in 2008, and LIM is internationally recognized and used by the United Nations. This issue is resolved and should not be used to further confuse, delay or distract from urgently needed action.
  • Why will the Commissioners not champion the needs of Ontario’s most vulnerable in the face of austerity and retrenchment? The Commissioners have missed an opportunity to clearly establish and express a case to Ontario’s political leadership for protecting OW and ODSP recipients and championing their interests in the face of the looming austerity agenda promised in the upcoming Drummond Commission Report.  People on OW and ODSP have been living under austerity since the 22% rate cuts in 1995 and can endure no further assaults.  No other group had its income cut so severely in the 1990s without any restoration at all since. Cost of living adjustments by the current Government since 2003 have not produced increases in the real income of recipients and, in recent years, 1% cost of living adjustments have fallen behind the provincial rate of inflation.   Social assistance recipients have been subject to almost 20 years of austerity and need a policy champion with the ear of Government as a bulwark against the wave of new cuts and retrenchment about to crash down.

Responses to the Commission’s Discussion Paper #2 can be submitted in the following ways:

  • By email at socialassistancereview@ontario.ca
  • Completing a form (150 word limit) on the Commissioners’ web site at www.socialassistancereview.ca
  • Submission can be mailed or faxed to:
    Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario
    2 Bloor Street West
    4th Floor, Suite 400
    Toronto, ON
    M4W 3E2
    FAX 416-212-0413

PDF version of Call for Cross-Community Action

Commission for the Review of Social Assistance Releases Approaches for Reform

The Commission has released Discussion Paper 2: Approaches for Reform. You can respond to the paper online through the Workbook or by sending in a submission.

The Commission has summarized the feedback received in response to the first discussion paper in What We Heard: A Summary of Discussions on Social Assistance. We encourage you to read the summary as a companion to the second discussion paper.

Give the Gift of Dignity This Holiday Season

Want to give the Gift of Dignity this Holiday Season?

Sign our Petition to Put Food in the Budget of our neighbours on social assistance. An immediate increase of $100/month to enable people to purchase healthy food is a gift that:

  • combats hunger and injustice
  • reduces reliance on our already over-burdened food banks and volunteers
  • is a start at eliminating some of the wasted  time and energy that goes into maintaining our systemic, second rate food system for the poor.
  • is a first step towards raising rates to adequate levels that reflect the real cost of living in Ontario.
  • restores the right of individuals to purchase their own healthy food
  • is simply the right thing to do.

Thanks to all of you who sign this petition and help to restore some balance in a world where Charity cannot redress poverty and inequity.

Sign the Petition here:

Let’s Vote for a Healthy and Inclusive Community

On the cusp of the provincial election Laurentian University Social Work students at the Centre for Research and Social Justice Policy and others speak out about eradicating poverty in Ontario and what they expect from politicians via the video below.


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