London Ontario Endorses Poverty Plan
Last night City Council in London Ontario gave unanimous support to a report called London for All – A Roadmap to End Poverty.
An eight member panel including former Hamilton Deputy Medical Officer of Health Chris Mackie (pictured to the right) produced the report after six months of consultation. It contains 112 recommendations.
Remarkably, many of these recommendations are intended to be acted upon within twelve months.
Here is a sampling of the recommendations.
Eight Recommendations from the (London Ontario) Mayor’s Advisory Panel on Poverty that Impressed Us
**Increase the number of organizations providing Indigenous Cultural Safety training.
**Become a Basic Income Guarantee pilot site.
**Engage landlords in keeping more people housed.
**Allow children under 12 to ride public transit free.
**Leverage funding and invest in the regeneration of existing London and Middlesex Housing Corporation (LMHC) properties.
**Increase the number of licensed childcare spaces.
**Reduce the wait time to receive childcare subsidy
**Engage people with lived experience in democratic processes and institutions.
You can read the full report at https://www.london.ca/city-hall/mayors-office/Documents/London-for-All-final-report.pdf
April 19, 2016
Six Thoughts on the Ontario Budget 2016
We haven’t had the chance to read all 346 pages of the Ontario Budget 2016 yet. Others have, apparently. Here is a sampling of comments from newspaper commentary and policy experts from around the province.
1. Post Secondary Education to become More Accessible
The government will make post secondary education more accessible and affordable. They are doing this by creating the Ontario Student Grant (OSG) for the 2017-2018 school year. Students from families with incomes under $50,000 will have no provincial student debt. Fifty per cent of students from families with annual incomes under $83,000 will benefit too. They will receive non-repayable grants that will exceed average college or university tuition. (Toronto Star) “The Ontario Government has sent a clear message with this provincial budget,” Bilan Arte, National Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students told the National Post. “Education should not be a privilege of the wealthy, education is a right of everyone.”
2. “Wretched” Increases to Social Assistance
The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) criticizes increases for those on Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). They are “pegged below even the official rate of inflation, let alone the real cost of living increases that poor people are experiencing.” OCAP calls this “a wretched 1.5% increase to those on social assistance, with an extra pittance for those with the lowest incomes of all, single people without children on OW, that will provide them with a total additional payment of $25 a month.” Worse, these increases don’t begin until September and October. http://www.ocap.ca/
3. Public Service Spending Falling Behind
The finance minister has eased up on his goal of keeping program spending growth to below one per cent, but just barely: the province’s program spending is projected to average 1.9 per cent growth between 2014-15 and 2018-19. This means that government spending on public services will continue to fall behind inflation and population growth.
Economist Sheila Block http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/sheila-block/2016/02/ontarios-early-bird-budget-didnt-get-worm
4. Child Support Clawback to End
The dollar-for-dollar clawback of child support from social assistance will end. “Ending the dollar-for-dollar child support clawback is stellar news for people on social assistance and long overdue,” notes Jennefer Laidley, Research and Policy Analyst at the Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC). “It’s also a positive signal for future movement on reforms to social assistance programs.” http://incomesecurity.org/public-education/bold-steps-on-social-assistance-reform-in-ontario-budget-2016-but-incomes-still-grossly-inadequate/
5. Child Care Ignored
Campaign 2000 says the budget has ignored “the growing momentum and consensus among low and middle income families that universal, accessible and high quality childcare is essential to their lives and livelihood.”
Ontario has the highest childcare fees in Canada. “It is nearly impossible for low and middle income families to pursue work and higher education," says Campaign 2000, a national group who work end child/family poverty by publishing research on the indicators of child poverty and developing public education resources. http://www.campaign2000.ca/Ontario/MediaReleaseONCampaign2000onBudget2016.pdf
6. Hospitals Get Some Help
“The budget even contains an increase in funding for hospitals, the first in five years. It's small and won't stop the pain of health-care restructuring, but it might ease it somewhat.” Howard Elliott of the Hamilton Spectator http://www.thespec.com/opinion-story/6364786-the-spectator-s-view-liberals-take-bold-risks-with-budget/
Posted March 7, 2016
The Medical Review Process for ODSP Clients is Being Improved
The Ministry of Community and Social Services has finally announced how they plan to fix the medical review process.
Advocates led by the Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC) and the Steering Committee on Social Assistance have been working since 2010 to ensure that medical reviews should not be treated like a re-application. The focus, they have argued, should be on whether or not the person’s disability has improved since the date they were granted benefits.
Unfortunately, the government seemed to be going in a different direction. They decided to ramp up medical reviews last April.
In response to this development, ISAC and the Steering Committee on Social Assistance asked that the government:
• Commit to a simpler new process.
• Work with advocates and health professionals to develop a process that it works for everyone.
• Review all files before requesting more information from the client. This would avoid unnecessary reviews. Suspend medical reviews until the new process is in place.
• Take more active steps to contact clients who do not respond to medical review notifications. The client’s caseworker is in a better position to know how to reach them than the Disability Adjudication Unit.
The Ministry listened.
They have accepted the recommendations that medical reviews should not be treated like a re-application, and that the focus should be on whether or not the person’s disability has improved since the date they were granted benefits.
In fact, they accepted every recommendation listed above except the one to suspend all medical reviews. Instead, they suspended the ramp-up while they work on the process. Only after the new process is in place will they resume their plan to initiate 1900 reviews/month.
Other improvements will be made.
The Ministry says that improving the medical review process is part of a wider effort to improve ODSP disability adjudication and ensure that ODSP will be available for all those who are eligible.
Mary Marrone, Director of Advocacy & Legal Services at ISAC (pictured to the right) is pleased.
“It appears that the Ministry has finally heard the concerns voiced by clinic caseworkers for many years. We hope to hear more soon about quality measures that will be put in place to review all denials and assignment of medical review dates to ensure sound decision-making.”
Hugh Tye, Executive Director of the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic called it an important systemic victory.
“Great advocacy work by the Steering Committee, ISAC and many community partners. And it is terrific that this is part of a larger review of ODSP process generally,” says Tye.
You can find out more on Medical Reviews by going to http://incomesecurity.org/policy-advocacy/improving-odsp-medical-reviews-amelioration-des-examens-medicaux-du-posph/
Posted Feb12, 2016
Six Random but Nevertheless Interesting Directions Included in PM Trudeau’s Mandate Letters to Cabinet Ministers
Prime Minister Trudeau has made public the mandate letters sent to all Cabinet Ministers. The mandate letters “provide a framework for what Ministers are expected to accomplish, including specific policy objectives and challenges to be addressed”
Here are a few directions that we found interesting.
1. For the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities
Lead an engagement process with provinces, territories, municipalities, and stakeholders that will lead to the passage of a Canadians with Disabilities Act. In this work, you will be supported by the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development.
2. For the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour
Improve our Employment Insurance (EI) system so that it is better aligned with the realities of today’s labour market and serves workers and employers.
(Clinic Editor’s Note: This would include repealing the recent punitive changes made to the EI system reducing EI premiums; modernizing our system of income support for unemployed workers that leaves too many workers with no unemployment insurance safety net; eliminating discrimination against immigrants, younger workers and parents re-entering the workforce so that they are treated the same as other workers in their region.)
3. For the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development
Lead the development of a Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy that would set targets to reduce poverty and measure and publicly report on our progress, in collaboration with the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour. Our strategy will align with and support existing provincial and municipal poverty reduction strategies.
4. For the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
Modify the temporary foreign workers program to eliminate the $1,000 Labour Market Impact Assessment fee to hire caregivers and work with provinces and territories to develop a system of regulated companies to hire caregivers on behalf of families.
5. For the Minister of Status of Women
Work with experts and advocates to develop and implement a comprehensive federal gender violence strategy and action plan, aligned with existing provincial strategies. You will be supported by the Minister of Justice to make any necessary criminal code changes and by the President of the Treasury Board who will develop strategies to combat sexual harassment in federal public institutions.
6. For the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities
Develop a 10-year plan to deliver significant new funding to provinces, territories and municipalities. This plan should ensure both immediate increased investments in infrastructure and long-term, predictable funding should support provincial, territorial and municipal priorities, improve access to, and governance of, existing infrastructure programs, increase data collection capacity and promote better asset management of infrastructure in Canada. (Clinic Editor’s Note: The plan would look at public transit, affordable housing and more.)
You can find all thirty Mandate Letters at http://pm.gc.ca/eng/ministerial-mandate-letters
Posted January 5, 2016
What do you know about Social Justice?
(Here are the answers to a little quiz we put together for a recent edition of the Sherman Hub News. if you have landed on this page first, you can find the questions on our blog at http://www.hamiltonjustice.ca/blog/?post=What+do+you+know+about+Social+Justice%3F&id=311
1 (a) Hamilton’s first community legal clinic was the Strathcona Community Legal Services
2 (b) Hamilton Community legal clinic does not offer services in criminal law.
3 (a) 67% cases opened in 2013-14 in the Southwest Region were for ODSP appeals.
4 (a) True. Surdivall was precedent setting for people on welfare.
5 (d) It may be surprising but many recent law school graduates have no interest in in playing football for the Hamilton Tiger Cats.
6 (a) 1913. William Meredith developed the principles that became the cornerstone of the WSIB program in Ontario.
7 (b) Landlords cannot terminate tenants for their own use because they are tired of the tenant’s complaints.
8 (d) All of the above. If discrimination is found the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO can order financial compensation, non-financial compensation (e.g. an apology) and public interest remedies intended to prevent similar discrimination from happening.
9 (c) 6,765 Hamiltonians identify French as their mother tongue.
Posted December 3, 2015
Six Fast Facts on “Street Checks” in Hamilton
CBC Reporter Kelly Bennett recently wrote a story about Street Checks in Hamilton. Street Checks are also sometimes referred to as Carding.
The story came from data released in response to a Freedom of Information request from CBC Hamilton to the Hamilton Police Service.
Here are six Fast Facts from the data.
- A 25-year-old aboriginal woman was stopped on the street by Hamilton police 14 times in 2012.
- In 2013, a 29-year-old black man was "street checked" 13 times.
- In 2010, a man, considered by officers to be of Middle Eastern descent, was stopped and questioned nine times.
- Of the 46 people stopped more than five times in one year in street checks, 44 of them were recorded in the police database as visible minorities, either black, aboriginal, "Mid East" or "S. Asian/E. Indian."
- Of the 134 people carded more than three times in the same year, just eight of them were white.
- More than 9,000 interactions over the last five years have been filed in the police database as street checks, even if the person has not done anything wrong.
Kelly Bennett’s story is entitled Visible Minorities More Likely to be Street Checked Multiple Times in the Same Year than White People. You can find it at http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/news/hamilton-police-carded-the-same-aboriginal-woman-14-times-in-1-year-1.3324958
The Hamilton Community Legal Clinic believes that there is no justification in case law or statute for ‘street checks’ (as the practice is called in Hamilton and other municipalities), or ‘carding’ (as the practice is labeled in Toronto). In particular, It is our position that t street checks/carding, amounts to a contravention of sections 7 to 10 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and section 1 and 11 of Ontario’s Human Rights Code. “
Clinic staff put forward our position at an October meeting of the Hamilton Police Services Board. We have been reviewing the draft regulations put forward by the Ontario government. You can find a summary of these proposed regulations at http://www.ontariocanada.com/registry/view.do?postingId=20202&language=en
(Posted November 23, 2015)
Working for Change 2014-15
The clinic works on many issues important to low-income Hamiltonians. Here are highlights of changes we have been advocating for and changes we‘ve achieved.
- Many people do not think of everyday problems as being “legal problems” and so do not know they can get help. Starting this month, to address this gap, we are introducing the Hamilton Legal Health Check–Up.
- With funding from Legal Aid Ontario, we are developing a comprehensive and coordinated approach to mental health and addiction services. A weekly program at Mission Services began earlier this year.
- To reach out to those who could use our services, but might not be aware of us, we produced a new video http://www.hamiltonjustice.ca/index2.php
- Family law legal advice and referrals can now be accessed at the Clinic through a new Family Law Partnership developed with LAO.
- We continue our tradition of using social media to highlight Black History (February) and National Aboriginal History (June) months. This year we focused on local (Hamilton) heroes.
- The city’s affordable housing stock is being depleted. We’re supporting downtown tenants who are being displaced from their homes and communities due to gentrification. A July rally in McLaren Park and a petition campaign call on all levels of government to act.
- Our Francophone Legal Services (FLS) continues to partner with other bilingual Clinics to serve clients located in catchment areas with no FLS.
- Through YÉN:TENE, the Aboriginal Justice Outreach Initiative, we have acknowledged the cultural genocide that is the legacy of residential schools. As both allies and friends, we are committed to support the reconciliation process.
- We continue to stand in solidarity with the Ontario Network of Injured Workers to raise public awareness about injured workers’ rights and advocate for changes to Ontario’s broken workers’ compensation system.
(Taken from our AGM report. Posted on October 20, 2015 )
Regulating Payday Loans in Hamilton
Ward Three Councillor Matthew Councillor Green (pictured to the right) has a motion coming to Hamilton City Council on Wednesday September 9th. The motion is requesting authority from the Province for the City of Hamilton to limit the number and regulate the locations of payday loan cheque cashing outlets.
The Clinic has expressed concerns about these businesses many times.
Back in 2009 we called for more regulation by the province. http://poverty.thespec.com/2009/05/payday-loans-settlement.html
More recently, we argued for postal banking as an alternative that would provide access to financial services for all Canadians. http://www.hamiltonjustice.ca/blog/?post=Payday+Lenders+Continue+to+Outrage+Us&id=303
Earlier in the summer we wrote about some of the new techniques being used on-line to exploit consumers http://www.hamiltonjustice.ca/blog/?post=Payday+Lenders+Continue+to+Outrage+Us&id=303
We commend Councillor Green for taking this initiative.
Here is his motion:
WHEREAS the Province of Ontario’s Ministry of Consumer Services is responsible for the Consumer Protection Act and the Payday Loans Act which regulates and licenses money lending businesses;
WHEREAS the Province of Ontario regulates the interest rates of money lending businesses while Municipalities have the authority to regulate and license businesses to protect consumers if this is not already done by the Province;
WHEREAS the use and expansion of payday loan and cheque cashing outlets in Hamilton neighbourhoods is a significant consumer protection issue identified by the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction and neighbourhood and community groups; and
WHEREAS it is important that customers of payday loan and cheque outlets have a complete understanding of the financial services being offered.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED:
(a) That the Mayor be authorized to forward correspondence to the Province of Ontario, to the attention of the Minister of Consumer Services, requesting that the protections afforded by the Payday Loans Act be strengthened and that Municipalities be authorized to limit the number and regulate the locations of payday loan and cheque cashing outlets;
(b) That Staff be directed to research the feasibility of licensing payday loan and cheque cashing outlets to assist in consumer protection by requiring the businesses to post their rates, show comparative and annualized rates and information regarding debt counselling.
(c) That staff analyze and map pay day loan and cheque cashing outlets in Hamilton and report back to Council on recommendations for alternative accessible financial services for Hamilton residents.
Posted September 8, 2015
Evictions for Landlord’s Own Use
If a landlord is acting in good faith, it is perfectly legal to terminate a tenancy “for their own use.”
This is allowed under section 48 of the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA). (You can read that section at the end of this story.)
When the landlord want s the unit for “own use” he must issue a N12 at least 60 days prior to the proposed termination date. The termination date must be the last day of a term (usually the last day of a month as this is the day before rent for the next term is due.)
Landlords don’t always act in good faith, of course. In some cases, terminating the tenant provides an opportunity for higher rent charges, for example. If the landlord is not acting in good faith, the tenant can refuse to move out. The tenant then needs to bring an application to the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board and force the landlord to prove good faith.
Ottawa Lawyer Michael K. E. Thiele notes that “if the tenant can show that the N12 was served in retribution for the tenant enforcing her rights under the Residential Tenancies Act, complaining to a government body, for organizing a tenant association, or because the unit is occupied by children--then the Landlord and Tenant Board must refuse the application to terminate the tenancy (see section 83(3) of the Residential Tenancies Act).”
In a situation where the landlord is acting in good faith, the tenant has some options which can at least delay the eviction for an extended period.
That is because the Board under section 83 of the RTA the Board is given authority to have “regard to all the circumstances.” Recently Clinic Staff Lawyer Marla Brown was successful in arguing that a 25 year tenancy not be terminated as it was determined that the tenant would not be able to find alternative housing in the area at a comparable price and that the termination would have a “dramatic and stressful effect on the Tenant.”
It is important to note that the landlord’s circumstances must also be taken into account.
If a tenant moves out but believes that the landlord has acted in bad faith or terminated their tenancy on false pretense, she/he can bring a T5 application against the Landlord. If successful, the tenant will likely receive financial compensation but probably not get their unit back. A former tenant has 12 months to do this.
Reform is in order. We’d like to see the RTA changed to catch bad faith by landlords. An amendment to the Act to provide tenants more time to find a new place would be a good idea as well.
Marla Brown notes that other no fault notices of termination such as those for renovation, demolition and conversion require 120 days’ notice and financial compensation of 3 months for the loss of the unit in most instances. Also, in these cases, tenants have a right of refusal to return once the work is completed.
(The above has covered a complex area in very brief form. Call us at 905-527-4572 for more information or advice.)
You can read an article by Ottawa Lawyer Michael K. E. Thiele on Landlord’s own use at http://ontariolandlordandtenantlaw.blogspot.ca/2012/11/help-my-landlord-wants-to-live-in-my.html
Notice by Landlord at End of Period or Term
Notice, landlord personally, etc., requires unit
- (1) A landlord may, by notice, terminate a tenancy if the landlord in good faith requires possession of the rental unit for the purpose of residential occupation by,
(a) the landlord;
(b) the landlord’s spouse;
(c) a child or parent of the landlord or the landlord’s spouse; or
(d) a person who provides or will provide care services to the landlord, the landlord’s spouse, or a child or parent of the landlord or the landlord’s spouse, if the person receiving the care services resides or will reside in the building, related group of buildings, mobile home park or land lease community in which the rental unit is located. 2006, c. 17, s. 48 (1).
Posted August 25, 2015
New Funds for Some of Ontario's Community Legal Clinics
Last week Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) announced that they were investing an additional $1.5 million in community legal aid clinics with the fewest resources per low-income person in the 2015/16 fiscal year.
This annual funding will be added to the clinics’ base funding.
This new support is on top of the additional $2.4 million in funding LAO provided for the 2014/15 fiscal year, as announced in March 2015.
LAO says that “(T)his injection of $3.9 million will allow community legal clinics to hire more staff, expand existing services, or launch new services that support clients.”
This new investment is part of LAO’s strategy to expand financial eligibility and clinic law services for low-income Ontarians. It is part of the provincial government’s long term commitment to increase acess to legal aid.
Allocations have been determined based on the low-income person population in a clinic’s service area, using Statistics Canada’s Low Income Measure data from 2012 and LAO funding and population data.
Here is a link to a chart that shows the funding for community legal clinics in Ontario.
(Posted August 4th)
Information for Tenants
Ontario's 2016 Rent Increase Guideline is Set at 2.0 Per Cent
Ontario has set the guideline on rent increases for 2016 at 2.0 per cent. The Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing made this announcement in June.
The rent increase guideline is the maximum a landlord can raise a tenant's rent without the approval of the Landlord and Tenant Board. The guideline applies to rent increases between January 1 and December 31, 2016. Most private and residential rental accommodations dealt with by the Residential Tenancies Act 2006 (RTA) are covered. Some accommodation is not covered.
What is not Covered?
The guideline does not apply to vacant residential units, residential units first occupied on or after November 1, 1991, social housing units and nursing homes.
The RTA limits rental increases at a maximum of 2.5 per cent for buildings constructed prior to 1991. The Ministry notes that the RTA “ensures equitable consideration for families renting homes, and landlords trying to cover operating costs.”
How is the Guideline Determined?
This guideline is based on the Ontario Consumer Price Index (CPI). The CPI is a measure of inflation calculated monthly by Statistics Canada. It reflects economic conditions over the past year.
The Ministry uses this example to illustrate how an increase in rent would work
- The monthly rent of an apartment is $1,000 beginning Aug. 1, 2015.
- With proper written 90 days notice to the tenant, the landlord could lawfully increase the rent 12 months later on Aug. 1, 2016.
- The guideline for 2016 is 2.0 per cent
- A rent increase of 2.0 per cent on $1,000 = $20.00
- Therefore, the new rent on August 1, 2016 could be up to $1,020.00 ($1,000 + $20.00)
Find out more about the guidelines at the Ministry’s website at http://www.ltb.gov.on.ca/en/Key_Information/STEL02_111283.html
Posted July 6, 2015
Know Your Community #4
Of recent immigrants to Hamilton 1,430 identify Arabic as their first language spoken. This total represents nearly 10% of the total of recent immigrants. Spanish is the first language of 1,395 recent immigrants. A third large mother tongue is Tagalog (Pilipino, Filipino at 6.6% of all recent immigrants.
Read more about your community in the Community Profile that has been produced by PC Human Resources at http://1drv.ms/1bbU4xR
Posted July 2, 2015
Know Your Community #3
According to the 2011 Census, 6,765 people identify French as their mother tongue.
Hamilton’s Francophone population is growing at a slightly faster rate than the province as a whole.
Read more about your community in the Community Profile that has been produced by PC Human Resources at http://1drv.ms/1bbU4xR
Posted June 15, 2015
What’s in the Budget for Working Canadians?
The Federal budget announced on Tuesday April 21 offers “surprisingly little for working Canadians, or to help create jobs,” according to Toby Sanger, Senior Economist for the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
The only measures it includes Sanger says are:
• Extending the Employment Insurance Working While on Claim project for another two years.
• Extending compassionate care leave under the EI program to care for a gravely ill family member from six weeks to six months.
• Very limited funding to help with training and harmonization of apprenticeships.
• $65 million to business and industry associations to work with post-secondary institutions to better align their curricula with business needs.
• Renewal of funding for Aboriginal labour market programming.
• Ensuring that the Canada Labour Code applies to interns under federal jurisdiction.
• Notice that the government intends to reduce Employment Insurance premiums in 2017/18, after the EI fund goes into surplus.
Read Mr. Sanger’s full analysis of the budget at http://cupe.ca/draft-budget-analysis
The entire budget document can be found at http://www.budget.gc.ca/2015/docs/plan/toc-tdm-eng.html
Posted April 23, 2015
Know Your Community #2
More than 10,300 Hamilton residents self-identified as Aboriginal in the National Household Survey. Some estimates put that figure much higher at 15,000 Hamilton residents.
- Learn more about The Aboriginal Outreach Justice Initiative at
- Read more about your community in the Community Profile that has been produced by PC Human Resources at http://1drv.ms/1bbU4xR
Know Your Community #1
Hamilton’s total immigrant population is over 125,000. Twelve percent of these immigrants were recent immigrants (arrived in the last five years). More than half of these recent immigrants live in poverty. (National Household Survey).
- Learn more about the Campaign against the 4 Year Limit on Migrant Workers at http://www.hamiltonjustice.ca/make-change.php
Did You Know
- One-third of paid employees in Ontario do not have employer-provided medical or dental benefits.
- People with low earnings have lower levels of employer-provided health benefit coverage than those with higher earnings, with fewer than one in five people earning less than $10,000 receiving benefits through their employer.
- On the other hand more than 90 percent of people earning over $100,000 receive benefits through their employer.
- Men have are more likely to have employer-provided benefits than women.
- Public dental coverage is extremely limited in Ontario, with the province funding only 1.2 percent of dental services in 2010, the lowest public expenditure in Canada. (1)
Improving access to health benefits would narrow the health gap between those with and those without employer-provided benefits, creating a healthier and more equitable Ontario.
Find out more in the new paper Low Wages, No Benefits Expanding Access To Health Benefits For Low Income Ontarians. It is published by the Wellesley Institute an can be found here
(1) Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, “Annex 1: Expenditures on dental services: Canada, the provinces and territories, 1975 to 2010,” in Putting Our Money Where Our Mouth Is: The Future of Dental Care in Canada (Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 2011).
In the meantime, if the Fast Fact cited above about dental coverage in Ontario disturbed you and you want to do something about it consider this.
More than 2.3 million people living in Ontario - one of the most affluent places on earth - cannot afford to visit a dentist or dental hygienist. Most are low-income seniors and adults. The Ontario government promised to extend public dental programs to low income adults and seniors but not until 2025.
Posted February 24, 2015
A National Anti-Poverty Plan for Canada
An interesting report was recently released.
Actually, it is more than a report. It is a plan.
It is a plan to end poverty in Canada. You can read it here. http://www.cpj.ca/sites/default/files/docs/files/DignityForAll_Report-English-FINAL.pdf
The Plan was put together by the Dignity for All Campaign led by Canada Without Poverty and Citizens for Public Justice.
We’ve taken the reports twelve recommendations and included them below as Fact Facts.
Dignity for All recommends that Canada:
1. Reform income assistance programs, such as Employment Insurance, to better reflect labour market realities and other gaps in the system.
2. Increase the National Child Benefit to $5,600 annually for eligible families (and index it to the
cost of living).
3. Develop and implement a coordinate National Housing Strategy based in human rights.
4. Increase funding by no less than $2 billion per year in new money to implement housing strategies that meet the strategy targets.
5. Recognize in the legislation of an anti-poverty plan the social determinants of health, including income, employment, food security, early childhood education and care, and housing.
6. Commit to a new ten-year Health Accord including a National Pharmacare Program.
7. Develop, in collaboration with all levels of government, food producers, community stakeholders, and food insecure people, a National Right to Food Policy.
8. Increase federal investment to address the very high levels of household food insecurity among First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples in a manner that respects cultural, community, and gender considerations and Aboriginal land sovereignty.
9. Develop a high-quality, universal, publicly-funded and managed early childhood education and care program for children aged 0 to 5 years and for school-aged children up to age 12, to be phased in by 2020.
10. Dedicate federal transfers of $1 billion, $1.6 billion, and $2.3 billion over each of the next three years with the ultimate goal of achieving the international benchmark of spending at least 1% of GDP on childhood education and care by 2020.
11. Set national wage standards above the poverty line.
12. Provide employment incentives for youth and other groups under-represented in the workforce.
Posted February 19, 2015,
Clinic Input into Ontario Budget 2015
Recently we wrote to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs to ask for reforms to the Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program. An excerpt from that letter follows.
We are writing to ask that the 2015 Ontario Budget take two concrete steps toward reducing poverty experienced by people on ODSP and OW.
Specifically, we request that you develop a process to ensure that social assistance rates reflect the real cost of living. In addition, we ask that $100 month Work-Related Benefit for ODSP recipients that was eliminated in last year’s budget be restored.
The Need for Evidence Based Social Assistance Rates
A most pressing issue continues to be the extreme depth of poverty suffered by recipients of provincial social assistance benefits. The Commissioners, in the final report of the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario, pointed out that existing social assistance rates are arbitrary numbers. These rates are not set through any evidence-based methodology. Rather the rates are politically determined amounts bearing no relation to the actual costs of rent, food and basic necessities. Currently, largely as a result of drastic cuts to rates made by the provincial government in 1995 and the failure of subsequent governments to even ensure that those inadequate rates kept pace with inflation, provincial social assistance rates fall far below even subsistence levels of assistance for many selected family sizes (particularly for individuals and families in receipt of Ontario Works benefits).
Clearly, the current social assistance system is not adequately supporting our most vulnerable individuals and families. This will have dire consequences for the future of our communities. The severe underfunding of these vital cash transfers to the poorest members of our society negatively affects public health and education levels, as well as other areas of society. The Clinic urges the Provincial Government to effect institutional change immediately to the way social assistance rates are currently determined. This change can be achieved through the creation of an independent arms-length body. Each year that body would recommend evidence-based social assistance rates.
For some time, we have advocated for the creation of such a panel. This panel would set rates that would have some relation to the actual cost of rent, food and other basic necessities. To that end, in 2011, we met with the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario and subsequently made this recommendation to them:
“That the Government of Ontario establish an arm’s length body to recommend evidence-based social assistance rates on an annual basis. Those rates should be based on an analysis of the actual costs of rent, a healthy food basket, and other basic necessities in communities across Ontario, and should provide a level of assistance that will allow individuals and families to live with dignity....”
We are not alone in calling for such a change.
The ODSP Action Coalition has submitted a brief to you www.odspaction.ca. They request, “an immediate significant increase in ODSP income support, to move towards covering the real costs of nutritious food, shelter, transportation, other basic needs and the additional costs related to disability.” They also suggest that “an expert panel including people with lived experience provide research and advice on the criteria that should determine the level of support for Ontario works and ODSP” be created.
Restore the Work-Related Benefit
The ODSP Action Group also speaks in their submission to the Work-Related Benefit. For some time that mandatory benefit (of $100 per month) has been provided to ODSP recipients and their dependents who have earnings from employment or self-employment. Last year’s budget eliminated this benefit effective April 1, 2015 for non-disabled family members of ODSP recipients and October 1, 2015 for people with disabilities. While we appreciate that the money saved by this cut will be used to support others attempting to enter the workforce, we believe this policy change should be reversed.
First, for those who have been receiving the benefit, this change represents a significant loss of income of up to $1,200 a year to each family member. In order to make it easier for people to work, a change to the earnings exemption policy was initiated in 2013. This significant policy reform will be negated by this change.
Second, the Work-Related Benefit has been successful in supporting individuals with substantial impairments creating limitations in daily activities to maintain employment in alternative forms of work. That is what the Benefit was intended to do.
Therefore, we request the reversal of the cut to the Work-Related benefit, and ask that no more cuts to any benefits for individuals and families on ODSP and OW be contemplated until adequate levels of income support are provided.
Thank you for your consideration of our submission.
Executive Director/Directeur general
Hamilton Community Legal Clinic/Clinique juridiquecommunautaire de Hamilton
Posted February 7, 2015
New Information on OW & ODSP Overpayments
In October, an important decision was made in Canadian courts concerning overpayments.
The decision may impact you if you receive Ontario Works (OW) or Ontario Disability Support (ODSP) benefits and have been assessed an overpayment.
We wrote about the Surdivall case last fall. (See http://www.hamiltonjustice.ca/blog/?post=Court+Rulings+of+Significance+for+Ontarians+with+Low-Incomes&id=269)
Mr. Surdivall was successfully represented by a number of lawyers including Jackie Esmonde and Cynthia Wilkey from the Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC)
ISAC has put together an excellent two page fact sheet. That fact sheet describes the implications of the Surdivall court decision. As ISAC notes:
“It’s very common for overpayments to happen because of innocent errors like (Mr. Surdivall’s). They can even happen when all the rules are being followed – the social assistance system is set up in a way that can make overpayments inevitable.”
You can find the Fact Sheet at http://www.incomesecurity.org/documents/Surdivall-Overpayments.pdf
Have You been Assessed an Overpayment?
If you have been assessed an overpayment, ISAC suggests that you might be able to get it waived completely or in part if the overpayment:
1. Was caused by an innocent mistake you made.
2. Was the result of an error or delay made or caused a caseworker or other representative of ODSP or OW.
3. Caused financial hardship for you.
4. Resulted because of abuse or coercion that you experienced.
5. Happened because ODSP or OW failed to accommodate your disability.
6. Came about due to other types of circumstances where it would be unfair to make you pay back the overpayment.
Readers will know that social assistance rules are very complicated.
If you need help, contact the Clinic. Call us at 905-527-4572 or connect on-line at https://www.hamiltonjustice.ca/apply-for-services.php
The Income Security and Advocacy Centre is an excellent resource on issues of income security and poverty. Visit their website for more information http://www.incomesecurity.org/
Posted January 21, 2015
Bring Back Reasonably Priced, Accessible Financial Services
Good communities are ones that provide residents and businesses with easy access to reasonably priced financial services.
What has happened?
- The big five chartered banks have been leaving downtown cores of major Canadian cities for years.
- Many small communities, especially Aboriginal communities, don’t have any banks or credit unions.
- According to a recent report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), three to fifteen percent of Canadians do not have a bank account. That means at least 910,000 Canadians are “unbanked.”
- When banks do exist, fees are an issue. Only thirty years ago, banks did not charge fees but now these charges are amongst the highest in the world.
- “Fringe” financial institutions like Money Mart have stepped in to fill the void. They make big bucks while charging exorbitant fees.
- There is some regulation of these fringe institutions. In 2008, for example, the Ontario government, concerned about excessive charges, brought in regulations. These controls were inadequate so the government is in the process of setting new rules.
What to do?
More regulation of fringe institutions is needed. Reintroducing postal banking could help address the problem. It is a simple idea - the post office offers financial services alongside their regular business.
- Canadians had access to postal banking for more than one hundred years. When the Post Office Savings Bank ceased operations in 1968, nearly 300,000 accounts closed down.
- Postal banking is thriving in other parts of the world. Japan Post Bank, for example, has $2 trillion in assets. New Zealand, Switzerland, France, Great Britain and Italy are five other countries with postal banking.
- These institutions can achieve stated social goals that other financial institutions aren’t interested in.
- By initiating postal banking, Canada Post could make money and increase their ability to invest in public postal service and jobs and leave the corporation less dependent on mail.
- In February, Blacklock’s Reporter published a story that indicated that Canada Post executives think postal banking is a good idea. In fact, after looking at postal banks in other jurisdictions the conclusion was that a move back into postal banking would be a “win-win. `` (Here is that story. http://www.blacklocks.ca/canada-postal-banks-win-win-secret-records-show/)
- A poll done in April found that “64% of Canadians supported Canada Post expanding revenue-generating services, including bill payments, insurance and banking.``
Find out more about postal banking from the Canadian Union of Postal Workers at http://www.cupw.ca/index.cfm/ci_id/12820/la_id/1.htm
You can also read our story from earlier this year at
Posted December 10, 2014