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Commission calls for Bold Thinking

February 3, 2012 Poverty Reduction

The Toronto Star is reporting this morning that the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance is bringing out a much anticipated report today. (

Somewhat surprisingly, perhaps, instead of a comprehensive report on options for reform, the update discusses different approaches and highlights areas for more discussion.” Apparently Commissioners Francis Lankin and Munir Sheik want to encourage further dialogue.

Here is an idea that we would like to see get further discussion.

Specifically, the Clinic would like to see development of an evidence-based system for determining social assistance rates.

This issue was a central recommendation of the 1988 Transitions Report of the Social Assistance Review Committee, the last comprehensive review of Ontario's social assistance system.

In 2007 the Hamilton Community Legal Clinics (as we were then called) drafted legislation that proposed the idea of setting up an expert panel which would recommend, on an annual basis, evidence based rates. At the time Staff Lawyer Craig Foye worked with Ted McMeekin, MPP, and legislation was actually introduced as Bill 235 on June 4, 2007. Unfortunately, the Legislature was prorogued the next day and the Bill was effectively discontinued.

We continue to support the idea of the government establishing an arms length body which would recommend rates. The rates would be determined based on an analysis of actual costs of nutritious food baskets, basic telephone service, basic transportation, personal needs items (including clothing, personal hygiene products) and household cleaning supplies and items and services relating to the educational and recreational needs of any children.,

Other issues like necessary modifications to a rental unit in order to accommodate any disability and additional expenses that may be incurred by persons with disabilities in order for them to participate fully in society would be looked at.

The establishment of evidence based rates would allow individuals and families in Ontario receiving social assistance to live with dignity.

The Commission is asking for input by March 16th. Hopefully, this is an idea that they, and the public, can get behind.

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