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Hamilton MPP Proposing Social Assistance Reform

April 10, 2016 Poverty Reduction

Next Thursday, Hamilton East MPP, Paul Miller will present a private member's bill in the Ontario Legislature that calls for the creation of a social assistance rates commission. This proposal is not new, but it's a good idea that would recommend social assistance rates be based on the actual cost of food, rent and other essentials.   

Each year this Social Assistance Commission would recommend evidence-based social assistance rates to the provincial government.  Those recommendations would be based on an analysis of the actual costs of rent, food and other basic necessities across the province. The Commission would be required to set different rates for different regions based on an analysis of the costs in those regions.  The Commission would also make periodic reports on other policy issues as they relate to provincial social assistance on a periodic basis (e.g. precarious employment, child support, WSIB).

The current provincial social assistance rates are arbitrary numbers that are not based on any analysis of the actual cost of rent, food and other basic necessities.

The Clinic was involved with a similar private member’s bill in 2007 to establish the Ontario Social Assistance Rates Board.  That Private Member’s bill was introduced by the Hon. Ted McMeekin, MPP (Ancaster, Dundas, Flamborough, Westdale), who is now the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.  Unfortunately, the bill had a short life in 2007, as the legislature was prorogued in advance of an election the day after the bill was introduced for first reading.  This new bill is largely modelled on the original bill with some changes to improve the bill suggested by Paul Miller and his staff.

“At the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic we regularly see individuals and families spiral deeper and deeper into poverty the longer they try to subsist on provincial social assistance programs,” says Craig Foye, staff lawyer at the Clinic.   

Foye (pictured to the right) and Clinic colleagues and the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction have been involved in providing comments to the drafting of the bill along with our colleagues at the Income Security Advocacy Centre and the ODSP Action Coalition.

The current schedule for the bill follows:

 Monday April 11th 1:15 pm: First Reading (Introduction) of Bill – TENTATIVE

 Wednesday April 13th, 9:45 am: Press Conference at Queen’s Park – CONFIRMED

 Wednesday April 13th, 3:00 pm: Member’s Statement – CONFIRMED

 Thursday April 14th, 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm (approx.): Second Reading Debate – CONFIRMED

 Thursday April 14th, 4:00 pm – 4:15 pm (approx.): Second Reading Vote – CONFIRMED

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