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Our Letter to the Ontario Liberal Leadership Candidates

January 16, 2013 Poverty Reduction

Dear Liberal Leadership Candidate,

One of the files on the your desk the day after your have been chosen as Premier will be the report of the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario.

This report, called Brighter Prospects: Transforming Social Assistance in Ontario, charts “a new course for social assistance towards a simpler, more effective, and more accountable system....”

There are controversial aspects to the report, to be sure. One issue, though, that is not contentious is that a new system must set rates for recipients that are adequate to live on and an evidence based method to determine the rates must be established.

Hamilton Community Legal Clinic/Clinique juridique communautaire de Hamilton is a community based not for profit agency who provide legal services to low income individuals and communities to promote access to justice and to improve quality of life. We do this through summary advice and referral, representation, community development, law reform and public legal education.

It is a matter of great importance to us that social assistance rates need to have some relation to the actual cost of rent, food and other basic necessities. Over the years the clinic has done a lot of work on developing a method for determining rates. To that end we met with the Commission 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....

Brighter Prospects came out in October. In its Recommendation #27 there is a call for the province to adopt a “rational methodology” to set social assistance rates. But such a methodology has already been articulated. So why reinvent the wheel?

Legislation Introduced in 2007

Many years ago we worked with Liberal MPP Ted McMeekin and put together a bill to establish an Ontario Social Assistance Rates Board. The former Bill 235 was introduced in the legislature in June of 2007 but “died” when the legislature was adjourned.

You can look at the legislation here on our Fast Facts page at https://www.hamiltonjustice.ca/did-you-know

We think you’ll agree this legislation makes as much sense now as it did in 2007.

Reforming the Social Assistance system as part of its Poverty Reduction Strategy was a major initiative of the McGuinty government. While there is much that needs to be changed with the current system the creation of a rates board as described above should be a priority.

Will you commit to making it a priority of your government?

Respectfully submitted, The Hamilton Community Legal Clinic/Clinique juridique communautaire de Hamilton

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