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Serious Movement on Poverty Reduction Needed

February 1, 2011 Poverty Reduction

Clinic Staff Lawyer Craig Foye and Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction Member Sandy Leyland went to Queen’s Park yesterday with a strong message for the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs.

Here’s the essence of that message:

We are in an emergency crisis situation with regard to poverty levels and particularly with regard to the depth of poverty in our community. It is vital that protections against this crisis be developed and that a serious movement toward substantial poverty reduction is undertaken.

Citing the unprecedented numbers of people accessing foodbanks, rampant economic eviction at the Landlord & Tenant Board, the inadequacy of provincial social assistance rates and the inequitable clawback of the Ontario Child Benefit from Ontario families in receipt of provincial social assistance benefits the pair made three requests for immediate action.

First, the Government of Ontario should take steps to introduce evidence-based social assistance rates in Ontario – rates that are based on the actual cost or rent, food and other necessities.

Second, the Province should institute benefits that would help individuals and families ensure that they can pay for basic necessities while they await the completion of the Social Assistance Review (currently 18 months from being finished.) A Healthy Food Allowance (as suggested by the provincial ‘Put Food in the Budget’ campaign) or a Housing Allowance (as advocated by the Housing Network of Ontario) are two measures that should be considered.

Third, the Government must reverse cuts in provincial social assistance benefits so that families can receive the full amount of the Ontario Child Benefit (OCB) - without any related clawback of their social assistance benefits.

On this last point the presenters cited data from the Income Security Advocacy Centre (“ISAC”) documenting how this clawback of the OCB is inequitable and leaves many children and families across Ontario without the full financial resources of the Ontario Child Benefit because of a related clawback to their social assistance benefits. In addition, ISAC data shows that the OCB is inequitably distributed amongst social assistance recipients.

Foye and Leyland told the committee that many families in Hamilton are faced with a tragic choice every month - pay the rent or feed the kids.

The levels of poverty in our community will have dire repercussions for future public health, education levels, crime levels, and employment.

“It is crucial to note that inaction on income security issues in our community now is like a mortgage on the future of our communities in Ontario,” they noted.

The Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs is charged with getting public input to assist in the development of the provincial budget.

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