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Social Assistance Rates Must Reflect Costs of Living

February 16, 2015 Media Release


Social Assistance Rates Must Reflect Costs of Living


February 13, 2015

For Immediate Release

Recipients of Ontario Social Assistance are living in the deepest poverty in society and falling further and further behind.

That’s wrong as far as Hamilton Community Legal Clinic Staff Lawyer Craig Foye is concerned.  Foye and his colleagues have been trying to change this for more than 10 years.

Now, with support from the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, they are taking the case about inadequate social assistance rates to the people of Ontario through an online ideas generator run by the provincial government. provides a forum to present ideas and have others vote on the merit of implementing the plan.

Foye has published the idea of creating an arms-length expert panel that would recommend evidence-based social assistance rates.  The expert panel would be tasked with analyzing the costs of rent and food and other basic necessities across the Province and could even set regional rates. They would make recommendations on an annual basis.

“A previous Provincial Government cut 'welfare' rates by 22% overnight in 1995, Now, a single person gets a maximum of $656 per month.  That is about what they would have received back in 1993, over 20 years ago,” says Foye.

The Provincial Government does not base social assistance rates on any analysis of the actual cost of living for people who must access those benefits. As a result, individuals and families on social assistance are often hundreds of dollars behind each month and forced to make impossible choices about whether to pay rent or purchase food. 

“75% of all Hamiltonians going to food banks are actually on provincial social assistance, they don’t have adequate resources to purchase their own food; In a very real sense, the Province is legislating hunger by their inaction” said Tom Cooper, Director of the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction.

The impact of these inadequate rates on individuals and families in receipt of social assistance can be overwhelming.

Two years ago, the Roundtable produced a video called Putting A Face to Social Assistance asking recipients to portray how their lives would be different if social assistance rates were improved.

Emily said she could “get out of poverty instead of just surviving.”   Bill would be able “to buy fruit and vegetables.”  Ursula could imagine “a better future for her son.” That is just a sampling of comments from the video completed nearly three years ago. 

“Sadly not much has changed.  If inflation is factored, rates are lower today than in 2003 when this current government came to office” says Cooper.

Foye’s idea for a Rates Board was actually introduced as a private member's bill by MPP Ted McMeekin in 2007.  The legislature was prorogued the next day and the bill died. In spite of considerable support from social policy experts, the bill has not been re-introduced as a government bill.

Politicians regularly commission experts to look at their own pay rates, and then often justify their own pay increases based on those expert recommendations. Let's apply the same evidence-based approach to social assistance rates,” says Foye.



More Information:

Craig Foye:                         Tom Cooper:

Hamilton Community Legal Clinic                   The Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction  






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