Summary of our Poverty Reduction Strategy Submission
October 9, 2013 Poverty Reduction
We’ve just submitted a brief to the Provincial Government in response to their request for input on their second Poverty Reduction Strategy.
Many other groups and agencies have made submissions to meet an October 4th deadline. When the government passed the 2009 Poverty Reduction Act they agreed to set targets and make plans to reduce poverty. Although some progress has been made through the implementation of the Ontario Child Benefit, the government has not met its promise to reduce child and family poverty by 25 percent by 2013.
Many in our community and across the province think the current consultation is not genuine. Their argument runs like this:
“The government knows what to do to address poverty. What is gained by consultation? We need action, not more talk. So get to work and do it.”
But that 2009 legislation requires the government to talk with the public every five years. When this requirement was established it was unprecedented. In our view, this obligatory consultation keeps the important issue of poverty on the political radar in a way that it has not been in the past.
We have posted our submission on our website. See https://www.hamiltonjustice.ca/did-you-know
Here are the key points we tried to convey.
The new strategy must make firm commitments to reduce poverty.
There are many ways to do this. One we suggested is the creation of a Universal Housing Benefit for all low-income Ontarians. Such a benefit would pay 75% of the difference between the actual rent paid and the recipient’s income.
We also reiterated our concern that last year’s so-called transfer of the Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB) to municipalities will have serious long term consequences. It was not, of course, a transfer but a cut. The funding for the program should be restored.
The new strategy must address the severe underfunding of individuals and families on social assistance.
For many years the Clinic has called for a mechanism to develop these rates. In the current system the rates are politically-determined. The actual rates bear no relation to the actual costs of rent, food and basic necessities.
We’ve called for the creation of a Board to set these rates. (Read more at https://www.hamiltonjustice.ca/blog/?post=Evidence%20Based%20Social%20Assistance%20Rates&id=158)
The strategy must make investments and implement specific actions that will improve the quality of jobs in the labour market.
A Poverty Reduction Strategy needs to take into account the fact about ten percent of Ontarians are working for minimum wage. That wage comes nowhere near the cost of a living wage. At the very least, the minimum wage should be raised and indexed to inflation.
The strategy must incorporate an equity approach.
Some groups living in poverty have special challenges and needs that should be addressed. The Colour of Poverty has gathered research that demonstrates that poverty is racialized (disproportionate to people of colour who are Canadian born and newcomers.) The strategy needs to take this into account.