// archives

News

This category contains 18 posts

Ontario Seeking Input on Basic Income Pilot

Province Launching Consultations on Innovative Way to Deliver Supports

Ministry of Community and Social Services

Ontario is seeking public input to help inform the design of a basic income pilot, which is an innovative new approach to providing income security.

The pilot would test whether a basic income is a more effective way of lifting people out of poverty and improving health, housing and employment outcomes. Through the consultations, Ontario is seeking input from across the province, including from people with lived experience, municipalities, experts and academics. The province will also work with Indigenous partners to tailor a culturally appropriate engagement process that reflects the advice and unique perspective of First Nations, urban Indigenous, Métis and Inuit communities.

The province is consulting on key questions, including: who should be eligible, where the pilot should take place, what the basic income level should be and how best to evaluate it. The consultations will be guided, in part, by a discussion paper by the Hon. Hugh Segal, Finding a Better Way: A Basic Income Pilot Project for Ontario, and will run from November 2016 to January 2017. People can participate by:

Exploring innovative ways to deliver supports and services is part of our government’s plan to create jobs, grow our economy and help people in their everyday lives.

Quick Facts

  • Finland, the Netherlands and Kenya are also looking at developing pilot projects that test the idea of a basic or guaranteed annual income.
  • Y-Combinator, a California technology company has announced it will be piloting a Basic Income project that is expected to run for five years.
  • The government will prepare a final report on what we heard during the consultations, and introduce a plan for the pilot by April, 2017.
  • Organizations interested in hosting their own basic income pilot consultations can go to ontario.ca/basicincome for the consultation guide.

Additional Resources

Urgent: Community-Based Housing and Homelessness Funding

This is a letter from 27 organizations in communities across Ontario.

Dear Premier Wynne, Minister Jeffrey, Minister Piruzza, and Minister McMeekin,

We are writing as a coalition of concerned organizations to urge you to respond without delay to the growing crisis in housing and homelessness across Ontario. While there are many housing needs across the province, we need your government to commit – as quickly as possible and before the new year – to make permanent $42 million in “transition funding” for critically important housing and homelessness funds administered by municipalities under the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI).

Municipalities across Ontario are in the midst of planning their budgets for the coming year. Decisions about housing and homelessness funding will be made very soon. Municipalities – and the low income Ontarians who live in them – need your guarantee that you are on their side.

Municipalities have been given the responsibility and flexibility to respond to their communities’ housing and homelessness issues through CHPI. But they can’t adequately respond to the need in their communities if the funds are not there to do the job.

When the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB) was eliminated from social assistance beginning in January 2013, only half of previously designated funds ($67 million in 2013-14) were transferred to CMSMs and DSSABs, using a formula that didn’t respond to real time housing needs.

Some municipalities responded to the loss of CSUMB by creating their own, similar funds to provide direct funding for first and last month’s rent, rental and utilities arrears, and other costs that ensure people are able to become housed or stay in their homes. Eligibility criteria and funded costs vary across the province, as do amounts of funding provided. Some municipalities did not create their own locally administered funds, so low income Ontarians in those communities have no source of direct support.

In December 2012, government responded to community concern by instituting a onetime $42 million “transition fund” to help municipalities deal with the loss of CSUMB and the move to community-based homelessness prevention. Those funds run out in March 2014.

In some areas of the province, designated funds for this purpose may have been underspent. This does not indicate a lack of need in communities, but rather the reality that the roll-out of the transition to CHPI funding was plagued with difficulties, resulting in many low income people either not attempting to access or being denied direct funding for their housing and homelessness-related needs. The transition to CHPI funding was also complicated by the new cap put on discretionary benefits. More funding is required for municipalities to find the right balance to provide for the need in their communities, and for low income Ontarians to become aware of funds that might be available.

While the $42 million will not replace CSUMB, it will go some way to ensuring that low income people in communities across Ontario will have the funds they need to secure housing and to prevent losing their housing, due directly to lack of income. The ripple effects of the devastating loss of CSUMB continue to be felt across the province. Low income Ontarians need your government’s guarantee that funds they need to get housing or stay housed will be there when they need them. The least they deserve is to have the additional $42 million in transition funding made permanently available to municipalities.

—————-

Contact:

Jennefer Laidley
Research & Policy Analyst
Income Security Advocacy Centre

425 Adelaide Street West, 5th Floor
Toronto, Ontario   M5V 3C1

ISAC website: www.incomesecurity.org
Social Assistance Review website: www.sareview.ca

Phone: 416-597-5820 x 5155
Fax: 416-597-5821
Email: laidleyj@lao.on.ca

Ontario Government proposes more Poverty Reduction consultations; community groups say it’s time for Premier Wynne to act

Five years after Ontario’s Liberal Government announced a Poverty Reduction Strategy, hundreds of thousands of people still don’t have enough money to pay their rent and buy their food. Food bank usage in Ontario is at record levels – rising from 374,000 people per month in 2008 to 413,000 in 2012, including 160,000 children.[1]

Despite holding multiple consultations about poverty reduction and social assistance reform, the Liberal Government has consistently ignored thousands of community members:

  • In the spring and summer of 2008, more than 75 community consultations on poverty reduction were held across Ontario, including 44 with MPPs.[2] Community representatives consistently delivered the message that livable incomes and a minimum wage to raise a full-time, full-year worker out of poverty were critical to poverty reduction. The Liberal Government of Premier McGuinty ignored this input.
  • In late 2008, people in communities across Ontario urged the government to set a target for poverty reduction in general – not just child poverty. Children live in families, they pointed out, and reducing overall poverty will inevitably help children. This message was ignored, and the government’s target of lifting 90,000 children out of poverty is short by 48,000 as of 2011.[3]
  • In 2011 and 2012, four out of five community briefs to the Commission on Social Assistance Reform argued that adequate social assistance rates was a primary issue.[4] The final report of Commissioners Frances Lankin and Munir Sheikh recommended an immediate rate increase of $100/month. The Liberal government of Premier Wynne was deaf to its own commissioners: the 2013 budget increased social assistance to recipients of Ontario Works benefits by only $14/month.

Dalton McGuinty’s last act as Premier was to cut the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit, which further worsened the destitution of Ontario’s most vulnerable.

Now, after five years of the Liberal Government failing to deliver on social assistance reform, it lacks credibility to call for more consultation in the absence of action on what the community has recommended to date.

We believe Premier Wynne does not need any further consultation to reduce poverty in Ontario. The Liberal government can respond now to the core demands that people from communities across Ontario have been making for five years. Our participation in any consultations on a new poverty reduction strategy will be to assert three core demands.

Our Demands

Premier Wynne government can reduce poverty and demonstrate her commitment to social justice by acting on the following:

  1. Raise the rates
  • Immediately increase the base rate of social assistance by $100 a month without paying for it by cutting other benefits.
  • Restore the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit.
  1. Protect  the well-being of people with disabilities
  • Discuss the Commission on Social Assistance Reform recommendations regarding ODSP with community advocacy groups representing people with disabilities.
  1. Reduce poverty for everyone
  • Raise the minimum wage now to 10% above the poverty line.
  • Set targets that reduce and eventually end poverty for everyone – children, families and communities.

Commitment to Social Justice

We are committed to social justice for people in Ontario who live in poverty. We will not stop until poverty is ended.

A social justice strategy to end poverty requires providing people with enough money for food, housing and everything else that ensures a life of health and dignity.

It is time for Premier Wynne to demonstrate her commitment to social justice with constructive social and economic policies. She can begin by acting on our three demands.

For further information, contact:
Peter Clutterbuck, Poverty Free Ontario
(416) 653-7947
pclutterbuck@spno.ca


Province Playing Welfare Shell Game

Re: Ontario takes a pass on real welfare reform, Opinion May 6

Carol Goar appears to have it right, although I would not agree that community advocates and social assistance recipients across the province are just relieved that the budget did not lead to further cuts.

There is a strong sense of disappointment that the previously expressed social justice convictions of the new premier have not moved from rhetoric to action and that the NDP leader never advocated for the interests of Ontario’s poorest with the same vigour as for its car owners.

Goar’s sources indicate that Premier Kathleen Wynne was ready to offer a $100 a month benefit increase to those on the lowest rate but this was derailed by the community’s “lobby” for keeping the special diet allowance. This, of course, is the usual game of playing off one part of the caseload, impoverished single adults without work, against the other, disabled people with medical dietary needs. Some justice.

In fact, our group, which represents voices for welfare reform in 25 communities across the province, recommended to the government that the $100 a month be introduced over this and the next budget year in two $50 installments so that rate increases would not have to be paid for by cutting the special diet allowance.

It is a strange notion of social justice that asks disabled people with medical needs to sacrifice essential health supports in order to begin to relieve the deep poverty of single adults not in the labour market.

Peter Clutterbuck, Poverty Free Ontario, Toronto

http://www.thestar.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editors/2013/05/12/province_playing_welfare_shell_game.html

Now is the time to tackle Poverty in Ontario

Hope you will consider sending a letter to your MPP with copies to the Premier and Opposition Leaders via the following link urging anti-poverty action as the 2013 Ontario provincial budget negotiation process unfolds. Please share with your friends and networks.

http://e-activist.com/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1734&ea.campaign.id=19624

Inequality is taking a deeper hold in Ontario, despite a promise by our political leaders to address poverty. Please urge our political leaders to keep their word.

Fair Ontario Still a Faint Hope for People in Deep Poverty

MEDIA RELEASE

For Immediate Release:
4:00 PM, Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Ontario Speech from the Throne

Fair Ontario still a faint hope for people in deep poverty

Community leaders and groups across Ontario calling on the new Premier for action on a social justice agenda to improve the living conditions of more than 1.6 million Ontarians living in poverty were offered faint hope in today’s Speech from the Throne. Reference to recommendations for social assistance reform by Commissioners Frances Lankin and Munir Sheikh did not even make the Summary of Highlights posted at the front end of the speech. http://www.premier.gov.on.ca/home/index.php

Poverty Free Ontario (PFO), a province-wide network of individuals and organizations in 25 communities across Ontario, advocates for a provincial government commitment to end the deep poverty experienced by Ontarians living on social assistance and to end the working poverty of people earning the minimum wage.

The new Government under Premier Wynne’s leadership states its commitment to implement recommendations in the Lankin and Sheikh report to help people find employment and to introduce an unspecified earnings exemption for social assistance recipients before benefits are clawed back.  The Government will make a special effort on supporting youth job creation.  The Speech also recognized the need for affordable and secure housing.

“These measures are not unimportant, but we hope they are only the first glimmers of the Premier’s social justice agenda,” says Peter Clutterbuck, PFO Coordinator, “We were really hoping to see some evidence of the Government’s intention to introduce the $100/month increase in benefits to people on social assistance as also recommended by Commissioners Lankin and Sheikh. A fair society cannot tolerate so many of its members experiencing monthly cycles of hunger and hardship at great cost to their health and well-being.”

“We remain hopeful that the Government’s first budget will more strongly reflect the social justice mission that the Premier has espoused,” adds Clutterbuck.

Poverty Free Ontario is an initiative of the Social Planning Network of Ontario (SPNO) working with local community groups across the province www.povertyfreeontario.ca

-30-

Media Contact:

Peter Clutterbuck, SPNO,
416-738-3228 and 416-653-7947
pclutterbuck@spno.ca

PFO Media Release Feb. 19 2013 (PDF)

Eric Hoskins: Increase Minimum Wage to Tackle Working Poverty

“A healthy economy leaves no one behind”

Dr. Eric Hoskins, MPP for St. Paul’s and Ontario Liberal leadership candidate, launched his policy platform on Monday, December 17 with a luncheon talk at the Economic Club of Canada in Toronto. In his speech titled “A Prescription for a Healthy Economy,” he asserted that “a healthy economy leaves no one behind.” (see http://ericforleader.ca/ for his full address).

Dr. Hoskins laid out a five point program in his prescription:

  1. Transforming the health care system to get “better care for less money”.
  2. Mandating a new Metrolinx regional authority to develop and implement a 20 year transportation infrastructure plan based on The Big Move.
  3. Job creation focusing on targeted programs for youth employment and integration of skilled newcomers into the economy.
  4. Rural and northern economic development (Respect for Rural Ontario) through measures such as access to hi-speed internet and gas revenue funded infrastructure development.
  5. Tackling poverty through implementation of the key recommendations of the recent Social Assistance Review Commissioners Report, fully implementing the increases to the Ontario Child Benefit and increasing the minimum wage so that a full-time worker would earn enough to escape poverty.

Dr. Hoskins expressed support for the “key recommendations” of the Social Assistance Review Commissioners’ report recommendations, although not specific in terms of the $100/month rate increase. He did indicate that he supported integration of the OW and ODSP caseloads for a “one-stop shopping” approach and the Pathways to Employment model for helping people on social assistance move into employment, which remain subjects of much community debate.

It is notable, however, that Dr. Hoskins made a specific commitment to raising the minimum wage so that no full-year, full-time earner would live below the poverty line, clearly recognizing the imperative of ending working poverty in a healthy economy that leaves no one behind.

Dr. Hoskins did not refer in his talk to the impending cuts and changes to the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit program, which threatens the health and well-being so many social assistance recipients across the province.

The inclusion of tackling poverty in his policy platform raises it to a prominence that has waned since the 2008 poverty reduction strategy. There is room for Dr. Hoskins to even further develop his anti-poverty platform. But, the question is where is the rest of the Liberal leadership field on ending deep and working poverty in Ontario with clear and specific measures?

Eric Hoskins: increase minimum wage to tackle working pvoerty

 “A healthy economy leaves no one behind”

 

Dr. Eric Hoskins, MPP for St. Paul’s and Ontario Liberal leadership candidate, launched his policy platform on Monday, December 17 with a luncheon talk at the Economic Club of Canada in Toronto. In his speech titled “A Prescription for a Healthy Economy”, he asserted that “a healthy economy leaves no one behind.” (see http://ericforleader.ca/  for his full address).

 

Dr. Hoskins laid out a five point program in his prescription:

1.      Transforming the health care system to get “better care for less money”.

2.      Mandating a new Metrolinx regional authority to develop and implement a 20 year transportation infrastructure plan based on The Big Move.

3.      Job creation focusing on targeted programs for youth employment and integration of skilled newcomers into the economy.

4.      Rural and northern economic development (Respect for Rural Ontario) through measures such as access to hi-speed internet and gas revenue funded infrastructure development.

5.      Tackling poverty through implementation of the key recommendations of the recent Social Assistance Review Commissioners Report, fully implementing the increases to the Ontario Child Benefit and increasing the minimum wage so that a full-time worker would earn enough to escape poverty.

 

Dr. Hoskins expressed support for the “key recommendations” of the Social Assistance Review Commissioners’ report recommendations, although not specific in terms of the $100/month rate increase.  He did indicate that he supported integration of the OW and ODSP caseloads for a “one-stop shopping” approach and the Pathways to Employment model for helping people on social assistance move into employment, which remain subjects of much community debate. 

 

It is notable, however, that Dr. Hoskins made a specific commitment to raising the minimum wage so that no full-year, full-time earner would live below the poverty line, clearly recognizing the imperative of ending working poverty in a healthy economy that leaves no one behind.

 

Dr. Hoskins did not refer in his talk to the impending cuts and changes to the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit program, which threatens the health and well-being so many social assistance recipients across the province. 

 

The inclusion of tackling poverty in his policy platform raises it to a prominence that has waned since the 2008 poverty reduction strategy.  There is room for Dr. Hoskins to even further develop his anti-poverty platform.  But, the question is where is the rest of the Liberal leadership field on ending deep and working poverty in Ontario with clear and specific measures?

The 8th Day of Action to Stop Wage Theft

12 days of actionToday is the 8th Day of Action in the Workers Action Centre’s campaign to Stop Wage Theft against Ontario’s most vulnerable workers.

At the link following, you will find Agripina’s story. She recounts how she had to go to the Ontario Labour Relations Board to win $8,000 owed to her by her employer.

At the bottom of the page on this link, there is an email set up to send a message to the Minister of Labour demanding action to enforce protection for workers against the kind of experience that Agripina had.

http://www.workersactioncentre.org/12-days-of-action/

SPNO is sponsoring this 8th Day of Action in support of WAC’s campaign to Stop Wage Theft.

We urge you to send a message to the Minister and to promote similar action today throughout your organization and your local community networks.

The holiday season will be happier for all Ontarians when all workers receive a fair return on their labour.

 

Commissioners Show Constraints of Austerity Climate

For Immediate Release:

3:00 PM, Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Release of Final Report on the Social Assistance Review

Commissioners show constraints of austerity climate

Social Assistance Review Commissioners Frances Lankin and Munir Sheikh released their long awaited Final Report on the Ontario Social Assistance Review today.

Community advocates for serious and immediate social assistance reform can feel some sense of achievement that the Commissioners acknowledge that OW and ODSP rates are too low to enable recipients to have access to adequate nutritious food. The Commissioners acknowledge the position of the Put Food in the Budget campaign and recommend an immediate $100/month rate increase as a “down payment” on moving toward adequacy. Regrettably, they suggest that this be partly paid for by eliminating the $230 million Special Diet Allowance to recipients with medical conditions requiring certain nutrients for their health and well-being.

“Proposing a $100 a month increase to the single rate is encouraging and the Commissioners are very clear that rates need to move towards adequacy,” says Peter Clutterbuck, PFO Coordinator,”but why does this have to mean the elimination of the Special Diet allowance? In their other proposals for moving toward a new integrated system, the Commissioners recommend maintaining supplements and existing benefits to make sure recipients are not worse off during the transition period.”

The Commissioners propose more than 100 recommendations on all aspects of social assistance that will require careful community discussion.  The Commissioners attempt to outline a vision of a more simplified and coherent social assistance system. It is clear, however, that they felt the constraints of the austerity climate that the Ontario Government introduced with its 2012 budget.

Plus, the Commissioners had to work against the tide of the Ontario Government’s action in the last few years that has continued the austerity agenda of hunger and hardship directed at people on social assistance started by the Harris Government in the mid-nineties and has included the following measures:

  • Cutting the Basic Needs Allowance for single parents by $125 a month per child after introducing the Ontario Child Benefit (another clawback called “rate restructuring”);
  • Ending the clothing and back to school allowances for children on social assistance;
  • Cutting the real incomes of people on social assistance through reducing cost of living adjustments to half the rate of inflation in the last two provincial budgets;
  • Changing the medical conditions qualifying for the Special Diet Allowance so that thousands of social assistance recipients lost access to nutritious food critical to their health;
  • Withdrawing planned increases to the OCB for two years in the 2012 budget; and
  • Cutting the Community Start-Up and Maintenance funding to municipalities for people on social assistance.

Poverty Free Ontario (PFO) has maintained a consistent focus on the need for major structural reforms to end deep poverty (incomes falling below 80% of Ontario’s official income poverty measure) and to end working poverty (minimum wage level that brings a full-year- full-time earner out of poverty).

On first review of the Commissioners’ Report, PFO is dismayed that they discount Ontario’s official income poverty measure (i.e. Low Income Measure – 50% of median income). Not only was the LIM set as Ontario’s official income measure in its 2008 Poverty Reduction Strategy, but the LIM is also internationally recognized as the income poverty measure of the United Nations and the European Union.  Notably, the proposed subsistence line set by the Commissioners’ “Basic Measure of Adequacy” would condemn a single person or a two person family to a life of deep poverty at 70% of Ontario’s official income poverty level.

Another major concern that requires further investigation is the proposed integration of Ontario Works and the Ontario Disabilities Support Program into a unified system. While the Commissioners show some care in recommending that persons with disabilities should be in no worse off income position while this transition is made, the recommendations reflect a push towards the labour market for persons with disabilities that must be watched vigilantly to avoid workfare strategies, especially given the Commissioners’ recommendation of integrating ODSP and OW administration at the municipal level.

PFO will be consulting with its community partners across Ontario in the coming days to more fully develop its response to the Commissioners’ Report.

Poverty Free Ontario is an initiative of the Social Planning Network of Ontario (SPNO) working with local community groups across the province www.povertyfreeontario.ca

-30-

Media Contact:
Peter Clutterbuck, SPNO,
416-653-7947 and 416-738-3228
pclutterbuck@spno.ca

PDF version of media release

Niagara Region Provincial Candidates Polled on Poverty and Social Justice Issues

For Immediate Release
September 29, 2011

The Social Assistance Reform Network of Niagara (SARNN) is a network of front line health and social agencies, churches, organizations and individuals who have worked together since 1988 to advocate for social assistance reforms. SARNN is a supporter of the non-partisan Poverty Free Ontario campaign being held across Ontario in nearly 20 communities. In order to gain a better understanding of the positions of the candidates in all four Niagara ridings on key issues that are relevant to the health and well-being of our communities, and, in particular, people living in poverty, we posed five questions:

  1. The Commission to Review Ontario Social Assistance is now underway. Commissioner Frances Lankin has stated that the system, which serves over 800,000 Ontarians, needs more than “tinkering”, it needs a major overhaul. What specific changes would you recommend to the Commission regarding the current social assistance system to ensure the system is improved?
  2. The Low Income Cut Off lines used by our Federal Government and Statistics Canada report that a single person is living below the poverty line when their annual income is below $13,000. A single adult receiving Ontario Works receives $598/month, which is only $7,176 per year – far below the poverty line. Over 40 Ontario MPPs have “Done the Math” and agree that the rates are too low and inadequate. Do you feel current social assistance rates are adequate and acceptable? If not, how should the rates be set? Would you support adding an immediate $100 healthy food supplement to social assistance rates? 
  3. In 2009, all Ontario parties supported Bill 152, An Act respecting a long-term strategy to reduce poverty in Ontario. The current strategy has a goal of reducing child poverty by 25% in five years. How would you build on the current strategy and what goal and policies would you and your party set for the next five years in order to ensure all people living in poverty are included?
  4. Low income adults (either working poor or receiving social assistance) do not have access to preventive dental services. Poor oral health is a detriment to overall physical and mental health, as well as a barrier to employment and social inclusion. We need to put the mouth back into the body. Will your party commit to extending preventive dental coverage to all low income Ontario adults within the next 12 months?
  5. Approximately 12.4 percent of Canadian households live in housing that requires major repairs, is overcrowded, and/or costs more than 30 percent of household income. Moreover, an estimated 300,000 people are living without homes in Canada. Locally, the Niagara Region Housing Authority has 5,381 households with 9,800 people on a waiting list for subsidized housing. Having a safe and affordable place to live can be a stepping stone out of poverty. Does your government support a fully-funded national housing strategy that respects provincial jurisdictions, as well as support to maintain existing federal subsidies for social housing units? Would you support a housing benefit for low income Ontarians? If so, what would it entail?

Responses were received from five candidates:

  • Jim Bradley, Ontario Liberal Party, St. Catharines Riding candidate
  • Donna Cridland, Green Party of Ontario, Welland Riding candidate
  • Donna-Lynne Hamilton, Ontario Libertarian Party, Welland Riding candidate
  • Irene Lowell, Ontario New Democratic Party, St. Catharines Riding candidate
  • Saleh Waziruddin, Communist Party, St. Catharines Riding candidate

Candidates varied widely in their responses and support for items such as a $100 healthy food supplement, adult dental coverage, and housing benefits. Many excellent ideas were brought forward regarding how to effectively overhaul the current Ontario social assistance system, as well as each party’s vision in setting future poverty reduction strategies. “Poverty is a significant cost to all of us whether directly or indirectly and eradicating poverty must be a priority in Ontario. We urge all voters to ask their local candidates more about this issue”, says Gracia Janes, the Chair of SARNN.

For complete responses from each candidate, please go to http://www.povertyfreeontario.ca/pdf/Niagara-Region-Provincial-Candidates-Polled-on-Poverty-and-Social-Justice-Responses-in-Chart.pdf

*****

Media Inquiries can be directed to:

Gracia Janes
Chair, Social Assistance Reform Network of Niagara (SARNN)
Phone: 905-468-2841
Email: gracia.janes@bellnet.ca

Lori Kleinsmith
Member, Social Assistance Reform Network of Niagara (SARNN)
Phone: 289-479-5017 X2445
Email: lori.kleinsmith@bridgeschc.ca

Follow PFO