Toronto City Summit Alliance

St. Christopher House

May 15, 2006 10:00 ET

Task Force Addresses Urgent Need to Reform Income Security Policies with Unveiling of Report

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - May 15, 2006) - Today in Toronto an unprecedented coalition of business, labour, academic, non-profit, and think tank leaders released their report "Time for a Fair Deal" calling for fundamental reform of Canada's income security programs for working-age adults.

Declaring the current system in need of a thorough overhaul, The Task Force on Modernizing Income Security for Working-Age Adults (MISWAA) identified three key issues plaguing low-income Canadians:

- Many working people cannot earn enough to make ends meet even when working full-time for a full year - at least 30% of low-wage workers fall into this group

- Employment Insurance (EI) no longer covers the majority of the temporarily unemployed - in Ontario only 27% receive EI benefits, and only 22% receive EI benefits in Toronto

- Existing social assistance programs are punitive, make it difficult to escape poverty, and create a "welfare trap" for many

The Task Force calls these issues a "smoldering crisis" for Toronto, Ontario, as well as all of Canada. It is both a social and economic imperative to fix the system given the country's aging population and the need to ensure that all working-age adults who can work are able to do so.

"We cannot achieve a just society nor a fully productive economy if we do not do a better job of supporting the needs of low-income adults and families as they struggle to lift themselves out of poverty," said business leader David Pecaut, Co-Chair of the Task Force.

The Task Force also recognized that there is a special urgency to fix the system in our cities, like Toronto, where the costs of living for low-income adults and families are highest. The report notes that, if the economy were to slip into recession, cities would feel the brunt of the current system's failings as rapidly increasing unemployment and homelessness place skyrocketing demands on municipal and provincial social services.

"Income security programs for working-age adults have not fundamentally changed in forty years," said Task Force Co-Chair Susan Pigott. "This remarkable coalition of business and non- profit leaders has developed a roadmap to achieve meaningful reforms that will improve the lives of our low-income citizens - not only in our cities but throughout the country."

The Task Force's recommendations are aimed at the federal government, the provincial government, municipal governments, and other parts of civil society that all must be part of the solution.

Key recommendations to the federal government include:

- Reforming Employment Insurance to address the significant decline in coverage

- Introducing through the tax system a new national refundable tax credit and working income supplement to support low-income Canadians

- Providing a national disability income support program for persons whose disabilities are so substantial they cannot enter the paid labour force

Key recommendations to the Ontario Government include:

- Establishing an independent body, with representation from employers and labour, to recommend periodic increases to the minimum wage

- Implementing a seamless and integrated child benefit platform for low-income parents with children that pays child benefits to all low-income parents, including those receiving social assistance

- Reducing the impediments to leaving social assistance by providing prescription drug and dental benefits to low-income workers

- Strengthening the enforcement of employment standards to protect the rights of workers under the law

- Restoring the asset limits for those receiving social assistance to levels that allow savings for contingencies and help support the transition to work

- Improving training and employment supports for social assistance recipients and low-income workers

- Introducing reforms to the Ontario Disability Support Program, including returning benefit levels to those received by senior citizens who have no other source of income

- Uploading social assistance benefit costs from municipalities to the province

The Task Force on Modernizing Income Security for Working Age Adults was formed in the fall of 2004 by the Toronto City Summit Alliance, a broad-based coalition of civic leaders in the Toronto region, and by St. Christopher House, a multi-service neighbourhood centre that works with low-income people in Toronto. The Task Force is made up of representatives from major employers, labour unions, policy institutes, academia, community organizations, advocacy groups, foundations, ex-officio government representatives, and individuals with first-hand experience of income security programs.

The full MISSWA report is available on the web at Please see the attached for full listing of the MISWAA Task Force and Working Group.

MISWAA Task Force and Working Group

While the views expressed in the report of the MISWAA Task Force are not necessarily identical with those of each member or organization listed, all signatories have a common determination to address the challenges the report describes.

Task Force

Task Force Co-chairs

David Pecaut
Chair, Toronto City Summit Alliance; Senior Partner,
The Boston Consulting Group

Susan Pigott
Chief Executive Officer, St. Christopher House

Task Force Members

Ken Battle
President, The Caledon Institute

Jill Black
MISWAA Working Group Co-chair and Project Director;
Consultant, J.E. Black & Company Ltd.

Peter Bleyer
President, Canadian Council on Social Development

Paul Born
President, Tamarack Institute

Bob Brown
Ex-Chair, PricewaterhouseCoopers

Joanne Campbell
Vice President, Community Relations, Centre for Addiction
& Mental Health

John Cartwright
President, Toronto & York Region Labour Council

Jacquie Chic
Director of Advocacy & Legal Services,
Income Security Advocacy Centre

Martin Connell
Chair, Toronto Community Foundation

Sue Cox
Past Executive Director, Daily Bread Food Bank

David Crombie
President & CEO, Canadian Urban Institute

Mary Louise Dickson
Partner, Dickson, MacGregor, Appell LLP

Debbie Douglas
Executive Director, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants

Don Drummond
Senior Vice President & Chief Economist, TD Bank Financial Group

Rev. Susan Eagle
City Councilor, City of London

Ken Georgetti
President, Canadian Labour Congress

Nathan Gilbert
Executive Director, Laidlaw Foundation

Amy Go
Executive Director, Yee Hong Centre

Anne Golden
President & CEO, The Conference Board of Canada

Malcolm Hamilton
Partner, Mercer Human Resource Consulting

Chaviva Hosek
President & CEO, The Canadian Institute for Advanced Research

Ahmed Hussen
Past President, The Regent Park Community Council

Warren Jestin
Senior Vice President & Chief Economist, Scotiabank

David Kerr
Chairman, Falconbridge Limited

Karen Kuwahara
President, Nestle Purina Canada

Deena Ladd
Coordinator, Workers' Action Centre

Frances Lankin
President & CEO, United Way of Greater Toronto

Ernie Lightman
Professor, University of Toronto School of Social Work,
Social Assistance in the New Economy (SANE) Project

Hugh Mackenzie

Judith Maxwell
Past President, Canadian Policy Research Networks Inc.

Bill MacKinnon
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, KPMG

Michael Mendelson
Senior Scholar, The Caledon Institute

Peter Nares
Executive Director, Social and Enterprise Development Innovations

Marvyn Novick
Professor of Social Policy, Ryerson University

Gail Nyberg
Executive Director, Daily Bread Food Bank

Ratna Omidvar
Executive Director, The Maytree Foundation

Francois Paroyan
Senior Director, Labour Relations, George Weston Limited

Charles Pascal
Executive Director, Atkinson Charitable Foundation

Bob Rae
Partner, Goodmans LLP

Bill Robson
Senior Vice President & Research Director, C.D. Howe Institute

Anne Sado
President, George Brown College - The Toronto City College

Yves Savoie
Executive Director, Family Service Association of Toronto

Katherine Scott
Vice President Research, Canadian Council on Social Development

Ed Segalowitz
Vice President, United Jewish Appeal Federation

Peter Sloly
Superintendent, Toronto Police Service

John Stapleton
MISWAA Working Group Co-chair and Research Director;
St. Christopher House Fellow, Community Undertaking Social Policy

Janice Gross Stein
Belzberg Professor of Conflict Management;
Director, Munk Centre for International Relations,
University of Toronto

George Thomson
Executive Director, National Judicial Institute

Sherrie Tingley
Social Policy Activist

Ex Officio Task Force Members

Shirley Hoy
City Manager, City of Toronto

Judi Longfield
Past MP Whitby-Oshawa and Parliamentary Secretary to
the Minister of Labour and Housing

Dr. Deb Matthews
MPP London North Centre and Parliamentary Assistant to
the Minister of Community and Social Services

Hugh Segal
Senator; President, Institute for Research on Public Policy

Working Group, Community Reference Group and Support Team

Working Group Co-chairs

Jill Black
MISWAA Project Director; Consultant, J.E. Black & Company Ltd.

John Stapleton
MISWAA Research Director and St. Christopher House Fellow

Working Group Members

Pedro Antunes
Director, Economic Forecasting, The Conference Board of Canada

Keith Banting
Professor, Queen's School of Policy Studies

Pedro Barata
Outreach & Communications, The Atkinson Charitable Foundation

Harry Beatty
Counsel, BakerLaw

Juana Berinstein
Past Policy Coordinator, Workers' Action Centre

Sarah Blackstock
Research & Policy Analyst, Income Security Advocacy Centre

Dan Buchanan
Sigma-3 Policy Research Inc.

Janet Dassinger
Executive Director, Labour Education Centre

Carol Deacon
Past Research & Policy Analyst, Income Security Advocacy Centre

Greg deGroot-Maggetti
Socio-economic Policy Analyst, Citizens for Public Justice

Rick Eagan
Community Development Coordinator, St. Christopher House

Maureen Fair
Director, Community Response and Advocacy, St. Christopher House

Aaron Good
Case Team Leader, Bain & Company

Shelly Gordon
CUPE Research

John Greenwood
Chief Executive Officer, Social Research & Demonstration Corporation

Dean Herd
University of Toronto School of Social Work, SANE Project

Andrew Jackson
National Director, Social and Economic Policy,
Canadian Labour Congress

Thomas Klassen
Associate Professor and Coordinator of the Public Policy and
Administration Program, Department of Political Science,
York University

Ernie Lightman
Professor, University of Toronto School of Social Work, SANE Project

Pamela Loprest
Senior Research Associate, The Urban Institute

Susan MacDonnell
Director of Research, United Way of Greater Toronto

Gillian Manning
Vice President Relationship Management, TD Asset Management Inc.

Melodie Mayson
Co-executive Director, Neighbourhood Legal Services

Michael Mendelson
Senior Scholar, The Caledon Institute

Andy Mitchell
University of Toronto School of Social Work, SANE Project

Liz Mulholland
Principal, Mulholland Consulting

Alain Noel
Professor, University of Montreal

Michael Oliphant
Manager, Daily Bread Food Bank, Dept. of Public Education,
Policy & Research

Finn Poschmann
Associate Director of Research & Senior Policy Analyst,
C.D. Howe Institute

Ron Saunders
Director, Work Network, Canadian Policy Research Networks Inc.

Barney Savage
Senior Policy Advisor, United Way of Greater Toronto

Katherine Scott
Vice President Research, Canadian Council on Social Development

Gilles Seguin

Richard Shillington
Principal, Tristat Resources

Anne Tweddle
MISWAA Research Analyst

Nancy Vander Plaats
Community Legal Worker, Scarborough Community Legal Services

Mary Webb
Senior Economist, Scotiabank

Diane Wintermute
Executive Director, East Toronto Community Legal Services

Armine Yalnizyan
Research Director, Community Social Planning Council of Toronto

Tom Zizys
Consultant, Downtown East Community Development Collective

Ex Officio Working Group Members

Lydia Fitchko
Director of Social Policy, Analysis and Research, Social Development,
Finance and Administration Division, City of Toronto

Alex Johnston
Special Assistant - Justice Policy, Office of the Premier

Alan Meisner
Planning Analyst - Social Policy, Analysis and Research,
Social Development, Finance and Administration Division,
City of Toronto


Joe T. Manion
Director, Social Services - Strategic Program Development
Community & Neighbourhood Services, City of Toronto

Stuart Sykes
Policy Research Officer, Policy Research Initiative

Core Members of the Community Reference Group

Lorraine Anderson
David Bishop
Fionna Blair
Randy Burton
Mike Crawford
Phillip Dufresne
Shelia Hellier
Mamoh Kakulatombo
Dwaine McDonald
Philip Olynyk
Patricia Rodriquez
Sukanya Shankar
Shuyang Wang

MISWAA Project Support Team

Anjana Dooling
Past Project Officer, Toronto City Summit Alliance

Ayasha Mayr Handel
University of Toronto MSW Student Practicum, St. Christopher House

Meg Routley
Past Project Manager, Toronto City Summit Alliance

Miia Suokonautio
University of Toronto MSW Student Practicum, St. Christopher House

Contact Information

  • Toronto City Summit Alliance
    Julia Deans
    (416) 955-4204
    Counsel Public Relations
    Dorenda McNeil
    (416) 961-5898 x 216