TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Oct. 24, 2012) - The Liberal government must deal with the elephant in the room and raise social assistance rates to ease the burden of poverty in Ontario, anti-poverty groups and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario said today, responding to a commission report on social assistance reform that failed to recommend raising the rates.
"The next Ontario Liberal leader must undo the toxic legacy of Dalton McGuinty and raise social assistance rates," said John Clarke of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP). "To afford the necessities of life today, people on social assistance would need an increase of 55% just to be at 1995 income levels. The government must raise the rates, immediately, for people living on Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program."
Making poverty worse and still cutting benefits as he leaves office is a sad legacy for Dalton McGuinty to leave behind, said Melissa Addison-Webster of Put Food in the Budget, referring to recent Liberal proposals to cut the Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB).
"People on the verge of homelessness often have nothing other than the Community Start Up Benefit to turn to, so why would the Liberals want to cut it and increase homelessness?" asked Addison-Webster. "We call on the Liberal government to maintain this benefit."
The CSUMB helps about 16,000 every month in Ontario. It is one of the only ways that people on Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program can cover the costs of moving or obtain the basic items they need to maintain a home. It is a defence against homelessness and gives many women the resources they need to be able to leave situations of domestic violence.
Protecting this benefit and raising social assistance rates should be a high priority for the next Ontario Liberal leader, said Carrie Lynn Poole-Cotnam, Chair of CUPE Ontario's Social Services Workers Coordinating Committee.
"There is a great opportunity for leadership candidates to take a position that enough is enough," Poole said. "The next Liberal leader has to walk the talk of poverty reduction, not make poverty worse. Social justice in Ontario needs to be a priority for whoever leads the next government."
There's a growing consensus amongst anti-poverty groups, social service workers and labour unions from the public and private sectors that the Liberals have made poverty worse in Ontario. Most recently, the Liberal government's 2012 budget brought a number of regressive cuts to social assistance, including to the Community Start Up, slated for elimination in 2013.