KITCHENER, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Oct. 25, 2012) - Minister of Community and Social Services John Milloy 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, just as a report on social assistance reform released this week fails to recommend substantially raising the province's woefully inadequate rates.
"The next Ontario Liberal leader must undo the toxic legacy of Dalton McGuinty and raise social assistance rates," said Liisa Schofield of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP). "To afford the necessities of life today, people on social assistance would need an increase of 55 percent 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 Ian Stumpf of Poverty Makes Us Sick, referring to recent Liberal proposals to cut the Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB).
"Cutting the CSUMB will cause serious harm to people and communities in Waterloo Region, where quality and affordable housing is in short supply," Stumpf said. "Regional social services have warned of a huge budget shortfall for the coming year which will mean deep cuts in services and supports to those already struggling to survive on the miserable OW and ODSP rates. And now the Liberals want to cut supports to people on the verge of homelessness."
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. The Liberal government's 2012 budget brought a number of regressive cuts to social assistance, including to the CSUMB, slated for elimination in 2013.
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 has to be a real priority for the next leader of the Liberal party."
The threatened cancellation of the CSUMB comes at a vulnerable time in Kitchener-Waterloo, with rapid gentrification pushing many low-income tenants towards homelessness right in Milloy's backyard - and pushing them to resist, Stumpf said.