SUDBURY, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Nov. 22, 2012) - Anti-poverty groups and trade unions are warning the Ontario Liberal government to reverse its decision to cut the "Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit" (CSUMB) or face a rising groundswell of opposition and protest, the Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty (S-CAP), Mamaweswen, the North Shore Tribal Council and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario said at a Sudbury protest today.
"Today we marched in solidarity with First Nations people and with other people living in poverty to protest the cut to the Community Start Up benefit which would force more people into homelessness," said Gary Kinsman of the Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty (S-CAP). "We remind the Liberal government, and MPP Rick Bartolucci following the recent protest at his office, that more and more people are standing together to actively oppose this attack on people living in poverty."
The CSUMB helps about 16,000 people 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.
"People are not talking about poverty," said Chairman Chief Lyle Sayers for Mamaweswen, the North Shore Tribal Council. "No one wants to think about the fact that the person living next door to them might be sitting in the dark and going without food."
Activists noted that actions are happening in Sudbury and Toronto this week and that the Liberal government should expect more in the coming days. Today's action in Sudbury is followed by an action tomorrow in Toronto, where groups campaigning against violence against women will demonstrate their concern that cutting the CSUMB will prevent women from leaving situations of domestic abuse and put families at risk.
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-Cotnam 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."
Anti-poverty groups will continue to support escalating actions against the proposed cut, said John Clarke of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP).
"The Liberal government is facing a rising groundswell of opposition and protest against its decision to cut the CSUMB," said Clarke. "Communities across the province have seen teach-ins, rallies and marches to raise awareness and pressure MPPs. But still the Liberals haven't gotten the message. Occupations and other actions are now in the offing until the Liberals do the right thing and cancel their plan to cut this vital benefit."