KITCHENER, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Dec. 7, 2012) - A province-wide Week of Action to stop Liberal government cuts to social assistance benefits kicked off in Kitchener today, with anti-poverty activists holding an "Outdoor Open House" outside the constituency office of Hon. John Milloy, Minister of Community and Social Services.
The decision to cut the Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB) rests with Milloy, said Ian Stumpf of Poverty Makes Us Sick, which is why his office has seen so much protest activity recently.
"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 social assistance rates. And now the Liberals want to cut supports to people on the verge of homelessness."
The CSUMB is one of the only ways that people on Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program can cover the costs of moving, save their housing and obtain the basic items they need to maintain a home. It is a defence against homelessness and a means by which many women are able to leave situations of domestic violence. The Liberal government's 2012 budget brought a number of regressive cuts to social assistance, including the CSUMB, slated for elimination in 2013.
"Community organizations across Ontario are escalating their protests in a growing movement against the proposed cut," said Liisa Schofield of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP).
"It's a little ironic that Milloy cancelled his "Holiday Open House" while also planning to cut benefits that keep people housed," said Schofield. "This government is responsible for taking food off people's tables, and now the roof from over their heads. People will be left homeless and women trying to leave abusive situations will be put further at risk. The cut to CSUMB must be stopped. Today's action is part of a growing provincial movement to challenge the Liberals on this vicious cut and demand a raise in social assistance rates."
"Milloy must end his government's attacks on Ontarians' democratic rights," said Carrie Lynn Poole-Cotnam, the Chair of CUPE Ontario's Social Services Workers Coordinating Committee.
"Community organizations and unions across Ontario understand that our democratic rights are undermined when poverty and homelessness increase, just as they are when the government attacks free collective bargaining," said Poole-Cotnam. "It is time that the Liberal government, and especially John Milloy as Minister of Community and Social Services, stop its attack on people living in poverty, and drop the plan to cut the CSUMB."
Today's Outdoor Open House, a free public event complete with fiddle music and food, was hosted by Kitchener's Poverty Makes Us Sick, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario. The protest welcomed several busloads of people from Toronto who will be directly affected by Milloy's plan to cut benefits.