SUDBURY, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Oct. 10, 2012) - The McGuinty government's proposed elimination of the Community Start Up benefit would make poverty worse in Ontario just as an all-party commission on social assistance is set to release its report, anti-poverty activists and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario said today at a Sudbury Town Hall meeting.
"As the person responsible for providing last-resort financial assistance and for helping my people become employable, I was appalled when the provincial government choose to reduce the deficit on the backs of the poor rather than by increasing taxes on the wealthy and on corporations that are sitting on billions of dollars," said Elizabeth Richer, Director of the North Shore Tribal Council Niigaaniin Services. "It is more than a little ironic that this is being done by a government that came to power vowing to eradicate poverty."
Over 16,000 people use the Community Start Up every month in Ontario. It is one of the only ways that people on assistance can cover the costs of moving, save their housing and obtain the basic items they need to maintain a home. It helps prevent homelessness and increases safety for many women and children, making its elimination a particularly cruel development, said John Clarke of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP).
"The elimination of the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit seems calculated to hurt people when they are at their most vulnerable," Clarke said. "This cruel cut will increase the scale of homelessness in Ontario and removes the last shred of credibility from Liberal claims of poverty reduction."
The proposed cut to the Community Start-Up comes on the heels of previous cuts to the Special Diet Allowance and on top of years of grossly inadequate social assistance rates, making the McGuinty Liberals responsible for growing levels of poverty in Ontario, said Liisa Schofield of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP).
"Communities across Ontario are on high alert as the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario prepares to release its report next week," said Carrie Lynn Poole-Cotnam, Chair of CUPE Ontario Social Services Workers Coordinating Committee. "Everyone will be watching to see if the report addresses the elephant in the room - woefully inadequate social assistance rates that keep Ontarians scrambling to survive."
The Liberal government's 2012 budget brought a number of regressive cuts to social assistance, including the Community Start Up, slated for elimination in 2013. The Town Hall is part of a provincial movement to stop the cut.