It’s time for action – opinion/letters
Jul 30, 2013.   Linda Terry, Cambridge

Five years ago, the Ontario government announced a poverty reduction strategy with promises of concrete actions to decrease poverty in this province.

At the time, we happily organized and facilitated consultations with hundreds of community members, including residents living in poverty. During those consultations, Ontarians from across the province were clear: to lift families out of poverty, both wages and social assistance rates need to be addressed.

The Ontario government has recently announced a second round of consultations to develop a new poverty reduction strategy. I would say that these consultations are premature considering that many of the commitments from the current strategy remain grossly unfulfilled. For instance, for the third year in a row the government has frozen the minimum wage, further condemning minimum wage workers to eking out a living well below the poverty line. As for income assistance, the government has introduced a meagre $14-a-month increase to Ontario Works benefits for single adults, far short of the $100 increase recommended by commissioners Frances Lankin and Munir Sheikh in their 2012 review of the program.

There are three issues that immediately need to be addressed before the government can, with any credibility, move forward with new consultations. First, social assistance rates need to be increased by at least $100 a month. Second, the minimum wage needs to be raised to the level where a full-time worker can make a living above the poverty line. Thirdly, both social assistance and the minimum wage rates need to be indexed to the cost of living so that we can take the politics out of poverty reduction.

Ontarians have had enough consultations, it’s time for action.

Linda Terry
Executive director, Social Planning Council of Cambridge and North Dumfries

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