Hot! Ontario dead last in terms of inequality, poverty and funding for public services

TheStar.com – news/canada/politics
August 29, 2012.   Laurie Monsebraaten, Social Justice Reporter

Ontario is dead last in Canada when it comes to growing poverty, increasing income inequality and financial support for public services, says a coalition of labour and community groups formed last spring to oppose the province’s austerity budget.

The report by the Ontario Common Front released at Queen’s Park Wednesday, aims to inform Ontarians about the social and economic issues at stake as the province begins drafting next spring’s budget, the group says.

It is a sobering backdrop to the ongoing dispute between the Liberals and the province’s teachers who are facing a legislated two-year wage freeze, they add.

“It is time for Ontarians — including our policy makers — to face the disturbing facts about inequality in our province,” says the report entitled, “Falling Behind: Ontario’s backslide into widening inequality, growing poverty and cuts to social programs.”

“The most recent budget announcements from the Ontario government — that Ontario is facing five years of ‘austerity’ budgets — will only widen the chasm if left unchecked,” it says.

The report, a compilation of more than a dozen recent studies and analyses, notes that Ontario had the largest change in income inequality in the country between 1981 and 2010, and the second largest increase in poverty after British Columbia. Ontario’s poverty rate in 2009 was 13.1 per cent, or almost 1.7 million people, the report notes.

In 2009, Ontario spent $64 per person on affordable housing compared to the provincial average of $115 per person, the report says quoting a Wellesley Institute study.

Ontario’s hospitals get the least public funding and have the fewest hospital beds per person, while the proportion of out-of-pocket health care costs are the highest in the country.

And according to Ontario’s finance ministry and 2012 budget, the province spends less than any other province on public programs and services.

Provincial budget advisor Don Drummond said this is a sign of fiscal prudence and good management. But the report argues Ontarians are paying for this through reduced services and the highest user fees in the country.

Last spring’s cuts to social assistance, school closures, cancelled hospital projects, delayed child benefits, eroded social housing budgets and public sector restructuring that will result in “thousands” of lost jobs, will only make matters worse, the group says.

“Another half-decade of cuts to services we all need and a government-created recession in the public sector are not the only answers — indeed they are not the answer at all,” the report says.

Instead, the province should fight its $15-billion deficit by restoring corporate tax cuts, introducing a new financial transaction tax and raising taxes on the wealthy.

Reports this week that Canadian businesses are sitting on more than $500 billion in cash, are proof that corporate tax cuts haven’t worked to spur job creation, innovation and economic growth, the group notes.

“These policy choices have helped turn surpluses into deficits at both the provincial and federal levels,” the report says. “Now, having deliberately emptied its cupboards, the Ontario government’s commitment to reduce child poverty by 25 per cent by 2013 is being swept aside.”

But Children and Youth Services Minister Eric Hoskins, who is also responsible for the Liberals’ poverty reduction efforts, said Ontario is “a leader” in supporting public services for families, workers and the vulnerable.

“For example, the single biggest increase in the latest budget was in children’s and social services — an increase of 2.7 per cent or $1.2 billion — followed by health and education,” he said in a statement.

Ontario has introduced full-day kindergarten, hired 9,000 new nurses and is building 23 new hospitals, he said. It has raised social assistance eight times since 2003 and has the highest minimum wage in Canada. And the Ontario Child Benefit — which is going up to $1,210 next year and $1,210 the year after — is helping more than one million children

“Altogether, it means a single mom working full-time at minimum wage has seen her income go up more than 60 per cent, or $12,500, compared to 2003,” he said.

“There is always more work to do,” he acknowledged. “But our commitment to public services and reducing poverty for Ontario families remains strong.”

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8 Comments

  1. It is sad to hear that Ontario is dead last when it comes to inequality, poverty, and funding for public services. However, it is not surprising as it has been constantly report that hospitals were underfunded and under resourced. It is discussed in the article that raising the taxes of the wealthy is the way to go. Now what is to be considered wealthy? There are families that will make a large total income, however when factoring in their benefit plans, may actually have to pay in order to obtain certain health benefits. Would it be fair for everyone if we were to raise taxes for the wealthy? According to human rights we are all to have the right to be treated equally and to raises taxes for one demographic would not portray this.
    Public services are very important, how can we help people if we do not have the funding to do so. The point of public services is to make life easier for those who need it, things such as daycare, and legal aids. We need public services because they allow for people in low income families to go out and look for jobs. Also, to my understanding because of the new full time kindergarten more teachers and support staff had to be hired, which would take more out of the budget. Since Ontario is supposed to be a leader when it comes to supporting public services, policy makers should be looking at the effect of budget cuts in different sectors.

  2. I agree with Kelsey’s response to the article. It is very sad to see that even though Ontario has the second largest increase in poverty after British Columbia, there are still not an immense amount if programs and solutions. The 2012 budget states that Ontario spends less than any other province on public programs and services. You would that since Ontario is dead last in terms of inequality, poverty and funding for public services, that they would want to help make the province better and more helpful to the more underprivileged people. Public services are very important to everyone, especially families near the poverty line that may not be able to go searching for an employment because they are looking after their young children and what not. Introducing full-day kindergarten for junior and senior kindergartens was a very smart move by the government. It enables parent to be able to get a full-time employment without having to worry about getting a babysitter for the days the child may not be in school. The government if slowing working on ways to help public programs and to end poverty but as Eric Hoskins stated, there is always more work that can be done and should be done.

  3. I partially agree with this article. I agree that public services are imperative for society, and there are many citizens who rely on them. However, I believe that some take advantage of these services that are provided. Those who have the ability to work but don’t but put forth an effort should not be provided with equal access to social services as the other individuals or families. Of course, there are other circumstances that can be considered regarding the unemployed. For example, a single mother who is working and still unable to make ends meet should be offered support. I strongly believe that a significant amount of funding should be used toward advancements in the health care system. This system should be considered a top priority because many individuals need healthcare at some point in their life. I disagree with the notion of increasing annual taxes for wealthier individuals. I understand that budgeting for these services, and funding is commonly difficult to obtain, but raising taxes for certain individuals is not the way to accomplish this. In conclusion, public programs and social services are very important for society and should be provided with appropriate funding distributed evenly throughout the province.

  4. I agree with most of the arguments in this article. The article mentions that Ontario’s hospital receive the least public funding of any other province, hospitals should be receiving as much funding as they possibly can, since matters within a in hospital are sometimes deal with a person’s life. Hospitals are very important and should not have they funding cut or denied. and have “the proportion of out-of-pocket health care costs are the highest in the country”. We often hear people especially here in Sudbury complaining about hospital waits, if more funding was provided to hospitals more people would be able to receive the care that they need from any medical service provider as well they could reduce the amount of waiting time spent by patients waiting to see the doctors by hiring more doctors and nurses.

    The fact that Ontario’s finance ministry and 2012 budget spent the least of every other province on public programs and services is also something I disagree with. If they would have put more of their budget towards public programs and services that could have possibly helped out the province, by bringing the community together more and maybe even by allowing more tourism to the province, which also leads to more money spent within the province.

  5. In my opinion, one of the responsibilities of our government is to make sure that the basic necessities in life are available to all people. As it was stated in the article, “the government is committed to reduce child poverty by 25% by 2013”. How is this goal going to be reached when the government is cutting cost to social programs that are vital to decrease poverty?

    As parents we would not allocate a high amount of our money to pay off our debt and neglect to meet the basic needs of our children. For many people who are living in poverty, the government is their caregiver. These people need the government to support them in order to better their lives.

    What is the cost to the government to focus on paying the debt instead of investing in the people of the province who require social programs in order to improve their lives or in some cases in order to survive? When there are cuts to social programs, it affects everyone. Service providers are laid off, people in need of the services no longer have them to be their live line, taxpayers have to pay more money, fees are increased and the list goes on. Poverty doesn’t only affect the poor, it affects everyone. I believe an investment in a person’s life today is a wise investment to make not only for people living in poverty but also the province as a whole.

  6. This article provides many valid arguments that I mostly agree with. First, reports have stated that hospitals are currently receiving the lowest amount of public funding. I feel that hospitals should be receiving an equal amount of funding as this low amount of funding could result in the loss of someone’s life. With a limited number of beds available, only a certain amount of people can be treated and, in my opinion, this is not right. Some may be more critical than others, and may not get treated for hours. Also, budget cuts have resulted in cancelled hospital projects. These projects, among other cancelled benefits, can be the one difference someone needs in their life.
    Second, this article discusses the $15-billion deficit that Ontario should be fighting. To fight this, it is suggested that taxes be raised for the wealthy, but who is considered wealthy? This would not be a fair way to fight this deficit, as if taxes are raised for some, then taxes should be raised for all. The issue that comes with this is that some may not be able to afford higher taxes. This would then lead to more poverty, and because of the deficit, there would still be a lack of public funding o help those in need. This is a continuous cycle of deficits and funding cuts. Ontario may be in last for poverty, but if budget cuts continue in this manner, it wont be long until poverty is seen throughout Ontario.

  7. Response to “Ontario dead last in terms of inequality, poverty, and funding for public services”

    It is horrible to hear that Ontario is dead last in terms of inequality, poverty, and funding for public services. I like that this article was published to inform citizens of what is going on with our provincial budget. Our citizens must be knowledgeable about the social and economic issues that we are faced with, in order to make a difference.
    I find it disturbing to hear that between 1981 and 2010, Ontario has had the largest change in income inequality within Canada, and the second largest increase of poverty rates, after British Columbia. Almost 1.7 million people were living in poverty in one of the wealthiest countries in the world! Something must be done. Also, there is no reason for Ontario to only spend $64 per person on affordable housing, compared to the average on $115. Our public programs and social services cannot afford any more budget cuts. These cuts are resulting in a loss of jobs, which perpetuates the cycle of inequality and poverty. Taxes need to be taken from businesses and those who have the disposable income, rather than citizens who are struggling to support themselves and their families.
    Ontario is provided with the least public funding and has the fewest hospital beds per person, while paying higher healthcare costs out of our own pockets. This is especially significant in Northern Ontario. In Northern Ontario, we have a huge lack of healthcare providers. This means to see a doctor we must deal with lengthy wait times, or expensive trips out of the district. This impacts citizens getting the proper healthcare that we deserve. While 9000 new nurses have been hired in Ontario, this is only the first step. Citizens living in Northern Ontario need proper healthcare within a reasonable waiting period. This lack of funding is having a detrimental effect on our health, as well as our economy. Something must be done.

  8. Tiernay Colquhoun

    This specific article really caught my eye, seeing as Ontario is where we are from. Seeing the title “Ontario dead last in terms of inequality, poverty, and funding for public services” really made me stop and want to read more into this as I had no idea that was that case. I also agree with most of the other readers, that it is very sad to see that we are dead last when it comes to inequality, poverty and funding for public services, as these are huge, major issues in our society that I feel we have been struggling with for years. It is a very concerning issue.

    I to also found it very disturbing, and frustrating also, that after British Columbia, Ontario has had the largest change in income inequality within Canada, between 1981 and 2010 and the second largest increase of poverty rates.
    It is unbelievable to find out that, having living in one of the wealthiest country, that we have some many people living in poverty. That definitely made my jaw drop. I was not at all aware of this information, and I feel it is very important that more people should be educated on these specific issues so that more people could take action, and that way there will be more room for change.

    I agree with Melissa’s point that public programs most definitely cannot afford anymore budget cuts. It really puts more harm on citizens, resulting in the very issue at hand, inequality and poverty. Also taxes is another major issue perpetuating inequality and poverty and something needs to be done about it because the taxes that we are paying today is ridiculous, especially for those who are just struggling to care for themselves alone. I do see why taxes should be raised more for the wealthy, but then we still do have an issue of inequality there, wouldn’t we? So in my opinion I feel as if this wouldn’t fix anything by having just certain individuals pay higher taxes because they can afford it. More measures need to be taken in order to stop poverty and inequality from growing, or increasing even more than it already is. I am happy to see that these issues that need to be changed and improved still remain strong.

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