Ontario urged to honour promises on poverty

TheStar.com – Canada – Ontario urged to honour promises on poverty: Incur budget deficit if necessary, coalition says
October 18, 2008. Rob Ferguson, Queen’s Park Bureau

The Ontario government should go into the red if necessary to make good on its promise to reduce poverty, says the Ontario Coalition for Social Justice.

With less than a week until next Wednesday’s fall economic statement, the lobby group said yesterday that hard economic times make it increasingly important to provide more help for the province’s 1.3 million poor.

Premier Dalton McGuinty has promised a poverty-reduction plan will be introduced by the end of the year but has already warned it may have to be watered down or delayed because of financial pressures.

But only substantial infusions of cash – such as a 30 per cent increase in welfare rates to make up for the 1995 cuts by former Progressive Conservative premier Mike Harris – will put a serious dent in poverty, the coalition told a news conference.

“We’ve heard many times that they don’t plan to spend any extra money on reducing poverty, that it’s a matter of re-allocating and changing policies as opposed to investing more,” said spokesperson Josephine Grey.

“It’s our belief that we have to go beyond that. If it requires a temporary deficit in order to bridge a recession, then our government should be willing to do that. Their first duty is, in fact, to the well-being of the citizens of Ontario,” she added. “There’s a lot this government could be doing and we are expecting not very much, frankly.”

In the last week, prominent economists have said it would not be surprising in the global financial crisis if governments temporarily return to running a deficit to help keep the economy going.

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