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Hunger & Homelessness in Ontario: Raise the Rates!

RaisetheRates-Oct2018In the years that the Liberals have been in government in Ontario, the spending power of Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) has been allowed to fall. While the Tories cut social assistance rates, the Liberals have provided increases below the rate of inflation, driving people deeper in poverty.

Today, it is becoming clear that the effect of declining income for people on social assistance is not just producing a gradual increase in poverty related issues, like homelessness and hunger, but is leading to a sudden growth in these social problems that is rapidly assuming the proportions of an enormously serious crisis. Combined with other measures of austerity and a housing crisis that is driving up rents, inadequate income is taking a terrible toll.

The Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB) says that 500,000 people turned to food banks in 2016 and that it is normal for 70% of income to be spent on rent. Across Ontario, homelessness is out of control, even in smaller centres. In Toronto, the City authorities are reluctantly scrambling to provide shelter space for the rapidly expanding homeless population.  Those who are on the front lines of the crisis agree that the scale of it is unprecedented.  The City of Toronto’s own official figures give some sense of the situation.  The Daily Shelter Census shows 5,791 people crowded into the shelters on February 8, with another 777 in the sub standard ‘winter respite’ back up facilities. In January of 2017, an average of 4,366 people stayed each night in a Toronto shelter. During the same month of this year, it had risen to 5,663. The crisis has worsened horribly and shows every sign of becoming even more severe.

For someone forced to live on social assistance income, with a single person on OW receiving little more than $700 a month, the ability to eat adequately and remain housed is severely compromised. There is every indication that the crisis this is creating is already spinning out of control and can only get worse.

The Ontario Government, in its upcoming Provincial Budget must:

  •  Prevent the loss of further social housing by ensuring funding to maintain existing stock that is deteriorating rapidly
  •  Remove the cap on the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI) to ensure municipalities can meet shelter and housing support needs.
  •  Raise social assistance rates to the modest levels being provided on the present basic income pilot project, which is providing income at about 75% of the Low Income Measure, up to $16,989 for a single person with an additional $6,000 for disabled people.

After more than two decades of austerity based attack on the incomes of poor people on social assistance, it is time Raise the Rates.

The Raise the Rates Coalition has the following demands:

  1. Raise Social Assistance Rates Now to at least the Basic Income pilot rates indexed to the real cost of living experienced by poor people with existing supports intact.
  2. Stop Cuts to Benefits and Supports and reinstate the Community Start Up and Maintenance Beneft.
  3. Provide Accessible Supports with Dignity. Eliminate the punitive surveillance from the administration of social assistance so that workers can better provide necessary and comprehensive services.
  4. Ensure Access to All Immigrants. Everyone in Ontario who needs social assistance should get it, regardless of immigration status.
  5. Amend the Employment Standards Act to ensure the minimum wage in Ontario is raised to $15 an hour by January 1, 2019 to include students and liquor servers.

March to Raise Social Assistance Rates

raisetherates_stickerThe Time Is Now:
Raise Social Assistance Rates!
Rally & March
Tuesday, Oct 17 | 12 Noon

Toronto City Hall

Facebook Event | Lunch Provided | Accessibility Van On-site.

On October 17, the International Day for the Elimination of Poverty, the Raise the Rates Coalition is calling everyone out on the streets for a march to demand an immediate raise to social assistance rates and an end to the punitive system of surveillance and degradation that shrouds the provision of income support.

After 14 years of Liberal rule, poor people in Ontario are worse off now than they were in the mid-nineties. Nearly a million unemployed and under-employed people are forced to eke out an existence on sub-poverty social assistance rates that forces on us the impossible choice between food, shelter, and caring for our families.

The record is telling. After refusing to reverse the Mike Harris cuts of the mid-1990s, the Liberals announced a “Poverty Reduction Strategy,” in 2008 which, after 5 years, failed miserably at meeting its targets. In 2014, they followed it up with another 5 year strategy to meet the same targets, but this time with no timelines attached. Meanwhile they initiated a ceaseless merry-go-round of social assistance reform commissions, reports, studies, consultations and, this year, a 3-year Basic Income Pilot, with even more studies, and consultations to follow. It’s clear that the only strategy being employed is one of deferring action, while dangling the promise of poverty reduction.

In addition to allowing inflation to eat into the meagre income of people on social assistance, the Liberals have cut millions of dollars in benefits. The elimination of the Community Start-up and Maintenance Benefit in 2013 alone resulted in a claw-back of at-least $275 million ($55m * 4) over the last 4 years. Left in the wake of that crucial benefit, used by thousands to meet emergency housing and health-related needs, is a mess of municipal funds – such as the Housing Stabilization Fund in Toronto – that have drastically reduced access to emergency funds and fueled homelessness.

History demonstrates that gains can only be won by poor people with political agitation and a threat to undo the status quo. Waiting for the Liberals to “reduce,” let alone end, poverty is more futile than rearranging the deck chair on the Titanic. We are willing to wait no longer and on October 17, we will build a fight that will win an immediate raise to social assistance. Join us!

Join the Raise the Rates Provincial Week of Action to Confront Poverty in Ontario: Raise Welfare and Disability Rates Now!

Wynne Government Talks About Justice But Delivers Poverty

Raise the Rates Provincial Week of Action: October 13 – 20th

 List of Events Below

Raise the Rates banner

MPPs will be going back to Queen’s Park on October 20 but, during the week before, they will be in their local communities and in their constituency offices. Doubtless Liberal MPP’s will be feeling quite smug after their election win and telling people about how committed to ‘fairness’ and ‘social justice’ they are.

Communities living in poverty know from bitter experience that the reality they face is very different:

  • The minimum wage has been set at a level that leaves people in poverty
  • People on Ontario Works (OW) and ODSP are living on incomes that leave them unable to feed themselves and pay the rent
  • The real value of social assistance payments has fallen by 55% since 1994 and people have continued to get poorer during the years the Liberals have been in office
  • The vital Community Start Up benefit that kept people housed has been taken away
  • The Special Diet benefit that put food on the table for thousands has been slashed
  • People on ODSP are now facing medical reviews that threaten to take away their income

The Raise the Rates Campaign, a coalition of poor people fighting back along with community and union allies, is not buying into Kathleen Wynne’s ‘social justice austerity’. We are demanding living wages, decent income, the reversing of cutbacks and adequate and secure ODSP benefits.

From October 13-20th, we’ll be going to MPP’s and provincial offices and Liberal events with our demands and holding events throughout Ontario. The Wynne Government is going to have to understand that people in poverty are fighting back.

**Announcing Raise the Rates Week of Action Events!** 

 Toronto:

 Join community members in Weston-King

Tuesday, October 14th, 5:30pm

Weston-King Neighborhood Centre: 2017 Weston Rd (at King St)

Meal and Discussion on Raise the Rates

 

Join Educators for Peace and Justice

Wednesday, October 15th, 5:00pm

Ministry of Education, Bay and Wellsley

Poverty is an Education Issue: installation / street theatre and flyering

 

Join the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty

Thursday, October 16th 12:00PM

George St. South of Gerrard

Meal then March to Glen Murrays office

ocap@tao.ca /www.ocap.ca / 416-925-6939

 

Join Jane Finch Action Against Poverty

Friday, October 17th 4-7PM

Southeast corner of Jane and Finch

Dancing, food, Rally

https://www.facebook.com/events/1508544179384461/

janefinchactionagainstpoverty@gmail.com

 

Ottawa:

Join Poverty Makes Us Sick Ottawa

Friday, October 17th 12:00 PM

Cdn Museum of Nature park (O’Connor and Argyle)

Meal and Rally and March

raisetheratesottawa@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/events/599647510147620/

Sudbury:

Join Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty

Thursday, October 16th  1:30PM

Memorial Park

March to provincial building Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty:https://www.facebook.com/groups/257339454351403/

Kitchener-Waterloo: 

Join Poverty Makes Us Sick KW

Thursday, October 16th 5:00 PM

Food and MARCH

Kitchener City Hall

200 King Street West, Kitchener

https://www.facebook.com/events/535255453285044/

Guelph:

Join OPIRG Guelph and the Raise the Rates Campaign

Thursday, October 16th, 7pm

Panel and Discussion: Poverty in Guelph, Raise the Rates of Welfare and Disability Now!

Then join the Raise the Rates Gue;ph Rally
Friday, October 17th, 1pm
Liz Sandals’ office, 173 Woolwich Street
Contact: volunteer@opirgguelph.org
______10 Carden St, Downtown

Cobourg:

Join the Northumberland Coalition Against Poverty

Tuesday, October 14th, 7:00PM

Delegation to City Council on Homelessness

https://www.facebook.com/groups/northumberland.cap/

For more updates visit raisetherates.ca or like Raise the Rates on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RaiseTheRates

If you want to be part of an action in your community during October or want to help build one, email raisetheratescampaign@gmail.com, call OCAP at 416 925 6939

Liberal Party’s Party Disrupted in Toronto

This evening, Thursday, May 22nd, a group of OCAP members found their way into an exclusive Liberal Party event with Kathleen Wynne and Justin Trudeau in attendance. We dropped a banner and had the following to say with a speech and flyers distributed through the air

Lib party banner:

ATTENTION: No Cause for Celebration
Ontario Liberal Party: Making Life Harder for Poor People

As you celebrate the Liberal Party tonight, let us remind you of why poor people are suffering in this Province…

  • After elected in 2003, on the heels of the devastating Conservative reign, the Liberals failed to reverse the Harris cuts including the 21.6% slash to welfare rates in 1995
  • Since that time, social assistance rates have continued to drop. Token increases of 1% a year do not even match inflation. Today, welfare rates are 55% below where they should be with that initial Harris cut and 19 years of skyrocketing costs to housing, food, and basic necessities of life
  • The Ontario Liberals have also slashed vital benefits such as the Special Diet – literally a benefit for food , and the Community Start-Up – a benefit to combat homelessness, and for women to re-locate from situations of domestic violence. These cuts are putting poor people’s health and lives at risk.
  • Not one party in this election is even talking about poverty – in fact, all three parties are looking to cut social spending which would see our incomes continue to decline.

Poor people in this Province refuse to be treated like dirt. We have been organizing and fighting back. We will disrupt your fancy parties, your election campaigns, and your public events – we will not be silent or invisible.

We demand:
Raise the Rates of social assistance 55% now!

Lib party blurry Justin

Justin Trudeau up front and centre

Lib party outside banner

Making it clear outside the event

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