Category Archives: Toronto

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.

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