Come to Queen's Park this Thursday to support a new private member's bill to create a social assistance rates research commission.
By Tom Cooper
Published April 12, 2016
Everybody deserves dignity, opportunity and a future. Unfortunately, for more than 900,000 people in Ontario - and 48,000 people in Hamilton - who rely on Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Program benefits, that future is growing darker.
Ontario's desperately low social assistance rates leave families hungry, under-housed and sick. Despite calls for the Ontario Government to raise social assistance rates, for nearly two decades recipients have actually fallen further behind. Food bank use has skyrocketed and more and more families on social assistance are being evicted because they cannot afford their rents.
The maximum shelter allowance allowed for one parent with a child on Ontario Works was $602/month last year, while the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Hamilton was calculated at $959/month.
No matter how many times you crunch the numbers, families are falling hundreds of dollars short - and that's having a profound impact on our community's well-being.
We think it's time the Government of Ontario took action!
A local MPP thinks so too. This week, Hamilton East-Stoney Creek MPP Paul Miller is presenting a private member's bill in the Ontario Legislature that calls for the creation of a social assistance rates research commission.
This proposal is not a new idea, but it is a good one. In 2007 Craig Foye, a lawyer with Hamilton Community Legal Clinic drafted legislation to propose the establishment of a social assistance rates board to recommend benefits be based on the actual cost of food, rent and other essentials in communities.
Ted McMeekin, then a backbench MPP representing Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale, presented the proposal as a private members bill in the Ontario Legislature. That bill died on the order paper just prior to that year's provincial election. Despite nearly a decade of asking the provincial government to implement those changes as government policy, no action has been taken.
Social assistance rates have not been reformed in a generation, ever since they were drastically cut by the Mike Harris government of the mid-1990s.
Ontario now has an opportunity to take a different road. By supporting MPP Paul Miller's new bill, our government could provide social assistance recipients with the dignity and opportunities they need to move out of the cycle of deep poverty.
If you are interested in supporting this initiative, on Thursday, April 14, the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction will be chartering a bus to take community members to Queen's Park for the presentation of this important piece of legislation!
We'll meet in the parking lot behind 100 Main Street East (Landmark Place) and leave at 11am!
Seats are limited, so please register here.
I hope you can join us Thursday! Together, we will make a difference!
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