Let's Fix Social Assistance

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!

Private Member's Bill

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.

Trip to Queen's Park

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!

Tom Cooper is the Director of the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction.


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By RobHammer (anonymous) | Posted April 12, 2016 at 19:46:23

While I think the issues is huge here are some thoughts from someone that needed the assistance briefly in his life:

1. It is meant as a temporary financial assistance, increasing it will almost certainly increase durations of people being on it.

2. Obviously there is no way it can be raised enough to compensate for the excessive cost of living we have around us.

3. My napkin math tells me that even if you increased the amount to cover off the average 2 bedroom rent cost, nothing is solved and only new problems arise. What good is paying for rent if you cannot afford the most basic amenities and food. So in that example an increase of say $400 per month does nothing except increase Hamilton's 48,000 people's costs by $19.2 million and get's landlords / renter money.

If you want to discuss how to really deal with things:

A. Hamilton needs real jobs and some varieties of them to help people. The first thing they try and do when you are on assistance is to force you to work in a position outside of your field at a call center. Are there no other jobs in Hamilton?

B. The focus of companies purchasing low end properties and investing a quick $40k into them to reach out to Toronto renter's needs to be somewhat managed better and more inexpensive housing needs to make a comeback and I am not speaking of Ontario housing. I mean incentivize companies by offering them a one time subsidy based on an agreement that they set the rent very low and keep it that way for "x" years.

While I am mildly curious about how you plan on tackling this issue I really wonder what your plan is and why its not at least hinted at here?

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted April 13, 2016 at 08:27:10

Poverty is a serious problem that blights the lives of people in Ontario. Yet this proposal is not a proposal to actually do anything to address this problem. It is a proposal to form a commission to study it. Huh?

In my opinion, this issue has been adequately studied. What is now required is to take action. Forming a commission to further study it will have the result of further delaying action. It will give the government an excuse to “do nothing” until the commission reports.

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By Kath (anonymous) | Posted April 13, 2016 at 11:32:57

Paying people not to work. We do that already and you can see the results. And now you want more of the same? Hah!

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By private4 (anonymous) | Posted April 13, 2016 at 12:31:22 in reply to Comment 117672

Come on, paying more to these people. Social assistance should be a temporary measure. There are thousands and I kid you not, thousands of people on social assistance who make a life of living like this. Many (when you factor in) the various child benefits, credits etc, actually earn quite a bit more than many working people. No increase, no way. Thanks

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By beancounter (registered) | Posted April 14, 2016 at 12:09:18

I'd love to see the statistics on the "thousands of people on social assistance who make a life of living like this."

Would you please cite the source?

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