In this week’s eBulletin:
- Quote of the Week
- 25 in 5 Releases Second Year Poverty Reduction Progress Report
- Ontario’s Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy Released
- ‘Roll It In’: Coalition Urges Government to Delay Special Diet Decision
“…..the shape of the economic recovery will not leave Canadians equally well-off. There is a clear risk that lower income Canadians will bear the brunt of the slow recovery, as well as the industry shifts involved in a higher value Canadian dollar. But we know that lower income Canadians already face much higher effective marginal tax rates than higher income Canadians, and various employment taxes are too high.
We should encourage people to work — not discourage them. We should not always assume that fiscal stimulus means more government spending. It could also mean lower taxes for lower income Canadians. If the level of fiscal stimulus required needs to be sustained for longer than now anticipated, let’s look to solving this structural issue……”
Who said it? Ed Clark, President and CEO of Toronto Dominion Bank Financial Group, in a speech to the Canadian Club in Montreal on November 25.
A coalition of poverty reduction advocates urges the Ontario government to redouble its efforts to cut poverty by 25% by 2013 or risk falling short of the goal.
In a report marking the second anniversary of the province’s poverty reduction promise, the 25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction says recession has put even more heat on the Ontario government to put its commitment on the front burner.
“The 2008-09 recession hit Ontarians hard, plunging many into poverty and making it more challenging for those already in deep poverty to climb out,” says Greg deGroot-Maggetti, co-chair of 25 in 5.
“The post-recession reality is that many Ontarians need help getting back on their feet, with additional supports, training, education and job opportunities.
The 25 in 5 report, Building a Resilient Ontario, concludes Ontario was smart to stay the course on poverty reduction during the worst of the recession, but the true test of the government’s commitment comes post-recession and into recovery.
“Some would prey on the public’s fears about slow economic growth, using them as an excuse to walk away from the promise to reduce poverty,” deGroot-Maggetti says. “But periods of slow growth are exactly when governments should redouble their efforts. The province must put poverty reduction on priority status or its 2013 goal won’t be met.”
“Poverty reduction is smart economic and social policy because it’s about building resilient communities that can bounce back from tough times,” says Mike Creek, 25 in 5 co-chair. “As Ontario nears the halfway point of its poverty reduction timeline, the mission is to stay focused on the goal. The clock is ticking.”
The report urges the provincial government to make a clear and bold investment in its poverty reduction promise in the 2011-12 budget; to review income security programs; to invest in good jobs and core social supports such as early learning, affordable housing, and programs that ensure Ontarians have access to livable incomes.
This afternoon, Monday November 29, members of the 25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction will host a community briefing in Toronto to review the report, and to begin strategizing for the 2011 provincial budget and election.
25 in 5 will report back on those discussions in the coming days.
We’re anticipating a series of announcements from government this week. In fact, the Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy was released this morning – see the piece below.
The provincial government released its long-awaited Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy this morning.
A thorough review of the strategy will be undertaken by 25 in 5 in the coming days. In the meantime, however, a brief review reveals that, on the positive side, the government has made a commitment to examine options around the introduction of a Housing Benefit for Ontario.
The Housing Benefit Working Group, which includes 25 in 5 partners Daily Bread Food Bank, the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association, the Atkinson Foundation, and Ontario Campaign 2000, said “the provincial commitment to a new Housing Benefit is a major step forward in addressing the economic pressures facing low-income Ontarians”.
In addition, there is a significant commitment to give municipalities greater flexibility in terms of how they deliver affordable housing programs.
At the same time, it does not appear that the Strategy makes any significant commitments to building much-needed new units. The Housing Network of Ontario has said that while the Strategy puts up the scaffolding, construction has to start now, and new funding for affordable housing must be included in the spring budget.
The HNO is happy that there are reforms planned to the Social Housing Reform Act, and that government is exploring the creation of a new Ontario Housing Benefit.
But the strategy fails to deliver clear targets and sustained funding for the construction of new affordable homes, nor the new 10,000 units of affordable housing that Ontario needs, the funding to repair and maintain existing social housing, or the funding to create new supportive housing units.
The HNO set out 5 tests to judge the Strategy against, but the new plan only partially meets some of the tests. You can view the HNO’s 5 Tests here.
More details will follow in the coming days.
Last March, the provincial government announced it would scrap a program that helps Ontarians on social assistance to afford special foods needed to address medical conditions. The government said it would replace the Special Diet Allowance, but with a much more restrictive program.
Seven months later, we still haven’t heard what the new program will be.
But there is still time for the government to get this right. The long anticipated Social Assistance Review, expected to be announced as early as this week, presents an opportunity for Ontario to avoid acting hastily, and to consider the bigger picture.
A coalition of groups has made a submission to the provincial government on Special Diet. The groups are recommending that deciding how best to support Ontarians’ needs for therapeutic dietary support should be made part of the Social Assistance Review.
In the meantime, the province should ‘grandparent’ all current Special Diet recipients to ensure they maintain their current level of benefits until the review is complete and a thoughtful solution has been put forward.
The coalition – 25 in 5, the ODSP Action Coalition, the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario, and the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario – made this recommendation in a submission to government on November 12. You can read that submission here.
An approach like this makes much more sense than announcing a potentially short-term, short-sighted redesignand could win widespread support.
The Special Diet program is just one component of Ontario’s social assistance system. Bringing in a brand new program on its own may well pre-empt the important and critical work that must be done in the Social Assistance Review to make Ontario’s income security supports more responsive.
The decision should not be taken before the Social Assistance Review proceeds.