In this eBulletin:
- Quote of the Day
- 25 in 5 Comments on 2011 Ontario Budget
- Take Action on the new Social Housing Legislation: HNO
- Bringing In Women’s Voices From the Margins
“Right now there are millions of Canadians who, despite working full-time, cannot lift their families out of poverty. In Ontario alone, there are 142,000 low-income families desperately waiting to get into a subsidized apartment where they can actually afford the rent; some 375,000 people are forced to turn to a food bank each month. […] the fact remains that more than 3 million Canadians are still living in poverty. That makes it astonishing that the Conservative government is so ready to dismiss any thoughtful advice on what it can and should do to help those suffering Canadians achieve more productive, happier lives.”
Who said it? An editorial in the Toronto Star about the refusal of the federal Harper Government to act on the recommendations of an all party House of Commons committee on a federal poverty reduction strategy.
Read Carol Goar’s column on this issue
The 2011 Ontario budget is disappointing for low income people. There is little new here that will help people struggling in poverty.
With an improvement in the economic outlook, the government had an opportunity to invest in affordable housing and child care to support people to move out of poverty. But this budget actually moves backwards in these areas.
The budget fails to include stabilization funding for child care. As a result, the Ontario Coalition for Better child Care warns of rising parent fees, cuts in services, and closure of child care centres.
Housing advocates expected the budget to fill a gap in Ontario’s Affordable Housing Strategy by providing funding to deliver a new supply of affordable homes. At a minimum, the Housing Network of Ontario was hoping the budget would include a renewal of provincial funding for the next three years in the existing Federal-Ontario Affordable Housing Program. But there is nothing in the budget for housing.
Social assistance advocates were looking for a meaningful increase in social assistance rates and an easing of some of the rules that trap people in poverty. A 1% one time increase to social assistance rates is scant help for people on social assistance when the items they need most – food, transportation, hydro – are rising at rates higher than inflation.
A recent report from Ontario Association of Food Banks says that over 400,000 people in Ontario are forced to rely on food banks each month. This represents a 28% increase in food bank use since the 2008 recession. Nothing in the Ontario budget will help to address this growing hunger problem, and we fear these numbers will continue to rise.
One small positive change, which will give low income people more regularity in their tax-related benefit payments, is the government’s combination of three tax credits (Ontario Sales Tax Credit, Ontario Energy and Property Tax Credit, and Northern Ontario Energy Credit) into the new Ontario Trillium Benefit. This new system will provide monthly tax credit payments, starting in July 2012, rather than the current quarterly payments.
Two elections are coming up over the next six months – both federal and provincial. The 25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction reminds all political parties that effectively turning the corner on the recession will require addressing the needs of the more than 12% of Ontarians living in poverty. We need a concerted action plan to address poverty at the federal level, and the next Ontario government must make strategic investments that address poverty and inequality.
Read this Op Ed, published in the Toronto Star before the budget, from 25 in 5 members Michael Creek (Voices From the Street) and Jennefer Laidley (ISAC).
Click these links for other reactions to the budget:
Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada, Ontario Council
Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC)
Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care
A message from the Housing Network of Ontario:
The government is changing Ontario’s social housing system:
Let’s make sure it changes for the better!
On November 29, 2010, the Ontario government introduced its long awaited Long Term Affordable Housing Strategy. The government failed to make any new investments in affordable housing, but did agree to replace the troublesome Social Housing Reform Act, which sets out the rules for social housing tenants and housing providers.
The government promised that the new Housing Services Act would make sure the affordable housing system ‘put people first’. But the new law does not do nearly enough.
If the government is serious about a housing program that focuses on positive results for low-income Ontarians, the new Housing Services Act must be changed to:
1. Prevent the privatization and sell-off of social housing:
Affordable housing strengthens the foundation of communities and is an important public asset. The Housing Services Act should make it illegal for municipalities to reduce the number of units of social housing.
2. Restrict punitive rent-geared-to-income rules:
Tenants on social assistance who live in social housing should not be worse off if they find a job. The Housing Services Act should protect tenants from rapid, unfair rent hikes if their income rises.
3. Improve fairness for tenants:
Tenants need an independent review process when disputing decisions made by housing providers, such as cancelling a rental subsidy. The people reviewing the decisions should not be the co-workers of the people who made them in the first place. The Housing Services Act should mandate the creation of an independent panel to consider these disputes.
4. Introduce inclusionary housing:
One of the fastest and fairest ways to create stable, equitably accessible, affordable housing is to ensure that it is built into any new development. The government needs to amend the Planning Act to allow municipalities to introduce inclusionary housing policies.
5. Social Housing providers need a fair appeals process:
Under existing legislation, co-ops and non-profits have not had the ability to seek an independent review of Municipal Service Manager actions or decisions that did not involve costly court proceedings. The Housing Services Act must introduce an independent, fair and transparent appeals process for housing providers.
Tell the government that this opportunity to improve Ontario’s affordable housing system cannot be wasted.
Take Action NOW:
- Copy this email and add your own reasons for the government to make these changes, then send it to the Standing Committee on Justice Policy , BEFORE MARCH 31, by emailing the clerk at: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Call or email your MPP and tell them that the new Housing Services Act must be changed to better protect tenants and promote affordable housing.
Even with these changes, the Housing Network of Ontario knows the Ontario government must meaningfully address the housing crisis by improving the long-term affordable housing strategy by introducing bold targets and timelines and funding for:
- New affordable housing units and repairs to rundown housing.
- A housing benefit and rent regulation to close the gap between low incomes and rising rents.
- Supports and services to help people access and maintain housing they can afford, and to ensure equitable, inclusive communities.
You can view the proposed legislation at:
The Income Security Advocacy Centre and Ontario Campaign 2000 have a new project underway … and we’d like your help to spread the message.
Many Ontario women are living on incomes below the poverty line. Many are raising children on their own and struggling to make ends meet. We’re exploring ways to ensure their voice is heard in the upcoming Social Assistance Review and other discussions on income security issues that affect women’s lives.
We have a survey we would like women to complete.
We will also be holding workshops with low income women in 11 communities across Ontario to learn from women about the changes they want to see, and to support them in speaking out. Women do not have to attend the workshops in order to complete the survey.
Are you a low-income woman raising children?
Does your organization work with low income women?
Do you have email & Facebook networks through which you reach low income women?If so, we ask for your help in the following ways:
- Invite women via email or Facebook to take our survey.
- Check out our Facebook page and forward it to women friends as appropriate so they can take the survey.
For more information, check out the campaign website check out the campaign website.