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An election resource from the Centre for Public Ethics at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary.

Enough for Everyone

The people of Ontario go to the polls on June 7, 2018, to choose their next provincial government. The Centre for Public Ethics has prepared these bulletins to help members of faith communities discuss issues and deliberate on their electoral choices.

Adequate Incomes for People Living in Poverty

Two million people (14.3 per cent) in Ontario are living in poverty.1 A Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) study found that for those receiving social assistance as part of Ontario Works (OW) or the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), the difference between income benefits and the poverty line (known as “the poverty gap”) has grown dramatically.

For a single person, it grew from 20% in 1993 to 59% in 2014. An additional $12,000 in income would be required just to reach the poverty line.2 One in six children (475,000) live in poverty in Ontario. There has been a slight 1.6% reduction since 2014.

There are an estimated 12,000 people who are homeless in Ontario. And the CBC reports that there are 170,000 households on waiting lists for affordable housing with a wait time on average of four years.3 The Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition (ISARC), a coalition of Ontario faith groups, testifying before Ontario’s Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs, concluded simply, “The poor in Ontario are getting poorer.”4

Ontario’s second poverty reduction strategy — Realizing our Potential: Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy (2014-2019) — focuses on three areas: reducing child poverty by 25%; financial security; and ending homelessness.5 The Government of Ontario recently released a report called Income Security – A Roadmap for Change outlining concrete steps for action to address Ontario’s current system.6

Increasing the income available to low-income individuals and families, and access to safe and affordable housing, must be a priority if Ontario is to reduce this poverty gap. More than 206 faith leaders supported Bill 148 and the “15 and Fairness” campaign that increased the minimum wage to $14 in 2018 and to $15 on Jan. 1, 2019.7 ISARC has called for an additional $1 billion to increase assistance and reduce the poverty gap for people receiving assistance from OW and ODSP. Additionally ISARC has called for $1 billion over three years to “increase affordable housing and move people out of homelessness.” This represents a modest 0.6% of the $128 billion provincial budget.8

A longer-term approach is to provide a basic income possibly through a tax-credit system. Many churches and advocacy organizations have said that it must provide an adequate income. In 2017, Ontario began a three-year pilot project in three centres to test the idea of basic income.

Questions for Your Candidate

  • Will you support the January 2019 increases in the minimum wage and the other worker protections in Bill 148?
  • Do you support increasing benefit rates for those receiving assistance from Ontario Works (OW) or the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)?
  • Do you support pursuing the concept of a basic income? How would you determine an adequate level of income?
  • Do you support the recommendations included in the Income Security Roadmap for Change report, and transformation of the social assistance system? How would your government ensure adequacy and dignity for those in need?
  • What would you do to provide all Ontario residents safe, decent and affordable housing? How would you measure whether your efforts are working? How would you share the reports on your efforts with the public?
  • Since child poverty seems to be unchanged in Ontario over the past decade, what policies would you implement to reduce child poverty? What would you set as a target, and by when would you want to accomplish your targets?

Organizations

For more information, check out some of these organizations

  • Churches and faith groups in Ontario support the following faith-based organizations. You may find them helpful.
  • Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ): Based in Ottawa, Citizens for Public Justice is a national faith-based organization of individual members who are working for justice. They have useful resources on their web site. They also organize events and campaigns.
  • Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition (ISARC): The Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition is a network of faith groups across Ontario that have been working on social justice issues – notably hunger, homelessness and poverty – for the past 30 years.

A Prayer for Ontario

For creation where many long for the good earth, clean water, and a clear sky,
For food where many are hungry,
For a home where many are homeless,
For a livelihood where many still can't find work,
For neighbours and friends where many are lonely,
For enough for all where some have too much,
We pray for wisdom to discern justice, to work for peace and to sustain God’s gift of creation.

For leaders offering to lead this province,
For Kathleen Wynne (Liberal), Vic Fedeli (Interim-PC), Andrea Horwath (NDP), Mike Schreiner (Green Party),
For all willing to stand as candidates in their ridings
Especially we remember... (Insert name of candidates in your riding),
For all the families of candidates and for those who work to support them,
We give thanks and pray they may be guided by wisdom, compassion, civility and a commitment to the good of all, especially the most vulnerable among us.

Endnotes

1 Citizens for Public Justice “Poverty Trends 2017,” Text, CPJ, Oct. 11, 2017.

2 Kaylie Tiessen and Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Ontario’s Social Assistance Poverty Gap, 2016.

3Homeless Shelter Demand Rising in Ontario as Facilities Close,” CBC News, accessed Jan. 12, 2018.

4 The Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition, “Billion or Bust - Invest Now,” Brief Presented to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs (Toronto, Ontario, January 2017).

5 Government of Ontario, “Realizing Our Potential: Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy (2014-2019),” Text, Ontario.ca, Aug. 29, 2014.

6 Income Security Reform Working Group, First Nations Income Security Reform Working Group, and Urban Indigenous Table on Income Security Reform, “Income Security – Roadmap for Change” (Toronto, ON: Government of Ontario, October 2017).

7Faith Leaders Speak out for Fairness and Decent Work” (Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition, Nov. 27, 2018).

8 The Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition, “Billion or Bust - Invest Now,” Brief Presented to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs (Toronto, Ontario, January 2017).

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