"It is not the inexorable march of global economics alone, but rather choices – choices in public budgets, and in economic and social policy – that have failed to rein in the increasing income inequality distributed by the private market and aided in propelling us down this path."
Toronto (30 Aug. 2012) - Ontario is last when it comes to increasing inequality, poverty and financial investment in public services, says a coalition of community and labour groups formed during the 2011 provincial budget process.
The coalition, Ontario Common Front, released its report, “Falling Behind: Ontario’s backslide into widening inequality, growing poverty and cuts to social programs" showing that Ontario has sunk to last place in Canada when measured against every important social indicator.
“Within two years, Ontario has fallen from seventh place to dead last in funding for all social programs. Ontario residents are paying the shortfall in hundreds of ways: we have the highest tuition fees and school fees, the highest proportion of out-of-pocket health care costs, a burgeoning array of user fees, and thousands of families wait years for support for children with disabilities,” said Natalie Mehra, director of the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) and the principal author of the report. “Ontario is at the cusp of a five-year plan for cuts to jobs and services that will cleave an even deeper divide. But there are alternatives and five years of further cuts is not the solution."
The comprehensive report pulled together national research demonstrating that Ontario is at the bottom of the pack when it comes to equality and social programs and that a growing number of Ontarians are falling behind in the economy. The report found that:
- 40% of Ontarians – fully 600,000 families – are struggling with incomes that are stagnant or declining;
- Ontario funds all of its social programs – including health care to education – at the lowest rate in Canada;
- While poverty rates fell in five provinces, Ontario had the second highest increase in poverty rates and intensity, leaving 393,000 children in poverty (one in seven);
- Ontarians pay the highest school fees, out-of-pocket health care fees and tuition fees in the country; while
- Ontario has led the country on cuts to corporate and income taxes.
The report makes clear "that it is not the inexorable march of global economics alone, but rather choices – choices in public budgets, and in economic and social policy – that have failed to rein in the increasing income inequality distributed by the private market and aided in propelling us down this path."
It also details who pays the biggest price when economic inequality is allowed to grow. Middle and lower income families are falling behind, despite putting more hours into the workforce. This has disproportionately impacted women, racialized communities, aboriginals, seniors and children
“Having one in seven children living in poverty is bad enough, but learning that one in two children from certain racialized groups is living in poverty is absolutely appalling,” said Avvy Go from the Colour of Poverty. “It is new immigrants and racialized communities that are the hardest hit by job loss and service cuts. They are struggling at the margins and they are overlooked in the province’s plan for economic recovery.”
The Ontario Common Front brings together more than 90 community groups and labour unions across Ontario that are working to expose growing inequality and propose workable solutions to fix it.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE