A broad coalition of community organizations and poverty groups have formed to address the ever-worsening poverty in Ontario.
Toronto, ON (27 September 2007) - “Raise the Rates” has been the rallying cry and the major focus of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP). With voters going to the polls in a few weeks, a September 26th demonstration at Queen's Park brought attention to the ever dwindling social assistance rates.
During the McGuinty Government term the poor have gotten poorer in spite of the Liberal's “social plan”. Devastated by the damage done during the Harris years, social assistance has dropped to rates equivalent to those in the 70s. Since 1995 there has been at least a 40% reduction in the spending power of welfare cheques.
Those receiving social assistance are faced with the reality of hunger because social assistance is simply not enough. A few years ago OCAP uncovered the provision for Special Dietary funds and seized upon an opportunity to augment peoples social assistance. Through 2005 over 8,000 people in Toronto and eventually other Ontario communities applied for the Special Dietary supplement. Clinicians with Health Providers Against Poverty authorized applications for the supplement. The numbers who were applying for these funds skyrocketed and in response the City of Toronto attempted to unlawfully block applicants, violating their own rules. Liberal changes to the rules for application have meant that fewer poor can access the Special diet supplement, but it still provides some relief for hundreds of people on social assistance. What the campaign in 2005 did was highlight the question of why a living income is not generally available.
OCAP campaigner, John Clarke feels that a demobilization of social resistance has occurred due to the myth of a “poor friendly” Liberal Ontario. The reality is “the issue has been treated as a low priority 'good cause.' It's time to change that and build a movement that can place demands before governments that can't be brushed aside” stated John Clarke in a recent article.
Ontario votes on October 10th and the minimum wage, the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), and social assistance are slowly becoming part of the debate.