Wednesday, December 02, 2009

A couple of stories from Ontario

A couple of stories from Ontario today are related to the province's efforts to reduce poverty. Ontario's government has a goal of reducing poverty by 25 percent by 2013, but an advocacy group says the efforts are falling short.

From the CBC, this Canadian Press story looks at the report issued on the progress of poverty reduction.

The 25 in 5 Poverty Reduction Network says some good steps have been taken but warns that without immediate public support, the province's poverty rate will "explode."

In a report released ahead of the province's own update, the group also says that repeating the mistakes of the 1990s recession — especially making cuts to public sector programs and services — will make it harder for people to move out of poverty.

It wants the province to review its rules around social assistance and make increases to the Ontario Child Benefit, affordable housing and the minimum wage.

So the government of Ontario is creating a new task force to get it's goal back on track. Some elements of Ontario's welfare program are in need of updates as sometimes the program makes it more difficult for the poor to escape their condition.

From The Toronto Star, writer Laurie Monsebraaten gives us some statistics on Canadian welfare.

Almost 800,000 Ontarians – including about 236,000 children and about 260,000 disabled people – live on provincial welfare and disability supports that leave most of them trapped in grinding poverty and despair.

Complex and confusing rules mean that for every dollar earned by a person on welfare or disability support, government cheques are cut by 50 cents. If they are living in subsidized housing, their rent goes up, too.

If two single people on social assistance rent an apartment together to save money, both will see the shelter component of their cheques reduced accordingly, making it almost impossible to get ahead.

Welfare rates were cut 22.6 per cent by the Mike Harris Tories in 1995 and frozen for eight years until the Liberals in 2004 began a series of small annual increases totalling 11 per cent.

In 2007, Statistics Canada considered a single person in a city the size of Toronto living on less than $17,954 after taxes to be living in straitened circumstances.

A single person on welfare receives a maximum of $7,020 a year. A single disabled person gets $12,504. In real terms, that's more than 20 per cent below what people on social assistance received during the recession of the early 1990s.

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