Every day, CUPE members work hard to make our communities stronger, healthier and more inclusive. Many of our members know there is a fine line between making ends meet – and seeing the ends start to fray.
Dalton McGuinty has kept social assistance rates low, causing poverty to rise to unprecedented levels. Since the days of the cuts by the Mike Harris government, people receiving assistance through Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program have seen their income levels drop by almost 60 percent.
We are working together with local anti-poverty groups to organize a series of Town Halls and events across Ontario in the coming weeks.
The timing is perfect. The Ontario government is about to release a new report on social assistance that, in all likelihood, will not even address the most salient issue facing those receiving assistance – abysmally low rates.
"There will be an elephant in the room when the report is issued – an elephant called social assistance rates," says Carrie Lynn Poole-Cotnam, Chair of CUPE Ontario's Social Services Workers Coordinating Committee. "It's time to stop talking around the problem, which is why we are supporting the campaign to raise the rates!"
CUPE and others will be watching to see if the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance has anything productive to say about the adequacy of rates. But even before the Commission issues its report, the McGuinty government continues to punish the poor by cutting supports even more.
In their 2012 budget, the Liberals announced they would cut the funding for the "Community Start Up" in 2013. Community Start Up is a benefit that covers costs when people get a chance to move into better housing.
More than 16,000 people use the Community Start Up every month in Ontario. It is one of the only ways that people on Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program can cover the costs of moving, save their housing and obtain the basic items they need to maintain a home. It helps prevent homelessness and increases safety for many women and children fleeing abusive relationships, making its elimination a particularly cruel development.
"The McGuinty government has lost all claim to be in the "poverty reduction" business with this proposed cut," Poole-Cotnam says. "Only a government that has consciously chosen to forsake those in poverty would increase homelessness and endanger women and children rather than roll back its earlier tax cuts to corporations."
That "fine line" between living in security and living in poverty has got to be made thicker. Check the list of Town Halls for an event near you, and help us bring this message to the Ontario government.