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TORONTO, ON – This week people around the world will recognize the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Here in Ontario, it should be a day to celebrate our great strides toward ending poverty in our province. Instead, CUPE Ontario and partners in the Raise the Rates campaign will take to the streets to sound the alarm on another year of government inaction.

“Social assistance and disability support rates are criminally low. They lock our most vulnerable citizens into poverty,” says CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn. “The Liberals under Kathleen Wynne say they want to build Ontario up. We aren’t building anything when we cut important support like the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit [CSUMB]. Any increase in social assistance rates has to be welcomed, but the meagre increase the Liberals provided this year does almost nothing to address the fact that rates today are worth 55 percent less than they were before the Harris government’s cuts.”

According to the provincial government, more than 1.57 million Ontarians live in poverty. For most of the past decade, social assistance rates have been flatlined and programs such as the Community Start-Up and the Special Diet have been cut or eliminated.

The Raise the Rates campaign is holding a week of action around the province this week, including a rally and march to the office of MPP Glen Murray.

The week of action leads up to the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on Friday.

“This week the Liberal government will be forced to face people living in poverty in this Province – poverty that is created and made worse by their policies,” says Liisa Schofield, a spokesperson for the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. “During the election, Kathleen Wynne effectively evoked the fear of life under former premier Mike Harris. But the Liberals have been in office for more than a decade and have failed to reverse Harris’ cuts to welfare. We are tired of talk and empty rhetoric. This government needs to raise the rates of social assistance now and restore vital benefits for food and housing that they have brutally cut.” 

The Raise the Rates campaign is calling on the Wynne government to restore social assistance rates to pre-Harris levels, to reverse cuts to CSUMB and the Special Diet, and to raise the minimum wage to $14/hour.

WHO: CUPE Ontario, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty and partners in Raise the Rates campaign

WHAT: Anti-poverty rally and march

WHERE: Meet on George Street, south of Gerrard Street in Toronto, then march to Glen Murray’s office

WHEN: Thursday, October 16, beginning at 12:00 noon.

CUPE is Ontario’s community union, with members providing the quality public services we all rely on, in every part of the province, every day. CUPE Ontario members are proud to work in social services, health care, municipalities, school boards, universities and airlines.


For more information and to arrange interviews, please contact:

Craig Saunders, CUPE Communications, 416-576-7316