OTTAWA, Ont. – Ottawa is in danger of leaving behind its poor and vulnerable residents if transit fare increases and cuts to homeless shelter services are passed in the next municipal budget, warn child care workers represented by Local 2204 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).
Workers from all areas of Ottawa’s social services will attend Ottawa council’s budget meeting in the city hall’s council chamber on Wednesday, March 11, at 10 a.m. They will be there to demand that councillors protect services for vulnerable people in Ottawa.
The coming city budget contains several measures that will hurt people who are poor, on low income or who are homeless:
- transit fare increases of 2 per cent;
- less support for municipal child care services;
- cuts to homeless shelters.
“The city’s decision to cut funding to all existing homeless support programs is literally leaving people out in the cold,” said Lauren Hamshuk of CUPE Local 2204.
“By not providing even transition funding for the agencies, the city is excluding its vulnerable residents from important city services.”
Members will be calling on the city to freeze transit fares and expand the Community Pass to those on low incomes. It also wants council to provide transitional funding for agencies losing funding so that vital programs are not lost.
“The rising cost of transit fares makes it increasingly difficult for people on low income to access services, jobs and afford basic needs. We can’t have a system that is fair to everyone if 55 cents of every dollar spent on bus operations is paid at the fare box,” said Hamshuk.
Cuts to support for residents who are homeless are also a concern, because the city’s current Housing Partnership Strategy requires 65% of funds to be spent on ‘housing first’ initiatives. This has led to significant funding loss by agencies serving the most vulnerable.
The coalition is calling for transition funding for shelters that must cut programs and lay off staff to deal with reduced budgets. Transition funding will help the affected agencies adjust their work to ensure that people are able to access the services they need in the community.
“It is not only Ottawa’s councillors who should be acting on these matters. We want all Ottawa residents who are concerned about a fair, livable city to tell their elected representatives, it’s time to create a city for all,” concluded Hamshuk.
Over the past five years, council has spent $36 million less on Ottawa social services, largely by applying “administrative efficiencies” to social services budgets.
For more information contact:
Shellie Bird, Union Education Officer, CUPE Local 2204: 613-233-0228
Mary Unan, CUPE Communications: 647-390-9839