Thursday, March 16, 2006

Ontario Alternative Budget and Poverty

Here is an article from The Toronto Star about research by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives for this year's alternative Ontario budget. It quotes extensively from Hugh Mackenzie, a CCPA researcher and Steel Worker.

Some excerpts:

"The fact that Ontario's most disadvantaged citizens are worse off now than they were when the McGuinty government was elected is a disgrace," writes economist Hugh Mackenzie in a seven-page "technical paper" entitled Destination Unknown: The McGuinty Government Into the Home Stretch.

"The most telling gap between rhetoric and reality, however, is in the government's policies to deal with poverty and homelessness," the economist writes.

"In opposition, the Liberals were quick to attack the Harris and Eves governments for their decisions to cancel Ontario's affordable housing programs and to download responsibility for an aging public housing portfolio on to local governments without adequate compensation, and for those governments' savage treatment of people forced to rely on social assistance," he says.

"Yet, now that they are in power, the Liberals have done nothing in housing beyond finally allowing federal housing dollars to be spent in this province. The social assistance situation is even worse. Shockingly ... social assistance rates are lower today — in real terms — than they were when the McGuinty government took office."

Mackenzie is urging Duncan to pour more money into such things as social benefits, affordable housing and child care.

Because the money is there — the province has collected between $1 billion and $2.5 billion more in corporate taxes than forecast — there is no excuse for leaving the poor behind, he says.

"As the government scrambles to hide the budgetary gains it made in 2005-6, it can no longer credibly claim that it cannot afford to make a start on the changes Ontario needs."

It is gratifying that despite the NDP being largely AWOL on poverty issues in Ontario these days that this social democratic think-tank sees how critical it is to so many Ontarians to increase social assistance rates. It is disappointing that it does not (as far as I could tell in a quick scan) recommend a particular level of increase. But other groups and other research have shown that an increase of 40% would be necessary to return social assistance rates to what they were in 1995, so that would be a good start.


rabfish said...

40%? wow.

Scott said...

Yep, about that -- I've seen estimates of 35% or 40% in a variety of sources. There was the Harris government's cut of 21.6% in 1995 or 1996, and inflation makes up the rest. This may be an underestimate as well, since housing costs, which are by far the largest expense for people living in poverty who are not fortunate enough to live in social housing, have gone up more than the general inflation indexes would account for. And as some older activists reminded people who came to an event here in Sudbury a few months back, there were lots of people hard at work pointing out that the rates were inadequate even back in '95 before the cuts.

Anonymous said...

Actually, if welfare was doubled, it still would be hard to make ends meet.

The shelter allowance portions are what are especially meagre. Many have to use up some or all of the basic needs portion to pay the rent.