Publications, opinions, and speeches
Submission to the Government of Ontario regarding a provincial poverty reduction strategy
Published on 02/04/2020
In this submission, Maytree outlines the principles that should make up the foundation of the province’s five-year poverty reduction strategy and illustrates how these principles translate into action.
This strategy will be implemented amid and in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. This crisis will have ripple effects across the province for years to come. At this stage, a recession, a fall in employment, and a fall in working incomes all seem inevitable. The recovery period will be measured in years, not months. It is crucial that Ontario’s poverty reduction strategy strengthens or builds systems to protect people from the worst impacts and facilitates an economic recovery that benefits all.
In support of this goal, our submission recommends ways that the province can spur the recovery in the near term and strengthen tools to build an Ontario where everyone has an opportunity to thrive in the long term.
Summary of recommendations:
An enduring approach to reducing poverty in Ontario
- Ground the strategy in the principles of dignity, opportunity, and equity.
- Engage people with lived experience throughout the process.
- Ensure accountability by setting specific poverty reduction targets alongside a transparent and independent monitoring process.
Supporting the most vulnerable
- Introduce a triage process for Ontario Works (OW), allowing people to access financial support before completing the full assessment process.
- Make recipients who have received OW within the previous three years eligible for re-assessment.
- Protect the retirement savings of people in financial need by exempting all Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) savings from the asset test.
- Set out a plan to increase social assistance rates to, at minimum, meet poverty thresholds.
- Start by focusing on single adults receiving OW, as they face the greatest shortfall.
- Legislate for annual rate increases that are, at minimum, in line with inflation.
- Consult with applicants, health care professionals, adjudicators, and staff that administer the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) and related services to find ways that the initial ODSP application process can be improved.
- Gather evidence about outcomes of employment assistance activities, which will inform the creation of Participation Agreements.
- Conduct a value-for-money audit on the review requirements for ODSP and OW recipients and remove policing measures that cost more to administer than they save.
- Set a target of ending homelessness in Ontario.
Supporting people so that they can thrive
- Work with the federal government to change the way the Canada Workers Benefit is calculated to better support individuals transitioning from social assistance to work.
- Make half of the Low-income Individuals and Families Tax (LIFT) Credit a refundable tax credit to ensure that people with low earnings feel the benefit of taking on more work.
- Devise a path to ensure that everyone in Ontario has access to basic dental and vision care and prescription medication, in a simple and dignified manner.
- Retain rent controls on all units delivered through National Housing Strategy funds to ensure that public investments are used to create permanently affordable housing.
- Adopt a definition of affordable housing based on what local households can afford to pay and encourage municipalities to do the same.
- Allow municipalities to set their own inclusionary zoning guidelines based on local market capacity and conditions, and supported by robust feasibility studies.
- Monitor the implementation of the Ontario-Canada Housing Benefit from the outset to maximize its potential to reduce poverty.