Media Release – Economic Road Bumps No Excuse To Slow Down On Poverty Reduction

TORONTO, 16 September 2008 – A coalition of over 100 organizations across Ontario are urging Premier Dalton McGuinty to follow through on his promise to actively and comprehensively address poverty in this province.

“The threat of an economic downturn makes leadership on poverty reduction more important than ever,” said 25 in 5 spokesperson Jacquie Maund, of Ontario Campaign 2000. “And it’s a signal that we can’t afford to delay implementation of a plan.”

Responding to Premier McGuinty’s comments today in which he suggested economic conditions may delay the implementation of a provincial Poverty Reduction Strategy, the 25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction said investing in poverty reduction now is smart economic policy, and decisive action is especially necessary in an ailing economy.

“We know public investments can provide a critical booster shot to stimulate economic activity in hard times,” said Maund. “That’s why we’re calling for a significant down-payment on poverty reduction in the 2009 budget, with larger investments phased-in over the five year life of the plan.”

25 in 5 says Ontario families are looking for political leadership on poverty, as a report released by Poverty Watch Ontario last week clearly demonstrated.

“As the Premier himself has said, we need all hands on deck. If we are going to ride out this slowdown and remain competitive we need everyone at their best – we must support Ontario families through job losses, reductions in hours of work, and other financial stresses,” said Janet Gasparini, Chair of the Social Planning Network of Ontario. “We can pay now or we can pay later with increased health care, criminal justice, and social services costs.”

The 25 in 5 Network advocates a bold, multi-year plan focused on three areas of action: ensuring sustaining employment, so that people who work don’t live in poverty; reforming social assistance, so that people who can’t work get the support they need; and providing for strong community supports, to give opportunity and inclusion to all.

“The time to act is now, and we expect the Premier to introduce the government’s plan, including clear targets and timelines to deliver measurable results, by December of this year,” said Gasparini. “That’s political leadership, and we hope Premier McGuinty lives up to his promise.”

For more information see www.25in5.ca.

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Media Contact: Jacquie Maund at 416-595-9230 x 241
Janet Gasparini at 705-675-3894 or cell 705-929-0288

PDF Version of Media Release

2 thoughts on “Media Release – Economic Road Bumps No Excuse To Slow Down On Poverty Reduction

  1. Regarding Premier McGinty recently suggesting that the public’s expectations for a comprehensive plan for poverty reduction may have to be tempered as a result of the bleak economic outlook for the province.

    In my opinion the provincial government’s resent poverty reduction consultations, headed by M.P.P. Deb Matthews was all smoke and mirrors, a sham.

    The Liberals have known for some time that there may be a downturn in the economy and have been looking for ways of saving money for some time now.

    The Mike Harris Conservative government did this, years ago when it gutted funding for welfare, education and medical care, and then paid a heavy price for doing so.

    Now, on the welfare front the Liberals are continuing the process, only this time they are doing it without the vast majority of the public’s knowledge.

    How will they do this? I’ll explain. First they had to accomplish two things.

    a) get a lot of good media attention showing what a wonderful job they are doing on poverty reduction.
    They announced a huge new initiative, an across Ontario poverty reduction consultation. They mistakenly let the cat out of the bag right from the beginning, no new money and no one that lives in poverty is invited. That was a bad move (showing there hand) that caused a reasonable amount of bad publicity. People quickly forgot this error and things moved along.

    b) prepare the service providers for an onslaught of people needing help.
    The Liberals had to make the service providers think that they were the ones that were going to lead the charge of helping to eliminate poverty. This way they couldn’t complain that the Liberals weren’t doing enough when things got worse.

    Well things are definitely getting worse for people living on Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). Not because of the alleged economic downturn Premier McGinty is talking about.

    It’s the cuts the Liberals have already made to the benefits of welfare and disabled recipients. These cuts are already being implemented through the Ontario Works offices.
    Behind closed doors and behind every ones back, the Liberals have completely redone the Ontario Works Policy Directives. These are documents that explain what the benefits are and how to apply for them.

    My research, that was done here in Hamilton, shows that the local legal clinics and paralegal community are not aware of these changes and are in fact giving out wrong legal advice to their clients. Why haven’t the legal clinics community stepped up to the plate on this issue?

    Even our local library was not aware of these changes. You would have to be a pretty good researcher to even find a hint of these changes on the Internet.

    Now the vast majority of people living in poverty will have no idea what the benefits that they are entitled to and how to apply for them.

    The provincial Liberals have already started to skim millions of dollars off of Ontario’s poor and disabled without anyone knowing that it is happening.

    The implementation of these policy changes is certainly a clear example of the provincial government acting in bad faith. Especially when you take into consideration the fact that Welfare Legal has requested in writing twice for the government to supply us with a copy of these changes and has been told no.

    Welfare Legal’s evidence is clear.
    We have;
    a) 2 separate documents on Ontario Works letterhead that talks about these secret policy changes.
    b) 2 separate e-mails from our local legal clinics that show they are not aware of these policy changes.
    c) A letter from the province saying the will not give us a copy of this new policies that they are in fact using as we speak.

    Why isn’t someone somewhere doing something about this abuse of proses by the province and the local municipalities that administrate the Ontario Works Program? Many heads should roll over this issue and I cannot believe I am the only one talking about it publicly. It is a complete failure of system that was designed to help not hurt people that live in poverty.

    Welfare Legal is offering $100.00 to the first person that e-mails us a copy of the new Ontario Works Directive #7.4. This offer is only good for seven days after this letter goes public. The sender will have to prove the document is authentic.

    Ron Payne
    Welfare Legal

    Hamilton, Ontario

    E-mail welfarelegal2004@hotmail.com

    Phone 905-253-0205

  2. The Provincial Liberal Poverty Reduction Strategy was all a sham right from the beginning. How much money was taken from taxpayers and people living in poverty to pay for this sham?

    Ron Payne
    Welfare Legal
    Hamilton, Ontario
    E-mail welfarelegal2004@hotmail.com

    http://www.fin.gov.on.ca/english/budget/ontariobudgets/2008/chpt2.html

    Risks to Expense Outlook
    There are a number of revenue and expense risks that could challenge the Province’s ability to achieve its fiscal targets over the medium term. Key cost drivers within the Province’s expense outlook are demand-driven programs and services that arise from changes in the economic outlook, utilization or enrolment rates. These pressures are especially evident in the health, education and social services sectors, which comprise over two-thirds of total Provincial expense, and include assumptions about expected utilization, enrolment rates and caseloads. For example, a one per cent increase in both Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program caseloads would cost the Province an additional $46 million a year. For reasons such as this, it is important that the government maintain a focused and disciplined approach to investing in key priority areas, while managing the Province’s spending in a diligent and prudent way. Prudence in the form of contingency funds and a reserve is built into the fiscal plan to protect against such risks.
    The following table provides a summary of key expense risks and sensitivities that could result from unexpected changes in economic conditions and program demands. A change in these factors could impact total expense, causing changes in the overall fiscal forecast. It should be cautioned that these sensitivities and risks are only guidelines and can vary, depending on the nature and composition of potential risks.

    Ontario Works 192,000 average annual caseload.
    One per cent caseload change: $16 million.

    Ontario Disability
    Support Program
    244,000 average annual caseload.
    One per cent caseload change: $30 million.

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