The Spectator’s View: Province must back social assistance bill

Opinion Apr 14, 2016 by Howard Elliott Hamilton Spectator

The Ontario government has a chance to address two long-standing inequities when it votes on a private member's bill presented by Hamilton NDP MPP Paul Miller.

The bill calls for the creation of an independent commission — the Social Assistance Research Commission — to research and recommend social assistance rates based on evidence rather on the political whim and will. It's not a new idea. Something similar was previously brought forward by then-MPP Ted McMeekin. Hamilton Legal Clinic lawyer Craig Foye was instrumental in the original bill — which eventually died on the order paper — and has been fighting the same battle since the effort began in 2007.

What are the two long-standing issues? One, social assistance rates remain unsustainably low. In the mid-nineties, the government of the day cut rates by 21 per cent overnight. They have never recovered. If you take into account cost-of-living increases, they are lower today than they were when the current government was elected.

We're not talking about living in luxury here. Under Ontario Works, a family of four gets about $1,400 a month. They can get as much as $700 for shelter allowance (which doesn't come close to covering the cost of the average decent apartment in Hamilton). Other supports can kick in as much as $460 or so. That adds up to about $2,500 monthly. It costs a minimum of $850 monthly to provide healthy meals to that family of four. Now we're down to $1,650, and we still need to deduct rent, probably at least $1,000, utilities, transportation, hygiene an other expenses an affluent family of four takes for granted. That affluent family thinks nothing of money for minor sports, some travel, the odd meal out. The family of four on assistance can only dream of those things.

No one is proposing that people living on OW and the Ontario Disability Support Program should be living in luxury. But they shouldn't be stuck in poverty just because rates are unrealistically and chronically low. Seventy-five per cent of social assistance recipients in Hamilton use food banks. If they had a sustainable income, they'd be spending the money in grocery stores and in pharmacies. Social assistance recipients aren't taking vacations — all their income goes right back into the local economy.

The second big opportunity here is to depoliticize the process with an independent commission, similar to the one that makes recommendations on MPP compensation. Why not? Surely the best decisions are ones based on real world evidence rather than the vagaries of politics, which is the case now.

The government should support today's second reading and get this bill into committee for more work and consultation. It just makes sense.

Howard Elliott

helliott@thespec.com

905-526-3348

The Spectator’s View: Province must back social assistance bill

Queen’s Park needs to support evidence-based decision making

Opinion Apr 14, 2016 by Howard Elliott Hamilton Spectator

The Ontario government has a chance to address two long-standing inequities when it votes on a private member's bill presented by Hamilton NDP MPP Paul Miller.

The bill calls for the creation of an independent commission — the Social Assistance Research Commission — to research and recommend social assistance rates based on evidence rather on the political whim and will. It's not a new idea. Something similar was previously brought forward by then-MPP Ted McMeekin. Hamilton Legal Clinic lawyer Craig Foye was instrumental in the original bill — which eventually died on the order paper — and has been fighting the same battle since the effort began in 2007.

What are the two long-standing issues? One, social assistance rates remain unsustainably low. In the mid-nineties, the government of the day cut rates by 21 per cent overnight. They have never recovered. If you take into account cost-of-living increases, they are lower today than they were when the current government was elected.

We're not talking about living in luxury here. Under Ontario Works, a family of four gets about $1,400 a month. They can get as much as $700 for shelter allowance (which doesn't come close to covering the cost of the average decent apartment in Hamilton). Other supports can kick in as much as $460 or so. That adds up to about $2,500 monthly. It costs a minimum of $850 monthly to provide healthy meals to that family of four. Now we're down to $1,650, and we still need to deduct rent, probably at least $1,000, utilities, transportation, hygiene an other expenses an affluent family of four takes for granted. That affluent family thinks nothing of money for minor sports, some travel, the odd meal out. The family of four on assistance can only dream of those things.

No one is proposing that people living on OW and the Ontario Disability Support Program should be living in luxury. But they shouldn't be stuck in poverty just because rates are unrealistically and chronically low. Seventy-five per cent of social assistance recipients in Hamilton use food banks. If they had a sustainable income, they'd be spending the money in grocery stores and in pharmacies. Social assistance recipients aren't taking vacations — all their income goes right back into the local economy.

The second big opportunity here is to depoliticize the process with an independent commission, similar to the one that makes recommendations on MPP compensation. Why not? Surely the best decisions are ones based on real world evidence rather than the vagaries of politics, which is the case now.

The government should support today's second reading and get this bill into committee for more work and consultation. It just makes sense.

Howard Elliott

helliott@thespec.com

905-526-3348

The Spectator’s View: Province must back social assistance bill

Queen’s Park needs to support evidence-based decision making

Opinion Apr 14, 2016 by Howard Elliott Hamilton Spectator

The Ontario government has a chance to address two long-standing inequities when it votes on a private member's bill presented by Hamilton NDP MPP Paul Miller.

The bill calls for the creation of an independent commission — the Social Assistance Research Commission — to research and recommend social assistance rates based on evidence rather on the political whim and will. It's not a new idea. Something similar was previously brought forward by then-MPP Ted McMeekin. Hamilton Legal Clinic lawyer Craig Foye was instrumental in the original bill — which eventually died on the order paper — and has been fighting the same battle since the effort began in 2007.

What are the two long-standing issues? One, social assistance rates remain unsustainably low. In the mid-nineties, the government of the day cut rates by 21 per cent overnight. They have never recovered. If you take into account cost-of-living increases, they are lower today than they were when the current government was elected.

We're not talking about living in luxury here. Under Ontario Works, a family of four gets about $1,400 a month. They can get as much as $700 for shelter allowance (which doesn't come close to covering the cost of the average decent apartment in Hamilton). Other supports can kick in as much as $460 or so. That adds up to about $2,500 monthly. It costs a minimum of $850 monthly to provide healthy meals to that family of four. Now we're down to $1,650, and we still need to deduct rent, probably at least $1,000, utilities, transportation, hygiene an other expenses an affluent family of four takes for granted. That affluent family thinks nothing of money for minor sports, some travel, the odd meal out. The family of four on assistance can only dream of those things.

No one is proposing that people living on OW and the Ontario Disability Support Program should be living in luxury. But they shouldn't be stuck in poverty just because rates are unrealistically and chronically low. Seventy-five per cent of social assistance recipients in Hamilton use food banks. If they had a sustainable income, they'd be spending the money in grocery stores and in pharmacies. Social assistance recipients aren't taking vacations — all their income goes right back into the local economy.

The second big opportunity here is to depoliticize the process with an independent commission, similar to the one that makes recommendations on MPP compensation. Why not? Surely the best decisions are ones based on real world evidence rather than the vagaries of politics, which is the case now.

The government should support today's second reading and get this bill into committee for more work and consultation. It just makes sense.

Howard Elliott

helliott@thespec.com

905-526-3348