The Put Food in the Budget campaign on Friday December 2 has three important items on its agenda.
- Develop strategy on how to maintain demand for immediate increase in social assistance rates
- Talk about four grass roots initiatives that challenge Band-Aids on the safety net and organize people who are poor to demand more
- Consider poverty through the lens of anti-racism
Some background on each of these three items is summarized below. See event details here – and RSVP today to email@example.com
Why Wait? Raise the Rates Now!
The next provincial budget will be Kathleen Wynne’s last chance to increase social assistance rates before the provincial election expected in the spring of 2018. (Any increases to social assistance proposed in the 2018 budget will not take effect until the fall of 2018 – well after the next election).
Why should people who receive social assistance have to wait several years for a raise to the rates when Hugh Segal himself says they are completely inadequate now?
“It is hard to conclude that the income support that is now available for those living in poverty is adequate in any meaningful way, despite recent improvements introduced by the province”. (Hugh Segal p.14, finding a Better Way, A Basic Income Pilot Project for Ontario)
The delay for real action on poverty that is implied by waiting several years for pilot project results means the vast majority of people living on social assistance will continue to live in deep poverty for several more years.
Whether or not you are hopeful that the Basic Income Pilot Project will lead to increased social assistance Bob Luker (writing on behalf of the Steering Committee of the Put Food in the Budget campaign) says it will only happen with significant pressure from social movements:
“Wynne’s Liberals have commissioned and received yet another report on poverty reduction. Like the many reports before it over many decades it contains some good ideas (increase Ontario Works to about $1320/month for a single person and ODSP to about $1600/month). However we have absolutely no reason to believe that the good ideas would be implemented - without a huge social movement campaign pushing for them”. (Click here to download full statement)
The idea that we have to wait until we have more information on the impact of a Basic Income policy before we can raise the rates is a false choice. Social movement demands to increase social assistance rates now will only increase the chance of a progressive Basic Income being adopted in the future. Postponing rate increases guarantees several more years of misery for people who are poor and decreases the chances of winning a progressive Basic Income in the future.
A strategy to influence the government consultations on the Basic Income Pilot will be presented to the meeting for discussion on Friday December 2.
Many factors affect the ability of people who are poor to have enough money to put food in their budget. Rent is the cost that takes most of the income of people who are poor. Rising hydro rates ‘eat’ into what’s left of the food budget. The charities that are supposed to be the support of last resort – shelters for the homeless, and food banks for those without food – are woefully inadequate.
These responses are recognized by all as mere Band-Aids – and yet people who are poor are forced to rely on them year after year. Grass-roots groups in several communities are trying to making visible the inadequacy of these Band-Aids in their communities and organize people who are poor to demand systemic responses - more funding, more services and less reliance on charity. It is a backlash against Band-Aids.
Equity intersects with all these issues and racialized communities face additional barriers when looking for housing, and going to shelters and food banks. Jane Finch Action Against Poverty will introduce the discussion of these four initiatives with a presentation on racism and poverty.
Each of four grass-roots groups will then present their work to organize people with low incomes to highlight the inadequacy of Band-Aid solutions and demand more social justice. There will be time for discussion so participants can take home ideas that might work in their communities.
We look forward to seeing you on Friday December 2 at the Friends House, 60 Lowther Ave. Toronto.
Overcrowded Shelters: The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty will describe their organizing work to open more shelter spaces while demanding more housing.
Food Charity is Not Enough: Voices for Change Halton will describe the results of their survey of food bank users and how they are using it to challenge limits of food charity and demand higher incomes as the only solution to food insecurity.
Community Action Network (Perth): This grass-roots group sponsored by The Table community food centre in Perth surveyed people with low incomes about their housing as way to organize them to fight for improvements and increase demand for better housing in the community.
ACORN (Toronto): has been organizing people around high hydro rates. They will discuss the challenges tenants face and the successes they have won.
RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org