Over the past 20 years or more, incomes have stagnated. Work has become more difficult to find and more precarious in terms of hours, stability, benefits and contract duration. In the mean time, income security programs like Employment Insurance have been cut. There has been no support from any level of government to replace lost benefits.
People are finding it harder to make ends meet.
The impact of this is seen in our communities; from vacant store fronts to gentrification pushing working class folks out of their neighbourhoods. Lack of income in some communities has meant food deserts, and no local access to banking, doctors or daycare. Our communities are no longer healthy, economically or physically.
And while there are great movements out there like living wage, $15 & Fairness and Basic Income, one area being neglected is the most basic form of income security.
Fix the Gap aims to start with this basic safety net that isn’t safe at all.
Currently our social safety net leaves singles on Ontario Works 60% below the poverty line. It’s important to understand that in centres like Hamilton, only 1 in 5 that apply for Employment Insurance actually are eligible to receive it. When between jobs, people are cycling out of this system.
What does it cost to live in your community? Governments don’t know yet they make policy decisions that affect you all the time. Most of the time they are political rather than evidence based decisions. It is time it stops.
How did ‘Fix the Gap’ start?
The campaign originated with the idea of an evidence based rates board to set social assistance rates 10 years ago. Craig Foye of the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic worked with MPP Ted McMeekin to develop a private member’s bill which despite passing second reading died on the floor when a provincial election was called.
It wasn’t until this year that MPP Paul Miller decided to create a new iteration of the bill calling on the government to create a standing commission that would annually look at the cost of living in various economic regions of Ontario in order to inform social assistance rates and also look at precarious work and WSIB.
The legislation was called Bill 185. It died when legislature was prorogued in September 2016.
MPP Miller immediately re-introduced the same legislation. It is now called:
Bill 6, Ministry of Community and Social Services Amendment Act (Social Assistance Research Commission), 2016
We believe with movement from the province around income security it would be the perfect time to introduce an arms length, non-political, non-partisan entity that would inform not only social assistance but other conversations around basic income and the effectiveness of other income security measures working in tandem (or not working like WSIB and EI).
So this is about getting the bill passed?
Yes, but not quite. We realized if we were to undertake a pan-provincial campaign it would be an excellent opportunity to develop a dialog and strategy to support income security initiatives provincially. We see Bill 6 as just one stepping stone in that direction.
A Brief History of Ontario Income Security
Links to previous articles and blog posts:
It’s Time To Fix Social Assistance
Paul Miller’s Private Member’s Bill Would Do A Lot Of Public Good
Let’s Fix Social Assistance
Social Assistance Rates Must Reflect the Cost of Living
Poverty Levels No Better Than 10 Years Ago