DAWN Ontario: DisAbled Women's Network Ontario

 

Ontario Budget 2007
Responses

March 22, 2007


"I oppose the Conservative government's practice of clawing back the national child benefit,
a practice we will end during our first mandate
."

~ Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty



Editor's Note:

Some of the releases below applaud the alleged end to the clawback of the national child benefit supplement (NCBS) in the March 2007 Ontario Budget.

As a point of clarification, please note that the March 22/07 Ontario Budget did NOT put an end to the clawback ... the Ontario government will continue to deduct / clawback $122 per child from the benefits of families on social assistance.

What the Ontario Budget includes is a 2% increase to social assistance benefits and the introduction of a new child benefit for low-income families called the Ontario Child Benefit (OCB); combined, the two measures, over a five year period, would effectively end the "clawback" of the national child benefit supplement.

This Budget did NOT simultaneously end the clawback and also provide for a new child benefit and rate increase as text in some of the releases below implies.

Ending the clawback would have meant that a single mother on social assistance with one child would have been able to keep the $122 the Ontario government has been deducting from the $162 federal child supplement. Instead she will continue to have her monthly benefit deducted by the $122, she will receive a lump sum payment of $250 in July 2007 from the new Ontario Child Benefit which works out to $21 per month -- that's .68 cents a day folks -- and she will receive a paltry 2% increase in her monthly benefit starting in November 2007.

It's shameful for the McGuinty Liberal government to count increases intended to address cost of living into the tally of what counts towards ending the clawback to give the appearance that they are keeping their election promise .

Contrast the above measures against the IMMEDIATE 25% PAY HIKE to the salaries of Ontario MPPs, read the following quotes, and then draw your own informed conclusion!


Quoting Toronto Star Editorial Jan. 16, 2007:

The child benefit supplement is a federal program introduced in 1998 by former prime minister Jean Chrétien, who decided the time had come to "turn the corner" on child poverty by helping all low-income families with children. But Ottawa gave the provinces the option of reducing a family's welfare payments by an amount equal to the new supplement.

Unfortunately, that is exactly what the Ontario government under former Conservative premier Mike Harris did. It decided children in families on welfare were less deserving than those in other low-income families and clawed back every cent of the federal benefit.


In the 2003 election, Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty vowed to end the clawback, saying:

"I oppose the Conservative government's practice of clawing back the national child benefit, a practice we will end during our first mandate."
~ Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty


Quoting the Toronto Star:

The new benefit will amount to monthly payments of about $92 per child by 2011, for families with net incomes of less than $20,000.

For families on welfare and disability supports, the benefit will effectively end the current clawback of up to $122 per child per month from the National Child Benefit Supplement, when restructuring combined with past welfare increases and this year's 2 per cent rate hike are included, government officials said.

But some advocates for the poor took issue with the province's accounting and said a single mother on welfare with one child would be just $50 a month better off when the benefit is fully phased in (after 5 years).

"It's a good start, but it doesn't go far enough," said Sarah Blackstock of the Income Security Advocacy Association.

Under the scheme, all eligible families will receive up to $250 per child in a lump-sum payment in July. The income cutoff for families with one child is $27,000.

The monthly payment scheme will kick in next July, starting at $50 per child and increasing every July after that.

Bullshit spin, in other words. Blatant dishonesty on the part of the McGuinty Liberals to suggest that this initiative "ends the clawback".

Here's a clue, Dalton. If you want to end the clawback, then END THE FUCKING CLAWBACK. Just stop deducting the child tax benefit from welfare recipients' cheques. It's that easy.

And I just heard on the news now that they're claiming that the new Ontario child tax benefit will help four times as many children from low income families as the current clawback hurts. What the hell? People on welfare are the poorest of the poor for low income families. So, low income families not on social assistance will get two benefits (federal and provincial) and low income families on social assistance will only get one?

This is supposed to be a good thing? END THE CLAWBACK NOW. Nothing else will do!

"People on social assistance are entitled to their child tax benefit. The McGuinty Liberals are stealing that money from them after promising to stop stealing that money from them.

- - -

The fact that they bring in a new benefit (which works out to about $21 per month for the first year, $50 per month for the second year, etc.) does not change the fact that they are still stealing the old one.

If I had a minimum wage job right now, I'd be entitled to both the federal and provincial benefit. If I were on social assistance, I'd only be entitled to the provincial benefit.

The time to end the clawback is NOW.


A Must Read:

No End to Ontario's CHILD TAX BENEFIT CLAWBACK
by Michelle Langlois, Rabble, March 23, 2007

There appears to be some confusion over whether the federal child tax benefit clawback from Ontario social assistance cheques has been ended by the Dalton McGuinty government this week. Allow me to clear up the confusion: the clawback is still in full force. Read full article here: http://www.rabble.ca/everyones_a_critic.shtml?x=58144



Page Index

What people are saying about McGuinty's "Don't Believe it Budget:
People from across Ontario are saying Dalton McGuinty's "Don't Believe it Budget" fails to deliver

Low Income Families Together (L.I.F.T.)
Too Little, Too Late!
2007 Provincial budget offers last minute pre-election crumbs, but does not address poverty

O.D.S.P. Action Coalition:
People with Disabilities Left in Poverty by Ontario Budget

Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC):
Budget good first step, but much work remains to be done: anti-poverty activists

CUPE Ontario
Ontario's families will wait for years to benefit from McGuinty's "war" on poverty

Wellesley Institute:
Thanks for the thoughts, but where's the money?

Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL):
Wait ...Wait ...Wait

Accessibility For Ontarians With Disabilities Act Alliance Update (AODA Alliance):
What the Ontario Budget Includes on Disability/Accessibility

John Tory: McGuinty's Budget: No relief, few results for average taxpayers
Tory says McGuinty missed an opportunity to use billions in extra money to help families

Canadian Auto Workers (CAW):
Ontario Budget Falls Short of Expectations, Hargrove Says

Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF/FEESO):
Ontario budget increases overall education funding but local programs may still suffer

Canadian Federation of Students:
Ontario Budget Forecast for Students: Higher Tuition Fees and More Debt



Daily Bread Food Bank:
Budget's Ontario Child Benefit gets thumbs up from Daily Bread Food Bank

Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO):
Elementary Teachers Applaud Government Focus on Education

Community Living Ontario:
McGuinty Government's Commitment to Developmental Services Encouraging

Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB):
Food banks welcome focus on poverty --
OAFB welcomes first step on a long journey to reduce poverty in Ontario

United Ways of Ontario:
Budget Addresses Needs of Vulnerable Ontarians



 

What people are saying about McGuinty's "Don't Believe it Budget

People from across Ontario are saying Dalton McGuinty's "Don't Believe it Budget" fails to deliver

"The Liberals have let down some of Ontario's poorest people today. They seem to think that it is okay for those people to come home to leaky ceilings, faulty plumbing and wiring, broken windows and doors."
     ~ Kay Bromfield, tenant activist and TCHC resident, Strong Foundations, Strong Futures

"People who need income support from the Ontario Disability Support Program will still find it next to impossible to pay their rent, eat a nutritious diet and cover their other basic needs after Finance Minister Sorbara's budget comes into effect. This budget does not treat people who cannot work due to illness or disability with the dignity they deserve."
     ~ Nancy Vander Plaats, chair, ODSP Action Coalition

"Anti-poverty activists are disappointed that the clawback of the National Child Benefit Supplement was not ended in real terms and other anti-poverty measures announced do not go further. The budget doesn't move as quickly or as significantly as needed to address the scope and depth of poverty in Ontario."
     ~ Sarah Blackstock, Income Security Advocacy Centre

"While we also welcome the government's commitment to the increase in the Ontario minimum wage, we would have liked to see it happen faster to benefit Ontario's children."
     ~ Hilda Watkins, President, Ontario Teachers' Federation

"McGuinty has tried to define himself as the 'Education Premier' but all voters have seen is a trail of broken promises. High tuition fees and the prospect of larger debt-loads remain this budget's forecast for Ontario's students and their families."
     ~ Jesse Greener, Ontario Chairperson, Canadian Federation of Students

"For long term care, the cupboard is bare. Unless the Liberals have a sudden conversion on the way to the polls on October 10, they will have to explain another broken promise - a promise made to long term care residents and their families across this province."
     ~ Donna Rubin, CEO, Ontario Association of Non-Profit Homes and Services for Seniors (OANHSS)

"This is insulting window dressing. Workers are demanding immediate action to save and protect Ontario jobs. Dalton McGuinty just doesn't get it."
     ~ Wayne Fraser, Steelworkers Ontario and Atlantic Director

"McGuinty's Liberals didn't wait to implement an immediate 25% wage increase for well-heeled politicians yet have no qualms imposing wait times on Ontario's poor."
~ Sid Ryan, CUPE Ontario

"The Premier has announced that climate change is the issue for our generation, but so far the all the government has really embraced is recycling of old promises."
     ~ Hugh Mackenzie, Canadian Centre For Policy Alternatives, Ontario Alternative Budget

"Today's announcement (for child care) is a far cry from the $300 million promised almost four years ago."
     ~ Elizabeth Ablett, Executive Director of the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care.


Low Income Families Together (L.I.F.T.)

Too Little, Too Late!
2007 Provincial budget offers last minute pre-election crumbs, but does not address poverty

The 2007 budget gives the illusion of finally dealing with "child poverty", but for poor families it is much too little, and way too late! Low Income Families Together (LIFT) began advocating for an Ontario child benefit twenty years ago so that single mothers and families with children relying on welfare would not be penalized for working. Since that time, poverty has grown from a problem into a serious crisis, a child benefit of $50 by 2011, and the 2% raise is a tiny pittance that will not solve the desperate poverty families on welfare face today.

The McGuinty government has had four years to step up and reverse this lingering cycle of despair, hunger, homelessness, and family breakdown. Just yesterday, working people were told to wait another three years to get paid a semi-decent wage, even though it has been proven in the US and the UK that raising wages is good for business. This budget will not do enough to lift people out of poverty, or help young families secure the adequate incomes, housing, childcare, and access to education they must have to raise healthy children into successful adults.Yet the poverty trap is as deep as ever and the supports needed to leave social assistance are still sorely lacking.

After all this time, the strategy of appearing to address poverty looks like a pre-election tactic to quiet public anger about the needless shame of poverty in our wealthy province of Ontario, quite similar to the sham delivered by the federal government on Tuesday. "In spite of a growing economy, too many families have suffered damage, and now children whose lives were torn apart by cutbacks a decade ago are having children themselves." says Josephine Grey of LIFT, a single mother on ODSP, who is also a grandmother. "A few more dollars to buy food is not going to help these young families achieve a security or a hopeful future, this generation has been denied the opportunites and supports their parents enjoyed."

The brutal cuts of '95 imposed by Federal and provincial governments, that slashed everything from EI and Welfare to housing, education and social services, and clawed-back the federal child benefit from the poorest families, have created a disastrous social deficit that grows to this day. Thousands became homeless and/or had their children taken away because of desperate poverty, or at best, lost all hope of achieving the economic security, as living costs rose by at least 40% and fixed incomes and the value of low wages fell between 22 and 30%.

The cost of neglect to people's lives and society has been very high, the resulting chaos has already cost society billions in damage control. "This budget does too little, too late to move us toward the just, healthy and sustainable society we are so capable of achieving" Josephine Grey, Co-Founder, Low Income Families Together.


O.D.S.P. Action Coalition:

People with Disabilities Left in Poverty by Ontario Budget

People who need income support from the Ontario Disability Support Program will still find it next to impossible to pay their rent, eat a nutritious diet and cover their other basic needs after Finance Minister Sorbara's budget comes into effect. "This budget does not treat people who cannot work due to illness or disability with the dignity they deserve," says Nancy Vander Plaats, chair of the ODSP Action Coalition.

While the government took a step in the right direction for families with children living in poverty with the new Ontario Child Benefit, over half of people receiving ODSP are single.

The Coalition, which is supported by organizations working with people with disabilities, mental health service agencies, community legal clinics, and many ODSP recipients themselves, is disappointed that there is only a 2% increase in social assistance rates while the government is claiming to address poverty in this budget. The new maximum shelter allowance of $445 for a single person is far below the 2005 average cost of a bachelor ($652) or one bedroom ($774) across the province. Even recipients who can find a place to rent for this amount will only get $554 for all needs other than shelter-food, telephone, clothing, transportation, grooming supplies and other personal needs. Most disabled recipients will still be left to depend on food banks and eat diets that do not meet adequate nutrition standards.

"We have challenged the Minister of Community and Social Services to try to live on $979 per month", says Sharon Dever, an ODSP recipient who co-chairs the Toronto Region ODSP Action Coalition. "Our disabilities result in extra costs, such as technology to help the vision-impaired, and it is almost impossible to find affordable housing that is accessible. An extra $20 per month will not allow us to meet those needs and eat properly."

ODSP rates stayed the same for more than a decade, from 1993 to 2005, losing 18% in real value because of inflation during that time. The Liberal government has increased the monthly support by 5% prior to today's 2%; not nearly catching up to 1993 levels.

"The government just arbitrarily sets social assistance rates, with no relationship to the actual cost of basic needs," says Vander Plaats. The Coalition would like to see an independent commission set up to develop a formula based on costs such as average rents compiled by the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and nutritious food baskets developed by municipal Boards of Health.


Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC):

Budget good first step, but much work remains to be done: anti-poverty activists

TORONTO, March 22/07 - Today's budget is a positive first step in the fight against poverty. However, anti-poverty activists are disappointed that the clawback of the National Child Benefit Supplement was not ended in real terms and other anti-poverty measures announced do not go further.

"Ontario needed an anti-poverty budget. This is a beginning - but it has to be built upon in order to ensure everyone in Ontario has a decent standard of living," said Sarah Blackstock, research and policy analyst at the Income Security Advocacy Centre. "The right pieces are there, but the budget doesn't move as quickly or as significantly as needed to address the scope and depth of poverty in Ontario."

"Anti-poverty advocates called for an Ontario Child Benefit that would increase a family's income by the amount of the clawback, roughly $122/month per child. The child benefit that was announced today is a good start, but it doesn't go far enough. When the Ontario Child Benefit is fully implemented in 2011, a single mother with one child will be better off by $50/month - not $122. It's a start but many parents are still going to be struggling to make ends meet, especially those who aren't able to work," Blackstock said.

When fully implemented, the new Ontario Child Benefit will provide a maximum of $92/month per child to families in low-wage work. Social assistance rates will be restructured so that families on assistance will only receive a net benefit of $50/month per child. In July 2007, all eligible families will receive an Ontario Child Benefit of $250. Social assistance restructuring will begin in 2008.

"The Ontario Child Benefit not only provides much needed money in the pockets of all low-income families, it's also marks an important change to welfare," said Blackstock. "Most families are on social assistance for less than two years. Previously when they left assistance, usually for a low-wage job, they lost all of their benefits. Now, with the new Ontario Child Benefit, families will be able to move from social assistance to work and keep their child benefits. This will make a very positive difference in the lives of thousands of low-income children in Ontario."

In addition to the new Ontario Child Benefit, today's budget announced:

i) the minimum wage will reach $10.25/hour by 2010,

ii) social assistance rates will be increased by 2%,

iii) the release of $392 million federal dollars for new affordable housing and housing allowances,

iv) $25 million for childcare, increased to $50 million in ongoing support starting in 2008-09 and

v) an investment of $3.6 million annually to investigate complaints of employment standards violations.

As a result of the 2% increase to social assistance rates, a single person on Ontario Works will be struggling to get by on only $559/month. The average cost for a bachelor apartment in Toronto is $740/month. The Ontario average is $665/month.

"We're encouraged that poverty is finally getting political attention - talking about minimum wages, child benefits, childcare, housing and employment standards is heading in the right direction. We're hopeful that the government's next step will be to work with anti-poverty activists and social policy advocates to develop a comprehensive anti-poverty strategy," said Blackstock.

 

CUPE Ontario

Ontario's families will wait for years to benefit from McGuinty's "war" on poverty

TORONTO, March 22 - From parents on social assistance to workers making minimum wage, working families are being told to wait years before they can benefit from McGuinty's provincial budget tabled today.

"If you're a parent on social assistance, you were promised 4 years ago that the clawback of the national child benefit supplement would be ended," says Sid Ryan, President of CUPE Ontario. " Now parents are being told they will need to wait another five years before it is fully eliminated. That's a 9 year promise and that's unacceptable."

"For those on social assistance, including Ontario Works and Ontario Disability support Plan, today's increase of a miserly 2% will mean that the purchasing power of the welfare cheque today is worth less than when Mike Harris left office, once you factor in inflation," says Ryan. "This is a disgraceful indictment of the McGuinty Liberals."

"If you're a worker making minimum wage, you're being told that you will have to wait three years before you can make a $10.00 minimum wage. Try telling that to the 1.2 million people earning less than $10 a year who are trying to escape the poverty trap."

School board workers had hoped that, with a federal infusion of $1.1 billion Canadian Social Transfer to Ontario announced in Monday's federal budget, McGuinty would free up the estimated $375 million desperately needed for school operations.

"There is nothing in this budget to settle growing labour unrest among school board workers, some of whom are already on strike because they are burnt out from being overworked," says Ryan.

"McGuinty's Liberals didn't wait to implement an immediate 25% wage increase for well-heeled politicians yet have no qualms imposing wait times on Ontario's poor," he added.

 

Wellesley Institute:

Thanks for the thoughts, but where's the money?

TORONTO, March 22, 2007 - Ontario's 2007 provincial budget has plenty of strong language about poverty and affordable housing. But the dollars are missing. Not a single new penny has been devoted to affordable housing, and the dollars devoted to eradicating poverty are limited and stretch over a number of years.

"At a time when 600,000 Ontario households are in 'core housing need', the Ontario budget merely recycles federal housing dollars that were authorized in 2005. Two years later, the province has finally announced that it will allow the federal dollars to be spent, but there is no new provincial dollars," says Michael Shapcott, Senior Fellow at the Wellesley Institute.

Two days ago, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty complained that Monday's federal budget fell short of the dollars that Ontario was seeking. "Justice delayed is justice denied," said the Premier of the Harper budget. The same can be said of Premier McGuinty's own budget, which falls far short of delivering the dollars that would lift Ontario children, and their families, out of poverty.

"After years of Ontario governments that put a priority on tax cuts rather than an investment in people and programs, today's budget signals a welcome change," says Shapcott. "But kind words are not enough. Budgets are about choices, and they are about dollars and cents. Today's budget doesn't deliver the dollars that are needed."

For instance, today's provincial budget announces that some of the recycled federal housing dollars will be devoted to a new housing allowance program for 27,000 low-income working families, even though more than 1.6 million Ontarians are living in poverty. Each household will receive a mere $100 per month, even though poor families face a housing poverty gap of
hundreds of dollars.

Renter household incomes have been falling in recent years, even as average market rents have increased. The "housing poverty gap" - the difference between what landlords are charging and what tenants can afford to pay - is wide and growing. Tenant households caught in the financial squeeze are facing an all-time record number of evictions - almost 67,000 households in 2006 (about 183 families facing eviction every day of the year).

Budget 2007 does provide some more details on the previous announcement by Premier Dalton McGuinty that the Ontario government will start to flow $392 million in federal housing dollars that were authorized by Parliament in 2005. However, there will be at least one more round of announcements on this funding before the money is finally allocated. Some details:

  • $127 million will be divided among to municipalities to fund new housing or repair existing homes, with details to be announced later. The money will be allocated by the end of March and there will be few guidelines for municipalities. There is a danger that few of the dollars will actually go to desperately-needed new supply and will instead be diverted to fund much-needed repairs of existing rundown housing.

  • $80 million will go to off-reserve Aboriginal housing, following a consultation with Aboriginal housing and service providers.

  • the remainder will go to a five-year housing allowance program for working families that will provide a bare $100 per month to help narrow the gap between household income and rents.

Here are some specifics on income issues in the Ontario budget:

  • a 2% increase in social assistance (welfare rates in all categories remain well below the poverty line).

  • a new Ontario Child Benefit which, when it is fully phased in over five years, will amount to a maximum of $1,100 annually per child.

  • an end to the provincial clawback of federal children's benefits. [see editor's note]

  • an increase of 75 cents per year in the minimum wage until it reaches $10.25 in the year 2010.

One surprising development is the partial uploading of social services and social housing spending in the "905" municipalities. Social services costs were downloaded by the Harris government in the 1990s and the McGuinty government had promised to reverse this policy. But today's budget only uploaded the costs for York, Peel and Durham Regions, without uploading the
same set of costs borne by Toronto or municipalities in the rest of the province.

"The people of Ontario have been demanding that the McGuinty government honour its promises, going back to the 2003 election campaign, to reinvest in the vital services that will help to rebuild the province," says Shapcott. "Today's budget echoes those concerns, but fails to provide the dollars."

The Wellesley Institute is completing a review of the growing "housing poverty gap" in communities across the province. Working families, along with low, moderate and even middle-income Ontarians are being caught in the squeeze between rising housing costs and stagnant incomes. For more details, log onto "www.wellesleyinstitute.com".

 

Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL):

Wait ...Wait ...Wait

(TORONTO) - Premier Dalton McGuinty's election budget announced today shows his Liberal government is out of touch with the reality of today's working families. In a blatant attempt to capitalize on the public pressure around raising the minimum wage, the Liberals are promising to raise the minimum wage by $2.25 over the next three years. The current level of $8.00 is below the poverty line, and factoring in inflation will still be below the poverty line in 2010.

Earlier this week Premier McGuinty responded to the phasing in of the Harper government's Federal funding transfers to the provinces by saying that "justice delayed is justice denied." "McGuinty should take his own words to heart", says OFL president Wayne Samuelson. "He rushed his own salary increase of $40,000 into law during an extra week's sitting of the Legislature before Christmas, but minimum wage earners will have to wait three years to see the full $2.25 promised in today's budget."

In today's budget, McGuinty continues to deny that Ontario has a crisis in manufacturing jobs, with 125,000 jobs gone since the Liberals were elected. "This budget does nothing to address the massive loss of manufacturing jobs in the province," says Samuelson. "Ontario manufacturing is in crisis and McGuinty tells us everything is just fine. Good paying manufacturing jobs
are disappearing at an alarming rate, and part-time and low-wage jobs aren't a replacement."

Families with children are also being left behind in this budget. Ignoring the fact that the Liberals already promised $300 million for child care in 2003, and failed to deliver on that promise, they re-announced $25 million of that again for 2007-2208. "Working families need affordable, quality child care now," says Samuelson. New spaces are desperately needed now, and promising the same funds over and over again won't help."

"It's time Dalton McGuinty realized it's not making promises that counts, it's keeping them. And we all know McGuinty's record on keeping his promises."

 

Accessibility For Ontarians With Disabilities Act Alliance Update (AODA Alliance):

What the Ontario Budget Includes on Disability/Accessibility

SUMMARY

Here is a quick update on the key points in the March 22, 2007 Ontario Budget as it pertains to key disability issues in which the AODA Alliance is involved. This is the last provincial Budget before this fall's provincial election.

AODA Alliance representatives attended the pre-Budget lock-up just before the Budget was read in the Legislature. They had an opportunity to ask questions of Government officials, and to review the text of the Budget speech and key background documents. The following is based on their first zip through these documents. We are issuing this update as quickly as possible after being released from the lock-up.

Further exploration of the full package of Budget documents may yield fuller information. The two key issues we focus on are funding for the human rights enforcement system and funding for the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We also briefly review some other disability-related announcements in the budget. That latter review may not be comprehensive.

HUMAN RIGHTS FUNDING

Throughout the debates over Bill 107's controversial reforms to the Ontario human rights system last year, the AODA Alliance along with other equality-seeking communities with whom we worked were among the most vocal voices that called for increased funding for human rights enforcement. The AODA Alliance's predecessor, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, had been a leading voice for years in Ontario in calling for increased funding for the Human Rights Commission.

The March 22, 2007 Ontario Budget includes a commitment of funding for the new Human Rights Legal Support Centre. The Budget documents, as explained to us by Ministry of Finance staff, includes a commitment of a total of 8 million dollars for this spread over the next three years. There will be 3 million dollars in the fiscal year starting April 1, 2007. The rest is spread out over the following two years.

This appears to be new funding over and above the current funding for the Human Rights Tribunal and the Human Rights commission. However, we are told by Government staff at the budget lock-up that there is no new funding announced in this Budget either for the Human rights Tribunal or the Human Rights Commission. This is especially significant since under bill 107, the Human Rights Tribunal will have its case load explode to a number projected to be at least 25 times as big as its current case load. Moreover, Bill 107 gives the Tribunal substantial new duties, such as the duty to deal with intake of all human rights complaints, and the power to conduct investigation of human rights complaints (before they go to trial).

From this we can only conclude that any new budget that may be given to the Human Rights Tribunal to take on this huge new workload would come from having it taken away from the existing budget of the Human Rights Commission. This is something that the AODA Alliance predicted last year during public debates over Bill 107. That would not provide the Tribunal with enough funding to clear the backlog of human rights cases, or to be able to fulfill the Government's commitment of each case going to a hearing on the merits within one year of a complaint being filed. As the AODA Alliance predicted, this runs the real risk that Bill 107 will simply move the long line-up at the Human Rights Commission's door over to a new long line-up at the Human Rights Tribunal's door.

It also means that the Human Rights Commission can expect to be the target of very substantial budget cuts. If that happens, the Human Rights Commission will not be able to fulfill the Government's commitment that under Bill 107, the Commission's resources will be freed up to be a strong human rights enforcer, bringing important public interest cases to the Human Rights Tribunal. Rather than having its resources freed up for that purpose, the Commission's resources can be expected to be taken away and given to the Human Rights Tribunal.

The Budget's Commitment of new funding for the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, while beneficial, falls very far short of being capable of living up to the Ontario Government's commitments last year that under Bill 107, each human rights complainant will get a free, independent, publicly funded lawyer. Assuming that there will be at least 2,500 or more people each year bringing forward human rights complaints (as has been the case in recent years), this means that there will be an average of between $1,000 and $1,200 per case. This is hardly enough money to provide a lawyer to represent each complainant through the Human Rights Tribunal process. If you add to this the added the demand on the Legal Support Centre by many people seeking advice on whether to file a human rights complaint. According to Human Rights Commission statistics, the Human Rights Commission now fields some 60,000 inquiries per year.

As a point of comparison, a legal clinic under Legal Aid Ontario Cannot be expected to service 2,500 clients per year spread right across Ontario through contested legal proceedings at a tribunal like the Human rights Tribunal with an annual budget of $2, -3 million per year.

Will Legal Aid clinics be able to pick up the slack? During public hearings and public debates over Bill 107 last year, several legal clinics, including some which supported Bill 107, made it clear that they don't have enough funding to be able to take on the role of representing a substantial number of discrimination victims at the Human Rights Tribunal. This budget announces some $51 of new funding for legal Aid Ontario spread over the next three years. However, the Budget doesn't allocate any of this to Legal Aid clinics. We were advised at the lock-up by Ministry of finance staff that there is no allocation decided on in this Budget for more money for Legal Aid clinics.

As an interesting comparison to the $8 million in new funding for the Human Rights Legal Support Centre to be spread over the next three years, the Budget announced a total of $10 million in this upcoming year to expand broadband coverage in rural southern Ontario i.e. to expand access to the internet.

FUNDING FOR THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT

The Budget speech and background materials include no announcement of any new specific funding to finance the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We asked a Ministry of Finance official at the lock-up whether there was any new funding for this in the Budget. We were told there is none.

NEW FUNDING FOR INFRA-STRUCTURE AND OTHER PROGRAMS LIKE HEALTH, EDUCATION, COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES

The Budget includes several new announcements of funding for infra-structure around Ontario, and for major programs such as health, education and colleges and universities. It includes no new commitments or initiatives to require that that funding only be spent to provide disability-accessible infra-structure and disability-accessible services. We were advised at the lock-up that the provisions for this are those already in the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005.

SOME OTHER DISABILITY-SPECIFIC COMMITMENTS

The budget commits to a new 2% increase in ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Plan) benefits as well as to Ontario Works benefits (i.e. mainstream social assistance) These would go into effect starting in November 2007, i.e. after the fall provincial election.

The Budget announces an increase in benefits to recipients of workplace compensation for workplace injuries under the WSIB (Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, formerly Worker Compensation). These increases will be in the amount 2.5% per year for each of the next three years.

The Budget also announces an increase to provincial funding for developmental services over the next four years to rise to $200 million in the fourth year. We do not know what amounts the increases will be in the first three of those four years. The Budget also announces $7 million in new capital funding for developmental services.

On the subject of funding for services for children with autism, the Budget background documents state that Ontario has increased funding to nearly $130 million in 2007-08. We cannot ascertain what portion of this, if any, constitutes a commitment of new funds in this Budget.

In terms of funding for children's mental health services, the Budget documents announce that it is providing an addition $8 million in annual funding to address gaps in local service needs and to reduce wait times.

MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD

Let the Government, the opposition parties and the media know what you think of the Ontario Budget.

 

John Tory: McGuinty's Budget: No relief, few results for average taxpayers

Tory says McGuinty missed an opportunity to use billions in extra money to help families

QUEEN'S PARK, March 23, 2007 - Progressive Conservative Party Leader John Tory today said that despite increasing spending by over $4,500 per household, Dalton McGuinty's 2007 Budget has virtually nothing in it for an average hard-working taxpayer.

"If you're a good old fashioned hardworking taxpayer, you were forgotten altogether," said Tory, in a speech to the Economic Club of Toronto. "Not even the hint of a tax break on the punishing 'health' tax. No plan for traffic and transit. No relief from crowded hospital emergency rooms. More students than ever in portables."

Tory said in the speech that despite a $22 billion increase in annual spending since coming to office, Dalton McGuinty hasn't been producing strong results.

"Despite being awash in cash, Dalton McGuinty said 'no' to tax relief; 'no' to the workers who have lost their job; 'no' to commuters stuck in gridlock; 'no' to the families of aging loved ones who require long-term-care; 'no' to farmers facing more than a $100 million in new cuts; and 'no' to northerners who get a new 'facilitator' and nothing more," said Tory.

Tory detailed in his speech some of the things he would have done differently with the 2007 Budget.

"First things first. We would begin to eliminate the health tax, that is causing so much hardship, particularly to Ontario's poorest workers," said Tory. "It's a broken promise tax and it's a regressive tax. It is a tax that does not even go to health care. With the budget supposedly balanced, Dalton McGuinty has no excuse."

Tory also said he would have brought in a real plan to protect homeowners from skyrocketing property assessment increases, instead of just spreading sticker shock over four years as Dalton McGuinty has done. He pointed to the lack of an infrastructure plan, and the complete absence of any help for the over 120,000 people who have lost well-paid manufacturing jobs over the past two years. He said Ontario has been slipping on Dalton McGuinty's watch and that only strong leadership will return the province to a leading role.

"Beyond my concerns about specific items in this budget is my wider concern that there is no way any of us can actually count on this government following through," said Tory. "Dalton McGuinty has always put his own political health ahead of Ontario's health - why should we expect that, right now, it's anything different?"

 

Canadian Auto Workers (CAW)

Ontario Budget Falls Short of Expectations, Hargrove Says

TORONTO, March 22, 2007 - "The Dalton McGuinty government took some steps today with its budget to help low-income Ontarians, but it hasn't gone nearly far enough to narrow the growing income gap in this province," said CAW president Buzz Hargrove.

Today's budget provides a $2.25 per hour increase to the provincial minimum wage for working Ontarians earning substandard wages. This help for the working poor will not arrive immediately, as the minimum wage will be phased in over the next three years until it reaches $10.25 in 2010. "I applaud the minimum wage increase," said Hargrove. "This is a very important step and sets the bar for other provinces and the federal government to boost their minimum wages accordingly."

Anti-poverty activists from across the province deserve much of the credit for the minimum wage increase. "It is a testament to the hard work and dedication of provincial activists who have worked tirelessly on this important campaign," said Hargrove. "Clearly, fighting back makes a difference."

The investment in research and development of green car technology is forward looking. We're at the threshold of a new generation of automotive technologies - such as flex fuels, cylinder deactivation, fuel management, bio-fuels, hybrids - and the resources in the budget will help support the development and commercialization of many of these technologies. "The
resources flowing to Ontario universities and research centres will make a contribution to Ontario's most important industry, unlike the recent federal budget which penalized the industry," said Hargrove.

The budget also includes a long-overdue provision to address the Federal Child Benefit Supplement clawback. "It is definitely good news to hear that low income families will no longer be penalized by this clawback [see editor's note]. We pressed this government and the previous government on this important issue - the McGuinty government listened and has now dealt with this long standing inequity," Hargrove said.

The two per cent increase in welfare rates is minimal - it barely keeps up with inflation and is a long way below what is needed, he said.

"While these steps are partial solutions, the province still lacks a comprehensive program to effectively combat poverty," said Hargrove.

The budget identifies that more needs to be done in terms of affordable housing, but the government hasn't done nearly enough. "Working Ontarians and the poor in this province need more than rent subsidies, which go straight to landlords. Instead, more affordable housing than this budget promises needs to be built," Hargrove said.

"More needs to be done to stem the flow of good manufacturing jobs from the province. We need more job training and skills development programs for workers and especially our young people," Hargrove said.

 

Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF/FEESO):

Ontario budget increases overall education funding but local programs may still suffer

TORONTO, March 22, 2007 - The McGuinty government's budget for 2007-2008 has made child poverty a particular focus. It announced a number of initiatives including additional support for child care. It also plans to provide $18.3 billion in grants to school boards with about $60 million in one-time new dollars to go to textbooks, software, administrator and teacher anti-bullying training and art supplies. The university sector will also receive an additional cash infusion of $390 million to alleviate cost
pressures and pursue capital projects.

"The Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF/FEESO) is pleased to see that the Liberal government is taking steps to curb child poverty by raising the hourly minimum wage, ending the controversial clawback of the National Child Tax Credit [see editor's note] and providing additional funding for child care," said Ken Coran, president-elect of the OSSTF/FEESO. "It is important to remember that poor children attend school, however, and there is little in this budget to allow school boards the flexibility they need to deal with this and other important local issues," he said.

"The infusion of money for government programs in Ontario schools is welcomed but OSSTF/FEESO believes that some of the problems that boards of education face because of a flawed funding formula remain," he added. "The government has not provided adequate funding for educational workers who work in school offices, fix computers, help special needs students or offer prevention programs. Nor has the government provided resources to tackle the growing pay equity problem in Ontario schools that results in female workers earning less than their male counterparts.

"While overall grants to school boards have been increased by $800 million from last year, the bulk of that money is already earmarked to be spent on government initiatives and school boards will likely continue to face problems in paying for local programs," Coran concluded.

OSSTF/FEESO, founded in 1919, has 60,000 members across Ontario. They include public high school teachers, occasional teachers, educational assistants, continuing education teachers and instructors, psychologists, secretaries, speech-language pathologists, social workers, plant support personnel, attendance counsellors, and many others in education.

 

Canadian Federation of Students:

Ontario Budget Forecast for Students: Higher Tuition Fees and More Debt

TORONTO, March 22, 2007 - The 2007 Ontario Budget released today offered no new funding for students, despite the McGuinty government's plans to continue dramatic tuition fees increases.

"This year the government heard overwhelmingly from students and their families that McGuinty's tuition fee increases were clawing back financial aid and closing the doors on many students from low and middle income families," said Jesse Greener, Ontario Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students. "We are really surprised that McGuinty has ignored those voters and held so firmly to a conservative policy on access to Ontario's colleges and universities."

Since Premier Dalton McGuinty cancelled the tuition fee freeze in 2005 and announced tuition fee increases as high as 36% over the following four years, he has received more than 50,000 petition signatures from Ontario students and their families calling for a reduction of tuition fees. This week, polling data collected by Feedback Research Corporation, on behalf of the Canadian Federation of Students, demonstrated that 82% of Ontario voters were concerned about the accessibility of college and university education and 75% supported tuition fee reductions.

"With such a strong reaction from Ontario voters against the McGuinty plan for tuition fee increases, we really expected this budget to address these concerns through tuition protection and enhanced student grants," said Greener. "In this budget, all we see is the Ontario government finally releasing some of the Federal money that was promised over a year ago."

The Budget largely restated promises made in 2005, including modest infrastructure funding and an expansion of graduate student enrolment. "While students are happy to see more spaces for graduate students, this budget will barely accommodate the double cohort as it moves through the system," said Greener. "Without an expansion of student grants, this budget leaves more graduate students scrambling to compete for limited scholarships."

"McGuinty has tried to define himself as the 'Education Premier' but all voters have seen is a trail of broken promises," said Greener. "High tuition fees and the prospect of larger debt-loads remain this budget's forecast for Ontario's students and their families."

The Canadian Federation of Students, Canada's national student organisation, unites more than 500,000 college and university students from coast to coast, and over 300,000 in Ontario.



 

 

Daily Bread Food Bank:

Budget's Ontario Child Benefit gets thumbs up from Daily Bread Food Bank

TORONTO, March 22/07 - Toronto's Daily Bread Food Bank commends the McGuinty government for the anti-poverty measures contained in the 2007 provincial budget. Daily Bread has been an advocate on behalf of low-income families experiencing hunger, and has lobbied for the past two years for the Ontario Child Benefit (OCB) announced today.

"It's been a long time since poverty reduction measures were at the forefront of a provincial budget in Ontario," says Gail Nyberg, executive director of Daily Bread Food Bank. "We congratulate the government for having the courage to take on this significant issue, and we expect to see a reduction in food bank use in the coming years as a result."

"The Ontario Child Benefit will reduce barriers faced by families with children who are trying to leave welfare for work. At the same time, it will help reduce child poverty and hunger."

Last June, Daily Bread Food Bank released the Blueprint to Fight Hunger, a five point plan to reduce the need for food banks by focusing on children, the working poor, people with disabilities, immigrants and housing. The Blueprint called for an Ontario Child Benefit of $92 per child per month to help address the depth of hunger and poverty GTA children are facing. It also called for the new benefit to rise over a period of 4 years such that the total of federal and provincial child benefits surpasses $5,000 per year, an amount most experts agree is the minimum needed to raise a child.

Approximately 28,000 children each month live in families who use food banks and will benefit from the OCB. Those families have an average annual income of $14,910. Forty-six percent of families with children receive their income from Ontario Works, and 18% from employment. Nearly two thirds of all children using food banks are aged 7-18, the group that will benefit most from
the Ontario Child Benefit.

The Ontario Child Benefit once fully implemented will pay $92 per month per child for low income families with children. The benefit will be implemented over a period of 5 years and be paid to families regardless of whether their income comes from welfare or employment. A single parent with one child on social assistance will see an increase on their bottom line of $50 a month once the OCB is fully implemented. Other anti-poverty measures in the budget, including a welfare rate increase of 2%, will also contribute to a reduction of food bank use.

"The Ontario Child Benefit is not only a new benefit that will help low-income families in the short term. It also delivers structural reform to our system of income security in Ontario that can be built on in the future," says Michael Oliphant, director of research and communications at Daily Bread Food Bank. "We believe the OCB marks a significant turning point in Ontario and hope it develops into a full anti-poverty, anti-hunger strategy that combines adequate incomes with other social supports, namely child care and housing."

 

Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO):

Elementary Teachers Applaud Government Focus on Education

TORONTO, March 22, 2007 - The Ontario budget released today confirms that the McGuinty government continues to pursue its commitment to enhance public education, says the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO).

"We applaud the government's ongoing efforts to rebuild our education system by focusing on smaller primary class sizes, improved literacy and numeracy, more resources for schools, and expanded English-as-a-Second Language support," said ETFO first vice-president David Clegg.

Clegg cautioned there must be clear provisions in place to ensure that the funding school boards receive for smaller primary classes is fully directed to that objective. "The government must also monitor class sizes of higher elementary grades to ensure they do not increase as the result of the primary class size policy," he said.

Clegg stressed that while elementary teachers appreciate the government's continued focus on public education, more work is needed to close the gap in funding between elementary and secondary students. "We believe the government will not achieve its goals of improved academic performance and a reduced high school drop out rate if it fails to address the continued underfunding of elementary education."

Clegg pointed out that the goal of higher student achievement also requires attention to the issue of child poverty in Ontario.

"We are pleased to see that the Budget has recognized the impact of poverty on educational success by ending the clawback of the National Child Benefit Supplement [see editor's note], creating a new Ontario Child Benefit, and establishing a process to raise the hourly minimum wage to $10.25 from $8 over the next three years."

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario represents more than 70,000 public elementary school teachers and education workers across Ontario and is the largest teacher federation in Canada.


Community Living Ontario:

McGuinty Government's Commitment to Developmental Services Encouraging

TORONTO, March 22, 2007 - Community Living Ontario is pleased with today's budget announcement of $200 million over four years in the developmental services sector as well as $7 million in new capital funding for community agencies. This is a step in the right direction to make sure that the necessary community supports will be available to ensure the inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities. The McGuinty Government began a transformation process of the sector three years ago and this investment will start to fill some major service and support gaps.

"We had hoped for a budget that would respond to the concerns voiced by many family members and individuals from Community Living associations over the last several months," said David Barber, president of Community Living Ontario. "$200 million will be helpful assuming that the vast majority of this funding will be available within the first year. Further resources are needed to fully address the needs of the sector. We will continue to work with government to explore ways to make additional investments in developmental services to improve the quality of life for people who have an intellectual
disability."

Community Living Ontario and others had been calling on the government to invest $200 million this year as the beginning of a multi-year investment that is needed to address challenges currently facing the system, and to reduce the urgent pressures facing agencies and families.

"This funding will start to make a difference in the lives of families who are not getting the support they require," said Noreene Adam, a Pembroke-area parent of an adult son who has an intellectual disability. "It's heading in the right direction, but more needs to be done for people who have an intellectual disability and their families."

Steven Muir, who spearheaded a campaign to increase the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) and who is a member of Community Living Ontario's Self-Advocates' Council, said, "Word of a 2% increase to ODSP is good news, and it would be nice to have this increase every year."

This year's increase, along with previous increments in recent years, reflects a commitment to annual cost-of-living increases to ODSP. "This is what we have been calling for and it is a positive step for people," said Barber.

Community Living Ontario is a province-wide federation that promotes and facilitates the full participation, inclusion and citizenship of people who have an intellectual disability. More than 12,000 people are members of Community Living Ontario through membership in 110 affiliated local associations. Community Living provides direct support and services to people who have an intellectual disability, helps communities build the capacity to support people, and advocates for social change toward the full inclusion of all people in community.

 

Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB)

Food banks welcome focus on poverty --
OAFB welcomes first step on a long journey to reduce poverty in Ontario

TORONTO, March 22, 2007 - The Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB) welcomes the provincial government's focus on poverty reduction in today's budget announcement, describing the changes as a first step on a long journey to reduce poverty in Ontario.

"It was clear from the ever-growing numbers of Ontarians served by food banks, our alarming rates of child poverty, the widening gap between rich and poor, and the growing calls for action from the media and the public that Ontarians were hungry for change," said Adam Spence, Executive Director of the OAFB. "The government has begun to respond to these concerns with the right strategy, but we need to move forward with a more substantial up-front investment to reduce poverty in Ontario."

In today's budget, as a centerpiece to a child poverty reduction plan, the government announced $2.1 billion in additional funding over five years to create a new Ontario Child Benefit (OCB) providing financial support for all low-income families; those on social assistance and those with employment income. The benefit will be $250 per child per year in 2007 with an investment of $190 million, growing to $1,100 per child per year in 2010 with an investment of $765 million. When paired with changes to social assistance, a single mother with one child would receive an additional $40 per month in 2007.

"The creation of a new Ontario Child Benefit is the right step for Ontario, as a platform for moving forward with improved financial support for all children living in poverty," said Spence. "But we will press the provincial government to ensure that the benefit is fully realized over a much shorter period of time."

The budget announcement also took small steps to improve social assistance and improve the lives of low-wage, low-income earners, which are in line with policy recommendations made by the OAFB. These changes include:

  • A new schedule of minimum wage increases going from $8.75 in 2008 to $9.50 in 2009 to $10.25 in 2010;

  • $25 million in new funding for childcare spaces in 2007 and $50 million in 2008; and

  • A 2% increase to the Ontario Works (OW) and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).

"We may have balanced the budget, but a significant social deficit remains," said Joanne Santucci, Executive Director of Hamilton Food Share and Vice-Chair of the OAFB. "We must make poverty reduction a stated aim of government, and take further actions to meet this goal, including: more substantial investments, aggressive targets for poverty reduction, a low-wage strategy, and improvements to the adequacy of social assistance."

The Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB) is a network of over 100 food banks including communities across the province from Ottawa to Windsor, and Niagara Falls to Thunder Bay. For more information about the OAFB, as well
as hunger and poverty in Ontario, please visit www.OAFB.ca.

 

United Ways of Ontario:

Budget Addresses Needs of Vulnerable Ontarians

TORONTO, March 22, 2007 - Ontario's most vulnerable citizens - low-income children and their families - received some welcome good news in Finance Minister Greg Sorbara's balanced Budget. "Those struggling to make ends meet have been waiting and hoping for this kind of opportunity to share in Ontario's prosperity", said Gayle Metson Chair of United Ways of Ontario, the umbrella group for Ontario's 46 local United Ways.

The centerpiece of the McGuinty government's 2007-08 Budget is a new 5-year, $1.2 billion Ontario Child Benefit (OCB). "Consolidating benefits for all low-income families with children under 18 will help level the playing field and removes some of the stigma associated with receipt of social assistance," said Metson. Starting in July 2007, the first instalment of the OCB will provide up to $250 per child. The Budget also increases Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program rates by 2%, and commits to increase the minimum wage by 75 cents annually for the next three years.

In addition, the Budget sprinkles around spending in a number of other areas that benefit low-income and vulnerable people, including increases in Legal Aid, accelerated delivery of affordable housing, more money for child care, community recreation programs, developmental services for people with disabilities, and improvements to the benefits for injured works.

"All and all, this Budget takes a number of important steps to improve Ontario communities and address the needs of those who need a helping hand, but more will be needed to reduce the growing gap between have and have-not Ontarians," concluded Metson.

 


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