Poverty as a Key Determinant of Health: Moving Toward an Ontario Where All May Live in Dignity
The time for Ontario to take action on a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy is now. The 2007 Ontario Budget with its introduction of the Ontario Child Benefit, the provincial election campaign that focused on poverty as a key issue, and the 2007 Throne Speech with its introduction of a new Cabinet Committee on Poverty Reduction – these are all signs of the growing political and social will to tackle poverty and social exclusion. We urge the government and opposition parties to build on this momentum to address the hardships of Ontarians who face a daily struggle for survival and dignity.
RNAO calls for:
• A meaningful, inclusive consultation process with a wide range of stakeholders including those with low income, the most seriously disadvantaged groups, policy thinkers, and community and civic leaders about what kind of targets, accountability measures, and policies will make a difference for Ontario.
• Setting bold but achievable targets for poverty reduction within a specific timeline, such as a 25 per cent reduction in poverty rates in five years and a 50 per cent reduction within ten years.
• Selecting accountability measures in order to measure progress is important but it should not delay implementing a long-term, coordinated, comprehensive plan with mechanisms for ongoing monitoring.
• Implementation of public policies that safeguard the health and dignity of all Ontarians by addressing key issues such as:
o Ensuring basic income support by increasing social assistance to reflect real costs of living and index to inflation.
o Promoting good jobs at living wages by increasing minimum wage; improving Employment Standards Act to cover precarious employment and improve enforcement of standards; and urge federal government to improve access to employment insurance.
o Increasing access to affordable housing.
• Investing the resources needed to meet the objectives of poverty reduction. In this year’s budget, we will be looking for a substantial down payment on a poverty reduction strategy, including:
o Significant increases in Ontario Works, ODSP and OCB rates in 2008 to make progress on having these rates reflect the actual cost of living in health and dignity in Ontario.
o An immediate increase of the minimum wage to $10 per hour in 2007 dollars, or $10.25 in 2008 dollars, and index to inflation.
o Ramp up provincial spending on affordable housing.
Adequate social assistance, living wages with enforced labour standards, and affordable housing are essential elements in the struggle against poverty.
More information, including references, may be found:
Briefing Note: Moving Forward With a Comprehensive Poverty Reduction Strategy for Ontario (January 2008) [PDF - 62 KB]
Walking the Walk on Poverty
Letter to Toronto Star (November 25, 2007)
Creating a Healthier Society: RNAO’s Challenge to Ontario’s Political Parties [PDF - 446 KB]
RNAO’s political platform for October 2007
The Ontario Election and You
Video Vignettes: Ontarians Share Their Experiences of Living in Poverty
25 in 5: Network for Poverty Reduction
Health Providers Against Poverty
Income Security Advocacy Centre