Submission to the Cabinet Committee on Poverty Reduction and Social Inclusion on Ontario’s Next Five-Year Poverty Reduction Strategy
The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing nurses, in all settings and roles across Ontario. It is the strong credible voice leading the nursing profession to influence and promote healthy public policy.
As RNAO outlined in Creating Vibrant Communities: RNAO’s Challenge to Ontario’s Political Parties, there is both a strong human rights rationale and compelling public health evidence that demands collective action on the social inequities that drive health inequities. It is completely unacceptable that in a province as affluent as Ontario that there could be a twenty-one year difference in life expectancy in the five kilometer distance between a high-income and a low-income neighbourhood in Hamilton. Just as we now strive to base decisions on how best to improve an individual’s health condition based on evidence and how to improve health-care services based on evidence, it is imperative that the Government of Ontario use clear evidence to reduce the avoidable and unnecessary premature deaths due to poverty and income inequality. This international multi-disciplinary evidence been compiled by the World Health Organization’s Commission on the Social Determinants of Health. There is an international consensus that “governments have a responsibility for the health of their peoples, which can be fulfilled only by the provision of adequate health and social measures.”
Consistent with the evolving global understanding that health inequities can only be reduced through comprehensive, multi-sectoral action, RNAO congratulates the Government of Ontario for its creation of the Cabinet Committee on Poverty Reduction and Social Inclusion. RNAO’s evidence-informed recommendations continue to be based on the fundamental principles of equity; dignity; accountability, transparency, democracy; upstream, visionary policies; fairness and respect for our first peoples; and health and health care for all:
- Revisions to Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy will be strengthened by implementing lessons learned from the comprehensive health equity improvements demonstrated by the Health in All Policies initiatives in other jurisdictions, particularly the Nordic countries.
- It is time to move away from the politics and policies of austerity that have increased hardship across the globe, including Ontario, to investing in what Ontarians need to live in health and dignity. Abandoning the politics and policies of austerity is the responsible approach both morally and fiscally. The direct and indirect effects of fiscal reductions could reduce Ontario’s GDP by a total of 3 per cent over the next few years exacerbating current concerns about impacts on employment, education, health care, child care, and the most vulnerable Ontarians with funding cuts to the Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit. RNAO continues to recommend that governments ensure fiscal capacity to deliver essential social, health, and environmental services by building a more progressive tax system and revenue sources that encourage social and environmental responsibility.
- Increase the minimum wage so that paid work is a pathway out of poverty. Raise the minimum wage to 10 per cent above the Low Income Measure (LIM) or $14 per hour in 2013 and then automatically index it annually to the rate of inflation.
- Reform Ontario’s social assistance system so that it reflects the actual cost of living. In addition to transforming the dangerously low social assistance rates, it is imperative that proposed transformations to the social assistance system be done in a transparent, comprehensive, inter-ministerial way. RNAO encourages the government to address the concerns raised by the ODSP Action Coalition in the differential application of the 1 per cent rate increase to family receiving ODSP benefits and in the submission by the Income Security Advocacy Centre.
- Increase access to affordable housing, supportive housing, and address homelessness.
- As proud members of these community coalitions, RNAO endorses the submissions prepared by Campaign 2000 and the 25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction.
- Improve health care services to socially excluded, low-income, and all Ontarians by replacing fee-for-service and incentives for physicians with compensation models that support interprofessional collaboration such as salaries for all health care professionals.
As RNAO stated in our open letter to Premier Wynne, Ontario’s nurses implore the government to accelerate poverty reduction efforts in our province so that all Ontarians can have a fair chance at good health and well-being.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide these recommendations and work together for a stronger, healthier, more vibrant province.