TORONTO, October 16/06
Thirty years ago Canada signed the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Today, more than 1.6 million people in Ontario are still living in poverty. In its most recent review last May, the United Nations condemned both the federal and provincial governments for failing to address poverty in such a wealthy nation.
On Tuesday, October 17th, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, low-income people, anti-poverty groups, unions and community organizations will rally together at Queen’s Park to call for immediate action from the Ontario government. A press conference will be held at 10:30 am.
“As nurses, we see the extreme toll that poverty takes on people’s lives” says Doris Grinspun, executive director of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario. “Research shows clearly that poverty puts people at greater risk for sickness and premature death. If this government is truly committed to improving the health of Ontarians, then ending poverty has to become an immediate political priority,” she adds.
At the rally, the Ontario Coalition for Social Justice will release a report card grading the Liberal Government on their action in addressing the root causes of poverty and call on all political parties to develop a comprehensive anti-poverty strategy before the next provincial election.
“Getting a job is no ticket out of poverty” says Myriam Canas-Mendes, a single mom with two kids on social assistance. “I’m working part-time to help make ends meet and I still can’t get by. In a province as wealthy as Ontario, I shouldn’t have to go hungry so my kids can take healthier lunches to school.”
Yet poverty barely rated a mention in the last provincial budget notes Hugh Mackenzie, chief economist with the Ontario Alternative Budget, which creates a parallel Ontario budget every year aimed at creating an Ontario where everyone benefits. “Social assistance benefits are actually lower, when inflation is taken into account, than they were when the McGuinty government took office. That is simply shameful. The question isn’t ‘Can we afford to end poverty?’ Rather, it is ‘Can we afford not to.’ With the budget running well ahead of the government’s targets, Ontario can afford to end poverty. What’s needed is the political will.”