Response to the 2013 Ontario Budget

May 16 2013

The Poverty Free Kitchener-Waterloo Action Group has had an opportunity to review the Budget released May 2nd by the Ontario Government. Of particular interest were budget items related to poverty reduction and social assistance system changes. In general, the Budget language and tone suggest that the Government is attempting to address significant poverty and economic inequality issues in a respectful and non-stigmatising way. However, the details of the Budget fall short of real economic gains for those who are most vulnerable in our communities. Many of the implementation strategies presented in the Budget are vague or add an unnecessary step in the process. The result is likely postponement or avoidance of concrete effective remedies. In particular, the plan to establish panels to do further planning related to social assistance rates and minimum wage are not given what is known and has been proposed already. More direct and effective action could be taken now for example to raise the minimum wage and to index both the minimum wage and the social assistance rates to inflation. In addition, the emphasis on employment for those with disabilities has limited merit if there is not clear recognition that many are not, nor will they ever be, marketable in our current employment environment. The Poverty Free Kitchener-Waterloo group had provided input to the Ontario Government regarding priorities for social assistance changes prior to the Budget. This input included short and long term priorities as well as a framework for assessing nine outcomes for a successful social assistance system that had been developed through input from members of the Kitchener-Waterloo community. These were used as a guide to reviewing the 2013 Budget. The Group encourages all Members of Parliament, regardless of their political stripe, to support the 2013 Budget. There is no interest in having another provincial election. The Group prefers that all parties work together to address economic inequality that uses public funds wisely and invests in a fair and appropriate infrastructure – both physical and social. These will provide the foundation necessary for achieving prosperity in Ontario. We can no longer afford to ignore the needs of our most vulnerable community members. The 2013 Budget provides a small step in the right direction and is a basis on which to build toward the future.