Greater Political, Public Focus Needed on Poverty

Less than two months after a whirlwind of a federal election and less than a year after the municipal elections, it is time to start thinking ahead to the October provincial election.

While some of us may be feeling defeated by the current political landscape, it is more important than ever to ensure that
poverty is an election issue and that poverty eradication is on the agenda of all political parties and candidates.

Last week, Statistics Canada released the 2009 poverty rates using the official poverty indicator (low income measure after tax, or LIM-AT) adopted by Ontario as part of its poverty-reduction strategy in 2008. The numbers tell a truth about the state of poverty in our province that cannot be ignored.

In 2009, the overall rate of poverty in Ontario was 13.1 per cent, up from 11.2 per cent in 2007 (the last provincial election year). This means the growth rate
of poverty in Ontario from 2007 to 2009 was a staggering 17 per cent — a figure that is substantially higher than for any other province.

While the growth rate for children living in poverty was lowest (3.5 per cent), the number of adults — particularly unattached males — and seniors who have fallen into poverty has skyrocketed. In 2009, 13.4 per cent of adults lived in poverty (a growth rate of 19.6 per cent since 2007) and 8.8 per cent of those aged 65 and over were below the LIM-AT (a growth rate of 41.9 per cent).

Ontario is the largest economy in Canada and is the leading manufacturing province. In 2010, the personal income of Ontarians was 39.1 per cent of Canada’s total. The average weekly wage rate was $848. These numbers beg the question — how, in a province as prosperous as ours, do we have poverty rates that are so astronomically high?

Well, consider this. In 2008, a single adult on Ontario Works received a benefit of $7,352 per year. That’s right, per year. That is $11,230 below LIM-AT.
Single adults receiving benefits from the Ontario Disability Support Program received $12,905 per year — or $5,677 below LIM-AT.

At current social-assistance rates, adults on Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program are condemned to deep poverty (below 80 per cent of the poverty line). Equally
alarming is the fact that at the current minimum wage, a person working full-time for the full year still does not escape poverty, making $1,064 below

On May 24, the Guelph and Wellington Task Force for Poverty Elimination invited the community to learn about and discuss the issues we need to push during the provincial election campaign to make poverty eradication possible. Representatives from the Social Planning Network of Ontario, the Stop Community Food Centre and the Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition shared ideas and inspired community involvement.

The poverty task force is joining with communities from across Ontario to vote for a poverty-free Ontario. This means advocating for a policy agenda that
aims to ensure that all Ontarians both in and out of the workforce have livable incomes. This means ending deep poverty by upgrading social assistance, ending working poverty by paying a basic minimum wage that would ensure that anyone working full-time for a full year would live above the poverty line and protecting food money by introducing a full housing benefit.

The poverty task force welcomes all community members to get involved with our efforts, to attend events and learning opportunities, to talk to candidates in Guelph and Wellington and to ask questions about their plans to eradicate poverty. For more information, please visit and

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