Last week McGuinty’s Liberal government announced their budget for 2010, bringing about a disastrous and inhumane set-back for people already struggling to make ends meet in Canada’s most populated province. The Government’s claim that they are increasing social assistance rates by 1% is deceiving. The 1% actually replaces previous 2% per year increases that barely covered the rising costs of living. The claim that it is an increase has created anger and further distrust in the current Government within communities across Toronto. As one community member commented, “You must think we are all simpletons. 1% is NOT a raise, it’s a cut and it still keeps people under the poverty line. What would you do with $5.91?” (The dollar equivalent for a single person receiving welfare.) Further, the cuts to social assistance put recipients at an even greater disadvantage as the cost of the items they spend their money on (i.e. housing, food, transportation) continue to rise. They also face greater risk of acquiring or exacerbating chronic health conditions. So much for preventing health care costs.
Many Ontarians are barely surviving on social assistance rates as they currently stand and it is expected that over 40,000 more Ontarians will become recipients of social assistance in the next year. There is overwhelming disappointment and disgust with Mr. McGuinty’s deceit of Ontarians at this crucial time of economic uncertainty, as he opts to turn his back on his own poverty reduction strategy.
The evidence is undeniable: there is a vast and inexcusable gap between the level of benefits received by people on social assistance and their ability to meet their basic food requirements along with other necessities of life. A single person receiving welfare must pay rent and for all other necessities out of a maximum $591/month. The eradication of the Special Diet program (also in this budget) takes away the one thing people had left in trying to put healthy food on the table in order to manage illness. The budget’s failure to provide Toronto with any of the promised public transit will also continue to marginalize and economically isolate a growing population of people living in areas where transit is less accessible and more infrequent.
Cuts to essential programs such as the Special Diet Allowance and social assistance rates punish people who the Government believes are abusing the system. What proof do they have? With the provincial government’s refusal to do anything about the growing number of people who are hungry and not able to meet their daily living requirements, it is NOT US abusing the system. We are being abused by the system!