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Ontario Budget 2019: Deep cuts to social assistance, Indigenous Affairs, housing, and more

With a budget that mentions the word “poverty” zero times, the Provincial government has once again made its contempt for low and moderate income Ontarians clear.

ACORN members are deeply concerned that more social assistance cuts are in the pipeline after $1 billion was slashed from the Ministry of Children, Families and Social Services’ budget. Social assistance recipients have nothing left to give after rates were cut by 1.5% last year. We’re also concerned about plans to integrate employment supports for OW/ODSP recipients with Employment Ontario, and urge the government not to return to the failed workfare program of the past that hurt vulnerable Ontarians.

We strongly oppose the government’s plan to slash the budget for Indigenous Affairs by half. These cuts will have serious implications for our Indigenous communities.

We need bold action from the government to tackle housing affordability for low and moderate income renters. Unfortunately, although we are glad to finally see the Province commit to the National Housing Strategy, the funding falls short. $450 million per year, including federal loans, will not do enough to tackle the deep housing crisis that is sweeping across the Province. The budget lacks any details about how deeply affordable rental housing will be created. We’re also concerned about the Province’s plans to “streamline” the social housing waitlist. We urgently need more affordable housing, not a limit on the number of people who can apply for social housing. The budget for the Ministry of Housing has been cut by $300 million — what does that mean for low and moderate income renters? It’s also important not forget the Province gave MPPs a 20% housing allowance increase only this year.

Education and health care cuts will hurt the Province’s most vulnerable. Funding for health care is less than inflation and population growth; this will mean services will suffer. We do not support the government’s sweeping plans to restructure health care which will cost billions and lower the quality of our health care system. In addition, despite the government flaunting its seniors’ dental plan in the press this week, almost 95% of seniors won’t be covered as the program is limited to seniors earning $19,300 a year, or $32,300 for couples. Nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars is being cut from post secondary education and free tuition is being cut for low-income students. Universities and colleges are also being threatened with funding cuts if they don’t meet performance targets.

With the highest child care fees in the country, often over $15,000, Ontario parents need universal child care. The child care tax credit proposed by the Province is severely inadequate. We are disappointed that the maximum rate of 75% is only available to families earning less than $20,000; the rebate is also capped at $6,000. This will keep low and moderate income families in poverty. No information has been provided about funding to licensed child care.

Low and moderate income Ontarians who hoped for some meaningful measures in this budget to make life more affordable will be deeply disappointed.

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