Ford’s Government is clear about one thing: low-income Ontarians are under attack

“The fiscal hole is deep… Everyone across the province will be required to make sacrifices, without exception”.

Finance Minister Vic Fedeli further emphasized the government’s plan to attack Ontario’s most vulnerable as he announced tax breaks for the rich and a series of cuts and rollbacks that will gut protections for low-income Ontarians.

ACORN members are deeply disappointed that the government is axing rent controls for newly built and newly converted units. This will further exacerbate the housing affordability crisis in Ontario cities — we need to build more affordable housing, not give greedy landlords free rein. ACORN members are outraged that Ford has backpedaled on the promise he made to renters during his campaign: “I won’t take rent control away from anyone. Period.” Along with allies, we fought for and won the closure of the 1991 rent control loophole. We have serious concerns that the current government’s regressive policy could mean that already vulnerable renters will be priced out.

We note that the government has pledged to develop a Housing Supply Action Plan and has committed to public consultation. The government must ensure that meaningful consultation is conducted with underrepresented Ontarians: too often, low-income tenants are left out of policy discussions that impact them.

The government announced the new Low‐income Individuals and Families Tax (LIFT) credit, promoting it as a generous tax cut. Apparently, low-income workers who earn less than $30,000 per year won’t pay income tax as a result of the LIFT program. ACORN members can see through this. Most low-income workers earn so little that they are not required to pay income tax, and would benefit more from a higher minimum wage. Analysts project that low-income earners would be up to $824 better off each year with a $15/hour minimum wage than with an income tax cut [1]. ACORN members strongly oppose Ford’s plan to scrap the legislated increase to the minimum wage, along with other protections for vulnerable workers.

The government was silent on promises that had been made by the previous government including transit investments, and free, licensed child care for children aged two and a half and above. Low-income tenants were also disappointed to see no money for energy and building retrofits, after the government scrapped cap and trade earlier this year, resulting in a loss of up to $900 million for Ontario apartment buildings.

We were shocked to learn that Ford has repealed the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, and the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. The scrapping of both of these roles will have a lasting impact on low-income Ontarians. The Advocate for Children is independent of government and ensures the voices of children and young people are heard on important issues such as welfare, mental health, disabilities, and more. The environmental commissioner is tasked with ensuring the government complies with provincial environmental laws. Low-income people are disproportionately impacted by environmental inequality. In cutting these roles, it couldn’t be clearer that the province is waging a war on the province’s most vulnerable.

There were no updates for OW and ODSP recipients who are anxiously awaiting November 22nd, when the outcome of the government’s 100-day social assistance review is revealed. Almost 1 million social assistance beneficiaries have been left waiting to hear what additional cuts the government has in store for them. What was evident from today’s announcement is that cuts are on their way: the government reiterated their intention to focus on employment over assistance and the social services budget has been cut by $900 million. What staff or programs will be scrapped as a result?

Coupled with the recent cuts to social assistance rates and other measures that will make life more unaffordable for low-income people, it is clear that vulnerable Ontarians are under attack.

[1] Richard Tranjan: Who benefits from tax cuts in lieu of a $15 minimum wage? Not workers

Ford ignores the fact social assistance is a necessity for many

Hinting at government’s appetite for a workfare system, Ford said, “The best way to help people out of poverty is something called a job”

Article by CBC

Ontario’s premier said Thursday cancelling the basic income pilot project was a “simple” matter of saving money.
“It was very simple, it cost $17 billion dollars,” Doug Ford said during an appearance at the Resolute Forest Products pulp and paper mill. “It’s not realistic.”

“The best way to help people out of poverty is something called a job,” he said. “A good paying job.”

Ford’s appearance on Thursday drew protests from people against the early cancellation of the basic income pilot; Thunder Bay was one of the three communities to participate in the three-year project. The PC government announced this summer it would end the project early, in March 2019.

The program was started under the previous Liberal government, which said the cost for the pilot was $150 million over three years.

However, when the PCs took power, they pegged the cost at $17 billion a year if it was expanded to the entire province.

Ford was in Thunder Bay to announce an investment of more than $53 million into Resolute’s northwestern Ontario operation, including the Thunder Bay mill.

No provincial money
However, none of that money is provincial; it’s all being put forward by Resolute Forest Products, part of a budgetary process that goes back a few years, long before the PCs formed the provincial government.

Ford said his appearance at the mill was about building relationships, and letting the “people of Thunder Bay and Resolute know we’re behind them.”

“They’ve been fighting so many regulations and bureaucracy over the years,’ Ford said. “We’re here to say we’re behind you, we support you, we’re building a relationship, and that’s what I think the most important thing is.”

Ford said he’d eliminate what he called “nasty” barriers in the mining and forestry sectors.

“Who are better stewards in their own industry than these folks, than Resolute and companies like Resolute, that want to make sure that we have a thriving forestry business?” Ford said. “When the government gets involved in business, they get in the way of business to thrive.”

‘Green energy scam’
When asked about cancelling the Green Energy Act — which directly affects the Thunder Bay pulp and paper mill, which hosts a co-gen plant — Ford called it the “green energy scam.”

“It was the biggest transfer of money from the poor and middle-class to the political insiders I’ve ever seen,” Ford said. “Ever, in the history of Canada.”

He called the carbon tax the “worst tax ever,” and the cap-and-trade “terrible, too.”

Ford said the government will fight the carbon tax “all the way up to the Supreme Court.”

Ford did say the government is open to talking to the Thunder Bay police about funding to combat guns and gangs in the city, and that the PCs are “working on” completing the four-laning of the highway between Thunder Bay and Nipigon.

“You’ll hear from our minister of transportation over the next week or so,” he said.

Even the most vulnerable Ontarians will be impacted by Ford government cuts

Ontario’s Finance Minister, Vic Fedeli indicated today that the province is going to face severe cuts, as the government announced it is working to close a $15 billion deficit.

According to Minister Fedeli, “The task ahead is not an easy one. The hole is deep and it will require everyone to make sacrifices without exception.”

ACORN members are deeply concerned about what low-income families will be expected to sacrifice.

Promised rate increases have already been slashed for ODSP and OW recipients, up to $500 million for social housing retrofits has been cut, and Ford has promised to roll back the minimum wage increase set to take place on January 1st.

In a province where rents have risen by almost thirty per cent in the past ten years and the cost of living is skyrocketing, many low-income community members can barely afford to make ends meet, never mind absorb cuts to their income or essential services.

It looks likely that low-income communities are once again going to be the target of this government’s harsh cuts.

ACORN members will continue to be key leaders in the fight back to make sure Ontario is an affordable, livable province for low and moderate income people.

Ford Watch: Cuts to recent increase in social assistance by 1.5%

The Ontario PCs have announced they are slashing a planned increase to social assistance rates. Around 940,000 OW and ODSP recipients were promised an increase of 3 per cent in the most recent Liberal budget, due to take effect in fall 2018. However, in an apparent bid to ram through cuts, the government has set a 100-day deadline to implement a series of reforms, including cutting the planned OW and ODSP rate increase from 3 per cent to 1.5 per cent and ending the basic income pilot.

With a small number of exceptions, the government has announced that all other initiatives passed in the previous budget will be scrapped. Other planned changes that are being thrown out include: an increase in the amount of employment income that can be earned without impacting social assistance benefits, set to rise to $400 per month in fall 2018 and with further increases planned; elimination of TFSA and RRSP savings limits; and increases to limits on cash and other assets. The personal needs allowance increase is being cut from a planned 2 per cent to 1.5 per cent. There is no mention of an increase to the comfort allowance, which was set to be raised by 2 per cent.

The government has indicated it aims to focus on employment over social assistance, “helping people lift themselves out of poverty”, but has refused to say whether this means a return to the workfare program adopted by the Ontario Conservative government of the nineties.

Scrapping of cap and trade revenues a big loss for Ontario tenants badly in need of apartment retrofits

ACORN started door knocking in 2004 in Toronto, Ottawa and Hamilton. Since then we have facilitated 20 – 40 minute house visits with over 150,000 of the lowest income tenants across these three cities. During each visit we ask, “What is the biggest issue you would like to see changed?” Undoubtedly, the most common issue we hear about is the substandard state of both public and private housing. Leaking pipes causing mice, rats, cockroaches, bedbugs, and mould; as well as poorly insulated windows leading to freezing temperatures in the winter and extreme discomfort due to heat in the summer are common issues experienced by low-income tenants.

For many vulnerable people, substandard units lead to negative health outcomes, such as asthma, stress, diseases carried by bugs, and more. In addition, it is incredibly difficult for people to even consider carbon emissions when they have no option but to heat their apartment with their oven, or have faulty windows that need to be left open while running air conditioning units. In the previous government’s Climate Change Action Plan, tenants were promised $385 million to $500 million for social housing retrofits, plus $300 to $400 million in incentives for retrofits in other private apartment buildings, funded through cap and trade revenues.

The diversion of this money away from retrofits represents a huge loss for hundreds of thousands of tenants across the province. We are concerned about the ripple effect that substandard housing will have on tenants, and anticipate an increase in socioeconomic and health inequality as a result of this funding cut. Research has shown that every $1 million spent on social housing retrofits generates energy savings of $1.3 million – $3.9 million, as well as additional benefits to residents, such improved wellbeing. Without this money, the province’s most vulnerable tenants will be forced to continue living in substandard units that are up to 25% less energy-efficient than houses.

Marva Burnett
President, ACORN Canada