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  • Help us build a better Ontario September 14, 2017
    If you live in Ontario, you may have recently been selected to receive our 2017 grassroots poll on vital issues affecting the province. Your answers to these and other essential questions will help us decide what issues to focus on as we head towards the June 2018 election in Ontario. For decades, the CCPA has […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Does the Site C dam make economic sense for BC? August 31, 2017
    Today CCPC-BC senior economist Marc Lee submitted an analysis to the BC Utilities Commission in response to their consultation on the economics of the Site C dam. You can read it here. In short, the submission discussses how the economic case for Site C assumes that industrial demand for electricity—in particular for natural gas extraction […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Ontario's middle and working class families are losing ground August 15, 2017
    Ontario is becoming more polarized as middle and working class families see their share of the income pie shrinking while upper middle and rich families take home even more. New research from CCPA-Ontario Senior Economist Sheila Block reveals a staggering divide between two labour markets in the province: the top half of families continue to pile […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Join us in October for the CCPA-BC fundraising gala, featuring Senator Murray Sinclair August 14, 2017
    We are incredibly honoured to announce that Senator Murray Sinclair will address our 2017 Annual Gala as keynote speaker, on Thursday, October 19 in Vancouver. Tickets are now on sale. Will you join us? Senator Sinclair has served as chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), was the first Indigenous judge appointed in Manitoba, […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • How to make NAFTA sustainable, equitable July 19, 2017
    Global Affairs Canada is consulting Canadians on their priorities for, and concerns about, the planned renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In CCPA’s submission to this process, Scott Sinclair, Stuart Trew and Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood point out how NAFTA has failed to live up to its promise with respect to job and productivity […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
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The Progressive Economics Forum

Social Assistance in Ontario

Two weeks ago, the report of a government-appointed panel on Ontario’s social assistance system was made public.  The report, entitled “Recommendations for an Ontario Income Security Review,” was written by the 11-member Ontario Social Assistance Review Advisory Council, which had been struck in December 2009 by the McGuinty government. 

The Council had been asked to make recommendations on the “scope and terms of reference that would guide the development of [a] social assistance review.” In other words, members were charged with advising the McGuinty government on how to go about creating a process that would in turn advise the government on how to go about improving its social assistance system. (At least the McGuinty government can’t be accused of rushing this!)

I have two general comments on the report.  First, I was relieved to see it recommend that the Ontario Income Security Review “[d]evelop standards for a liveable income and a process to use those standards to assess the adequacy of Ontarians’ incomes.”

Such a recommendation may sound straightforward to some, but in fact it’s been well-known for years (especially since the mid-1990s) that welfare rates do not even come close to reflecting what a household needs to live in Ontario, most notably in a major urban centre.  Moreover, I have found that many policy dialogues over social assistance tend to stay clear of this specific topic all together, preferring instead to focus on more “publicly acceptable” policy objectives, such as reducing marginal tax rates for welfare recipients and increasing child benefits.  In other words, it seems much more appealing for some experts to focus on the so-called “deserving poor” (i.e. those who have a realistic shot at finding work or those with children) than it is to focus on the so-called “undeserving poor.” So, kudos to the panel for this recommendation!

My second observation has to do with the council’s assertion that “[t]he development of a housing benefit paid outside of social assistance should be a priority.” As I have argued elsewhere, I support the idea of a “housing benefit,” especially in response to a recession.  But I do hope that the advantages of building non-profit housing are not lost in this process.  Indeed, as I argued in a 2007 paper, building non-profit housing offers many benefits that “housing benefits” (similar to “rent supplements,” “shelter allowances” and “housing allowances”) do not.

Enjoy and share:

Comments

Comment from John Stapleton
Time: July 5, 2010, 9:47 am

Hopefully,a carefully designed Housing Benefit would go a long way to creating the climate needed to build affordable housing.

Comment from Dr. Fullmore
Time: July 10, 2010, 2:47 pm

In the context of the dangerous homeless crisis, public housing is urgently needed.

A housing benefit is only a tiny fraction of the solution, entirely incapable of solving our homelessness crisis.

but, is it a needed and laudable baby step.

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