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Waterloo, ON – Fed up with rising poverty and government inaction, the Raise the Rates campaign today marched to the Ontario Works and Regional Health building on Regina Street in Waterloo.

Poverty is getting worse in Ontario, and government policy is making it worse,” said Carrie Lynn Poole-Cotnam, chair of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario’s social service workers coordinating committee. “Social assistance rates need to go up by 55 percent just to catch up to where they were before the Harris government cuts. The Liberals are not just leaving people in poverty; they’re making it harder to get out by cutting programs like the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB).”

CUPE Ontario, PSAC Ontario and several anti-poverty groups are partners in the Raise the Rates Campaign. The rally today in Waterloo is part of a week of action around the province calling for an immediate 55 percent increase in social assistance rates, restoration of the CSUMB, maintaining separate Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support programs, and raising the minimum wage to $14.

The week of action will culminate with a provincial “convergence” in Sudbury on Saturday.

Across the province, people are fed up. We’ve had endless consultations. The government has spent years talking about poverty. Premier Wynne needs to actually do something to help the 1.5 million Ontarians struggling to get by on stagnant social assistance rates and in increasingly precarious work at a minimum wage that doesn’t even let a person live at the poverty line. Otherwise her only legacy as the ‘consultation premier’ will be more poverty.”

Anti-poverty groups are boycotting the Wynne government’s latest consultations on social assistance in Ontario. These follow another round of consultations last year, which resulted in the Lankin/Sheikh report.

“This government’s austerity agenda is having devastating effects on folks living in poverty in Ontario,” said Shannon Balla, spokesperson for Poverty Makes Us Sick, a grassroots anti-poverty organization in Kitchener/Waterloo. “We will not participate in yet another round of consultations. That would be colluding in the government’s lies about their commitment to poverty reduction. The truth is quite simple - they are taking away vital benefits and letting people fall further and further behind. It is time to stop the talk and take action against poverty.”

CUPE is Ontario’s community union, with members providing quality public services we all rely on, in every part of the province, every day. CUPE Ontario members are proud to work in social services, health care, municipalities, school boards, universities and airlines.

For more information, please contact:

Craig Saunders, CUPE Communications,
416-576-7317; csaunders@cupe.ca