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Conditions for Ontario poor worsened under McGuinty Liberals, anti-poverty groups challenge

TORONTO – Conditions for the poor in Ontario have worsened significantly under the McGuinty Liberals and because of the by-election, Vaughan voters have a rare opportunity to push the government to do something about it, anti-poverty groups said at a news conference September 4 outside the campaign headquarters of Liberal candidate Del Duca.

The Liberals like to paint themselves as a compassionate centrist party, but the reality is that they’ve abandoned people in this province who are struggling to feed their families,” said Carrie Lynn Poole-Cotnam, chair of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario’s social services workers coordinating committee. “We urge Vaughan voters to hold the Liberals accountable and to make poverty a key issue in these last days of the election.”

People on Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support have seen the spending power of their sub-poverty income decline by close to 60 percent since 1995. The reality is that low-income people in Ontario are far poorer today than they were when the Harris Tories left office.

With the provincial budget in the spring, the government increased rates by less than the rate of inflation and announced devastating cuts to social assistance benefits. These cuts included the elimination of the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit that provides vital support to 16,000 Ontarians who are moving into new housing or struggling to retain it.

The elimination of the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit seems calculated to hurt people when they are at their most vulnerable,” said John Clarke, organizer of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP). “It will increase the scale of homelessness in Ontario and removes the last shred of credibility from Liberal claims of ‘poverty reduction.’”

Poole-Cotnam and Clarke were joined at the press conference by Elizabeth Richer, director of the North Shore Tribal Council Niigaaniin Services, who addressed the effects on northern first-nations communities.

As the person responsible for providing last-resort financial assistance and for helping my people become employable, I was appalled when the provincial government chose to reduce the deficit on the backs of the poor, rather than by increasing taxes on the wealthy and on corporations that are sitting on billions of dollars,” she said. “It is more than a little ironic that this is being done by a government that came to power vowing to eradicate poverty.”

For more information, please contact:

Craig Saunders, CUPE Communications, 416-576-7316