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Toronto By freezing the minimum wage, eliminating rent controls, and slashing income supports for those in most need, the Ontario Tories have launched a concerted attack on poor people in this province for the past eight years in government, said Sid Ryan, the Ontario president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) at a Queens Park media conference today.

Ryan joined community and social justice activists and Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) president Buzz Hargrove, to highlight the Ontario Needs a Raise Coalitions province-wide day of action on June 5. The Coalition of anti-poverty activists aims to pressure the province to raise the minimum wage and to increase social assistance rates.

Its shameful and morally wrong that, in the most affluent Canadian province, this government has purposely marginalized the poor, and fostered a sentiment of gross inequality.

Millions of people in Ontario live below the poverty line. Some are the working poor, earning minimum wage. Some are single mothers on social assistance who, each month, have to decide whether to pay the rent, or feed their children. Driving people into abject poverty is unconscionable, said Ryan, who urged Ontarians to vote with their conscience in the coming election, turf out the Tories, and vote in a government that will increase the minimum wage, raise social assistance rates, and not turn their back on those in most need.

Ryan pointed out that since 2001, when the Ontario government signed the Affordable Housing Framework Agreement along with the federal government, not one single unit of affordable housing has been built in Ontario under the program. And since the elimination of rent controls in 1998, rents have soared by 19 per cent.

The housing shortage and homelessness are not just big-city Toronto problems, said Ryan.

Where I live in Durham, there are 5,000 families on the housing access waiting list. Since the Tories have been in government, only 175 assisted rental units have been built in the community, and nearly 4,000 adults and children used emergency hostels last year. Teachers and community agencies say there are hundreds of children going to school hungry every day.

Reducing poverty means an investment in stable, affordable housing, an increase in the shelter allowance for those on social assistance, and an immediate increase in the minimum wage for the working poor, added Ryan.


For more information please contact:
Sid Ryan, President, CUPE Ontario - (416) 209-0066
Stella Yeadon, CUPE Communications - (416) 578-8774