This piece was originally published in The Toronto Star. To read the full piece, click here
With a municipal election fast approaching, it is imperative to turn to our city councillor candidates and ask: what public policy measures will you champion to significantly address poverty in Toronto? While it is easy to try to shift responsibility onto the province and the premier, there is an insufficient amount of support from our municipal representatives on essential public policy priorities. The City of Toronto should feel accountable to all its constituents, and voice support for key initiatives, collaborate with the province and prioritize additional supports for people living in poverty.
With a recession looming, the one in four Torontonians who struggle to make ends meet will have an even harder time surviving in the city. At The Stop Community Food Centre, we have seen the concrete impacts of stagnant social assistance rates, incredibly expensive housing, social isolation and food insecurity. More and more people are turning to our emergency food services — more than ever before, in fact.
At The Stop, we believe food is a tool that brings people together. Social connection fosters belonging, and belonging can lead to empowerment. Food is political, and in Canada people are being pushed deeper into poverty through poor policy choices by our elected officials.
Living in Toronto has become unbearable for those who are low-income.
I am calling on all municipal candidates to champion the public policy priorities of our community, Davenport West. When we surveyed over 200 service users last year, we found two-thirds of them are on some form of social assistance, while 62 per cent spend more than half their income on housing. Unfortunately, living in Toronto has become unbearable for those who are low-income; half of the surveyed service users access our services at least weekly.
A single adult on Ontario Works will only receive $733 this month ($8,796 annually) to cover all their expenses. A single recipient of ODSP will get $1,169 to cover all their needs this month, regardless of the additional medical or housing requirements that come with living with a mental or physical disability. That is $14,028 a year. People making minimum wage right now, working 40 hours per week, are well under the city’s living wage. Councillors: we desperately need your support in fulfilling The Stop’s vision of a food-secure city. The pandemic has forced millions of Canadians into deep food insecurity, and we have yet to see meaningful progress on the policies that could offer relief — namely: rent control, decent work and higher social assistance rates. Will you champion increasing social assistance rates to the living wage rate set by the Ontario Living Wage Foundation, $43,000, at a municipal and provincial level? For social assistance rates to be indexed against the cost of living? Will you fight for vacancy control and rent geared to income?
Organizations like ours are past their breaking point with the increased demand, inflation hitting our budgets, burnout and little to no government supports. We are counting on you to make Toronto an inclusive, livable, affordable place to live, work and build community.
Written by our Director of Development and Communications, Maria Rio.
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