The Stop’s mission is to increase access to healthy food in a manner that maintains dignity, builds health and community, and challenges inequality.
A crucial component of this work is advocating alongside our community members for bold policies that can alleviate poverty and finally remove the need for Band-Aid solutions like food banks.
The provincial government is currently accepting ideas from the public as they prepare their 2019 budget, and they’ve made their priorities clear: they’re interested in policies that “cut red tape for businesses and people who access government services, improve the way we deliver government programs or services, and save taxpayers’ money.”
Despite the popular narrative, investing in supportive policies for low-income people isn’t just a moral imperative—it’s efficient and cost-effective. Our short pre-budget submission makes the economic case for investing in the 500,000+ Ontarians who rely on emergency food services each year.
The Stop’s Pre-Budget Submission:
To the Honourable Victor Fedeli,
As an organization that advances long-term food security solutions for people living in poverty, we’ve seen firsthand the value of preventative measures in improving the quality, longevity, and dignity of people’s lives.
Strategic investments in the wellbeing of low-income Ontarians also fulfill your government’s stated mandate to “improve the delivery of government services” and “save taxpayers’ money.” According to the Ontario Association of Food Banks, poverty costs Ontario $32-$38 billion annually through associated costs in healthcare, shelter beds, and policing.[i]
Therefore, we ask that the government make the following strategic investments:
1. Adjusting Social Assistance Rates to Reflect the Real Costs of Living
People on OW/ODSP struggle to subsist on incomes that are nearly 50%/30% below the poverty line. This constant precarity puts them in no position to pursue education or sustainable employment. They’re much more concerned with where they’ll be living next week.
Investing in the province’s most vulnerable residents benefits all Ontarians: For every dollar spent increasing incomes, the economic return is $1.30—similar to the impact of investing in infrastructure. [ii]
2. Restoring the $15 Minimum Wage
Restoring the minimum wage at $15 is both popular (over 60% of Ontarians support it)[iii] and economically viable: Ontario’s unemployment rate hit an 18-year low after the increase to $14, and the predominantly minimum wage industries of accommodation and food services saw a 2.3% increase in job opportunities, compared with 1.5% for Ontario as a whole. [iv]
3. Creating a Portable Housing Benefit and/or Mandating Inclusionary Zoning
Most of our clients spend over 75% on their income on rent. Increasing access to permanent, affordable homes will reduce government spending on emergency shelters and associated health care costs, while providing low-income people greater economic power to use within their local economies.
A portable housing benefit is one useful tool to improve housing affordability, reduce homelessness, and modernize our income security system. Mandatory inclusionary zoning is another effective option that is closely aligned with your government’s mandate: it finances affordable housing without raising taxes.
4. Launching an Ontario Food Security Strategy
Investing in local, sustainable food production is an economic driver (Ontario’s food and beverage manufacturing sector is the third largest in North America, with revenues of more than $35 billion) and improves individual and community health and well-being. Therefore, we were delighted to hear about your government’s recent commitment to protecting the Greenbelt.
We ask that the government continue this support of strong local food systems by convening government agencies, businesses, First Nations and Indigenous communities, food security organizations, migrant food worker coalitions, and local communities to launch an Ontario Food Security Strategy that prioritizes integrated local food initiatives and social enterprises that improve access to sustainable, Ontario-grown food.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
[ii] See discussion of the multiplier impacts of investment in low-income benefits in federal 2016 budget papers at page 255: https://www.budget.gc.ca/2016/docs/plan/budget2016-en.pdf.
Write Your Own Budget Submission:
If you’re passionate about healthier, more sustainable, and more equitable communities, share your ideas (or copy ours) with the provincial government. You have until February 8th to submit your comments.