Ontario deserves a living wage

To our Federal Party Leaders,

Justin Trudeau, Jagmeet Singh, Erin O’Toole, and Annamie Paul

Our communities are in crisis. Many of our organizations — our shelters, drop-in programs, food centers and volunteer-led mutual aid projects — are struggling to meet an increased need. For decades, we have been running on little to no government funding while piecemeal fighting the multi-faceted and deeply-troubling symptoms of systemic poverty. Local governments can no longer exploit the good will of volunteers and grassroots organizations providing basic humanitarian aid. Our efforts to support community members and service users must be met with significant investments in the social safety nets that people in Canada depend on.

We are a coalition of Ontario-based non-profit organizations, charities, community organizations and grassroots mutual aid projects who have done everything we can to support our neighbours. Throughout the pandemic we’ve seen a dramatic increase in those looking to access safe spaces, meal programs, housing supports and other basic necessities. Our organizations provide vital, life-supporting aid to people in Ontario through food security work and meal delivery programs; street outreach and case management; advocacy, frontline-supports and crisis intervention related to housing, homelessness and other forms of extreme poverty in our communities.

This election season we call on you to commit to fighting systemic poverty by:

  1. Investing in social assistance programs that provide the equivalent to living wages to program beneficiaries instead of keeping people in poverty.
  2. Guaranteeing a federal minimum wage that is a living wage.

Here is what the situation looks like right now in Ontario:

A single adult on Ontario Works will only receive $733 this month ($8,796 annually) to cover all their expenses. Annually, this is 20% of what the Ontario Living Wage Network has established is a living wage in Toronto.

A single recipient of the Ontario Disability Support Program (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. Annually, this is less than 33% of what the Ontario Living Wage Network has established is a living wage in Toronto.

A single person making minimum wage right now, working 40 hours per week, will need to cover all their costs with only $1,913 this month, or $29,120 a year. Annually, this is 67% of what the Ontario Living Wage Network has established is a living wage in Toronto.

The Ontario Living Wage Network has advocated for a living wage that reflects the cost of living a full and vibrant life in urban centers like Toronto. The current living wage in Toronto is calculated at $22.08 per hour, which is $2,867 a month or just over $42,900 a year. For those on social assistance or not making a living wage, living in Toronto is even more difficult, often impossible, without relying on community programs and mutual aid projects for support. It is no wonder that so many families and individuals turn to us for help.

With a federal election underway, we are writing to affirm that we need all levels of government to commit to providing a living wage for our most vulnerable community members: those on social assistance and those paid minimum wage. Our organizations can no longer be scapegoated as band-aid solutions to the symptoms of extreme poverty. It shouldn’t be necessary for food banks and other social assistance services to ask governments to commit to helping those who are experiencing poverty; before, after, or during a global pandemic.

Local governments continue to rely on our organizations as solutions to systemic issues like poverty, homelessness, food insecurity and other societal problems. Without meaningfully investing in systemic changes like living wages and adequate social assistance, we will continue to see income inequality in this nation worsen despite the best efforts of nonprofits; the housing crisis will continue to push our communities into an overcrowded and underfunded shelter system; the opioid epidemic will continue to ravage our communities and the death toll will continue to rise; our communities will continue to lack access to healthy food, water and other basic necessities.

To reiterate, this election season we call on you to commit to investing in social assistance programs that provide the equivalent to living wages to program beneficiaries instead of keeping people in poverty and guarantee a federal minimum wage that is a living wage.

By not increasing social assistance rates and the minimum wage, you are keeping people in extreme poverty. We’re calling on all federal candidates to fight for a living wage for all people in Canada. This election season we ask you to use your power and influence to support, protect and uplift our most vulnerable community members: immediately pass measures ensuring living wages for all as well as investments in social assistance programs across the country that meet this threshold.

Sincerely,

The Stop Community Food Centre and the Ontario Living Wage Network

We need you to join the call for living wages for all. This will most impact our most vulnerable community members.

Signed by:

Organizations:

Afghan Youth Toronto 
All Things Equitable Inc.
Farmer and Chef
Feed Ontario
FoodShare Toronto
Fred Victor
Mabelle Food Program
Meadowvale East Apostolic Church
Meal Exchange
Oasis Dufferin Community Centre
Parkdale Community Food Bank
POOF Protecting ODSP OW Funding
Poverty Reduction Committee of Islington United Church
Telstar Motel
The Local Community Food Centre
The Neighbourhood Group Community Services
The Sprott Foundation
Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre
Toronto Drop-In Network
Vohra-Miller Foundation
YWCA Toronto

Individuals:

Amie Scott
Ana Ramos
Carly Checholik
Charlotte Healey
Christopher Jess
Clive Anderson
Crystal Sinclair
Cynthia Nault
Daina Nakrosius
Danielle Scarpino
Dennis Cartwright
Don Kerr
Elin Marley
Emily Rooks
Erin Beckett
Felicia Giosa
Gayle Little
Hannah Conover-Arthurs
Hannah Skinner
Heather McLean
Helena Pamic
Ileana Murray
Jennifer Vachon
Judith Kaufman
Katie German
Lanna K Kay Bryan
Lindy Chan
Mark Atanasoff
Matthew Roy
Michael Leishman
Nancy McCowan
Natalie Talmi
Nicole Brum
Paul Parillo
Rachael Kearns
Robert Kent
Conway Roxana
Erazo S. Paulson
Sarah Anne Gillis
Sarah Mayell
Valerie Smith
Vanessa Wong
W. Y. Alice Chan

Toronto is increasingly unaffordable - can you afford to live here? Take our living wage quiz here to find out!

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