The persistence of deep poverty in this province is a scandal. Low-income Ontarians are being crushed by hydro and rent increases. Working people can’t pull themselves out of poverty because they do not earn a living wage, and Ontario’s desperately low social assistance rates leave families hungry, under-housed and sick. One in five children in my city of Hamilton live in poverty. Some 80% of Hamilton’s 20,000 food bank users are spending half or more of their monthly income on rent, up from 49% just one year ago. These people are at extreme risk of homelessness.
We need more social and affordable housing. We need a $15 minimum wage, and we need social assistance rates that meet peoples’ basic needs. This is what Ontarians need from this budget. The time to act is now.
A year ago today, I introduced legislation to tie social assistance rates to the actual cost of living in different Ontario communities. Twice, my bill has passed second reading, and for the second time it is stalled waiting in committee. People across this province are asking the government to back Bill 6. When will the government act? The government must act now.
The minister responsible for the Poverty Reduction Strategy and 24 of his colleagues voted for Bill 6 at second reading in September. It is imperative that they back up their votes with real action. Get Bill 6 to committee hearings now. I must also add that the first time my bill went through, there were even more Liberals who stood up—including the Premier—backing this bill, but it’s still sitting in committee. Something’s wrong, Speaker.
(Hansard: April 12, 2017)