March 21, 2007 My name is Mary Lou Reiman and this is Beverley Langley. We are here on behalf of the Campaign for Adequate Welfare and Disability Benefits and we are the voice for the 100,000 people in Hamilton living in poverty. We thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today.
We are a non-partisan, grassroots organization working to better the lives of all those suffering the debilitating effects of poverty. We are doing this through lobbying various levels of government: - for an adequate increase in social assistance allowances and disability benefits; for more humane, respectful government systems and treatment of people; for a living wage that reflects the real cost of living; for adequate shelter allowances and special benefits such as the special diet supplement. (In your package you will find a comprehensive statement of our goals.)
We would like to recognize some important decisions that have been made in Hamilton –The rightful return of the city’s portion of the national child benefit to families on social assistance, the social inclusion policy and your intention to address bus fare rate reductions for those in need - and, working together with the Community Foundation on the Poverty Roundtable. These are major steps and we applaud you.
Although we appreciate all that is being done in Hamilton, none of our community strategies will make a great difference over the long run, to people that are hungry, that can’t pay the rent or that face homelessness - unless we work with the other two levels of government – provincial and federal – to change policies that negatively affect the lives of the people; to have them follow through on promises or commitments made at election time - and to establish measurable strategies and plans that will eradicate poverty.
We believe that working together is the best way to get the full attention and response of the other two levels of government and that it is part of the municipal government’s responsibility to do so. There are so many areas to be addressed provincially and federally: the right to an adequate standard of living, affordable housing, homelessness, child care, hunger, Employment Insurance, the claw-back of the national child benefit, opportunities for skills development and education–etc. (These are listed more specifically for both levels of Gov. in the package.)
You are our elected representatives, and we urge you to lobby on behalf of the 20% of our citizens who are not being heard and essentially being ignored by provincial and federal governments.
We ask that you will consider a motion wherein you will commit to develop strategies for ongoing lobbying in the areas we have addressed and that are more fully described in your packages. We want to work with you – to communicate and make decisions that will help Hamilton truly be the best community to live in.
Governments in and out of Canada are developing measurable strategies to reduce or eliminate poverty such as the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec and the countries of New Zealand, United Kingdom, Ireland and Sweden. Let us be the first Ontario community to do so.
At our bi- monthly meetings we hear stories regularly from our members and so many others who suffer the effects of poverty. People do not want to be on social assistance. They are generally in need because of disability, loss of spouse or unemployment. People work when structural barriers such as unemployment, inadequate child care arrangements, food and housing insecurities and illness don’t stand in the way.
Beverly is here today to share her story and to put a face on the reality of the suffering (Beverly’s story) ………………………………
-----Once again we urge you to consider a motion to establish ongoing strategic lobbying at the other levels of government on behalf of the 100,000 of our community members living in poverty.
(Please see the following two pages for provincial and federal areas for address
Reinstate the Special Diet Supplement ASAP to everyone from whom it was taken away and make it easier for those requiring special diet support to get the help they need.
Eliminate the barriers to employment that keep people in the welfare trap
Involve the people in poverty in decision making on income security policy reform
Change the system to assure a more sensitive, humane, empathetic approach towards the recipients of social services.
N.B. see the Campaign for Adequate Welfare and Disability Benefits’ Statement of Goals for more specific areas of address.
…. 2(Federal Concerns)
Areas to be Addressed
The creation of a National Anti-Poverty Strategy with targets and time lines and including a co-ordinate plan of action, accountability and the establishment of official poverty indicators (As per other countries)
Reinstate the federal minimum wage at $10.00 (at the very least) and index it to the cost of living.
Improve the EI system by reducing qualifying hours and increasing benefits
Increase the investment in child care
Increase and provide long-term federal commitment to social housing
Raise the National Child Benefit and end claw-backs of this benefit to families on social assistance
Increase the Canada Social Transfer to provinces supported by accountability and welfare rights legislation.
Initiate a reform of the social assistance system in co-operation with the provinces to raise benefits and improve integration with other programs
. From: -The National Council of Welfare – Solving Poverty – Winter 2007
Canadian Association of Food Banks Proposal to effectively eradicate hunger in Canada.
CAMPAIGN FOR ADEQUATE WELFARE AND DISABILITY BENEFITS
PRESENTATION TO THE EMERGENCY AND SOCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEEMARCH 21, 2007