Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful

OPRSToday, the Government of Ontario released the 2014-2019 Ontario Poverty Reduction Strategy. This follows up on the 2008-2013 Strategy, which I evaluated here and here. The previous strategy was focused on child poverty, and although the target of a 25% reduction in child poverty in Ontario was not achieved, 47,000 children and their families exited poverty. This new strategy takes a broader view on poverty and begins to address adult poverty as well. Here is my assessment of the strategy:

The Good

  1. The previous strategy was notable for its refined measurement tools and metrics that allowed easy tracking of progress on the strategy. This strategy promises to both do the same, and get even better at it.
  2. The $16M focused funding on supportive housing around mental health and addictions will have real, practical impact.
  3. The $50M Poverty Reduction Fund could be good, although we don’t know local allocation levels or much about how the fund will be accessed and used. Seeing the investment re-announced is good, we await with interest more details.

The Bad

  1. There aren’t actually a whole lot of new resources on the table here. The $42M increase to CHPI was already previously announced, and is great, but still doesn’t fully replace what was lost from CSUMB. The continuation of IAH and the Long-term Affordable Housing Strategy are good, but I consider the continuation of programs to be taken-for-granted in a majority government.
  2. There is no mention of an increase to social assistance rates. This has the most promise of changing the measure of vulnerable populations under the Low Income Measure (LIM). Although it has increased over recent years, or is announced to increase, by $50, this is still short of the SARC recommendation of a $100 increase.

The Beautiful

  1. The Government of Ontario with this Strategy has aligned itself with many Canadian municipalities as well as the Government of Canada in setting a goal of ending homelessness. This goal is possible, and having all orders of government focused on it will be incredibly helpful.
  2. A number of the components in the previous strategy have now been permanently entrenched in the budget process. In particular, child benefits and minimum wage will now inflate automatically on an annual basis. This will mean keeping ahead in the future.