Definition: End poverty in all its forms everywhere
- By 2030, reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions
- Implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors, and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable
List of Policy Changes and Cuts:
- Changed conditions and funding to the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)
- Cancelled the Basic Income Pilot Project
- Reduced funding to children’s aid societies
- Introduced the Ontario Childcare Access and Relief from Expenses (CARE) tax credit
- Retroactively cancelled cuts to childcare, and increased funding
- Changed rent control conditions
Reducing poverty involves protecting all individuals throughout their lifecycle by instituting universal social protection systems according to the Sustainable Development Goals. There were a range of changes in Ontario that aligned with this SDG. People living solely on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) live at or below the poverty line, while those who rely on Ontario Works (OW) live below the poverty line. ODSP provides up to $1,169 a month for anyone living with a disability or illness that prevents them from working full-time. OW pays $733 a month and is geared to those without disabilities, who are expected to work in the future. Both OW and ODSP recipients will receive a 1.5 per cent increase in their income, however that is a rollback from previously planned 3 per cent increase. There are also plans to change the eligibility criteria for access to ODSP which may result in some OSDP recipients shifting over to OW.
Further, the clawback on income earned by people receiving social assistance has increased from 50 to 75 per cent. This means that 75 per cent of any earnings over $6,000/year for someone on OSDP, and $300/month for someone on OW, is taken in tax.
The basic income pilot project was developed to try to find a new way to counter poverty. It provided approximately 4,000 households with a supplemental income. Under the program, low-income recipients received a maximum of $16,989 per year, while couples received up to $24,027. There have been reports of negative individual outcomes resulting from the cancellation of the program such as former recipients being left unable to pay lease agreements to landlords, and recipients who had enrolled in school but could no longer afford to attend. Beyond the implications to those enrolled in the pilot project, there was also disappointment expressed from the research community globally. One of the pillars of the project was rigorous data collection to evaluate the effects that a basic income would have on recipients. The research team associated with the project planned to look at different measures to determine whether recipients’ quality of life had improved, according to health and employment outcomes, food security and financial well-being[i].
Children’s aid societies, who support at risk and vulnerable children, had funding reduced. Being able to provide an adequate safety network for vulnerable youth is critical in preventing them from living in violent, inhospitable and neglectful conditions. Other changes pertaining to children come under the Ontario Childcare Access and Relief from Expenses (CARE) tax credit, providing a maximum of $6,000 per child under seven and $3,750 per child between the ages of seven and 16 to families whose income is less than $20,000. The tax credit can be applied to all forms of childcare — whether provided by licensed daycare facilities, in-home caregivers, nannies or babysitters. While introducing reforms around childcare and subsidies are positive steps, this tax credit may still not be enough. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives reported last year that daycare fees in major cities across Ontario can be prohibitively expensive. Annual full-time daycare costs for children in GTA cities such as Brampton, Mississauga, and Vaughan, for example, can run upwards of $14,000 per year; in Toronto, the cost is closer to $20,000 per year[ii].
Another notable change over the past year has been the weakening conditions on rent control. Under the new legislation, newly built or newly-converted rental housing units will not be subject to rent control rules. Landlords would have no legally set limit on how much the rent can be increased from year to year. Housing is regarded as the number one determinant of health and the impact of this change on health and well-being will be felt by a large proportion of Ontarians.
Strong welfare systems and other social protection programs are critical to mitigating inequity. A range of inequities contribute to poor health outcomes, and retracting investments into social protection programs will only exacerbate those outcomes even further.
[i] Government of Ontario. (2017). Ontario Basic Income Pilot Project. Retrieved June 29, 2019, from https://www.ontario.ca/page/ontario-basic-income-pilot.
[ii] MacDonald, D., and Friendly, M. (2016). A Growing Concern: 2016 Child Care Fees in Canada’s Big Cities. Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Retrieved June 28, 2019, from https://www.policyalternatives.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/publications/National%20Office/2016/12/A_Growing_Concern.pdf.