ISAC was advised this morning that our budget will be cut by 25% over the next two years. We have been directed to de-prioritize law reform and community development work. This cut is a direct attack on low-income people in this province, including the social assistance recipients and low-income workers that ISAC serves. The cuts will undermine the ability of low-income Ontarians to challenge unfair laws and policies that violate their rights and that keep them in poverty.
ISAC and other specialty clinics are being singled out for doing our job too well; simply because our policy and organizing work shines a necessary light on the failings of Ontario’s social assistance programs and worker protections. We bring together people in our communities who are affected by changes to social assistance, so that the government can hear their voices directly and better understand the potential impact of proposed program changes and decisions.
ISAC has worked for over a decade with community legal clinics, the ODSP Action Coalition and other community partners to resist government cuts to social assistance and to make improvements to such programs. And we have been successful. Together, we saved the special diet allowance and the work-related benefit, helping those living in deep poverty with their struggle to survive. We work with the most vulnerable, including migrant workers who are fighting for rights and dignity in their jobs.
The Ontario government has targeted legal clinics such as ISAC at a time when the government is taking $1B out of the pockets of low-income people, including making cuts to the Transition Child Benefit, and as they plan to make disability benefits less accessible. The government has rolled back employment standards and is cutting resources that are needed to enforce workers’ rights. Our work plays a unique and critical role in addressing these issues, to ensure everyone in our community can meet their basic living needs.
ISAC’s work is more important than ever and we will not be silenced. ISAC is committed to fighting against these threats. We call on the provincial government to rescind the cuts and to work with us to protect the rights of low-income Ontarians.