The “Pay the Rent and Feed the Kids” campaign was initiated in Ottawa by the Somerset West Action Network (SWAN) to challenge inadequate social assistance benefits, as a result of the 21.6% cut to basic welfare benefits in 1995 and subsequent erosion due to inflation.
The campaign swiftly spread throughout Ontario, with local initiatives taken up by groups in Cobourg, Halton, Hamilton, Kingston, London, Muskoka, North Bay, Northumberland, Ottawa, Peterborough, Sarnia, Thunder Bay, Toronto, and Windsor, among others.
The campaign coalition members included the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO), the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA), DAWN Ontario: DisAbled Women’s Network Ontario, ISAC (when we were called the Income Security Legal Clinic or ISLC), Ontario Social Safety Network, Somerset West Action Network (SWAN), and The Workfare Watch Project. The campaign benefited from significant support from the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE).
Activities included persuading local town and city councils to advocate for higher rates, making presentations at provincial pre-budget hearings, garnering media coverage about the problems faced by people receiving social assistance benefits, collecting endorsements of the campaign from interested groups, organizations and individuals, the creation and distribution of campaign kits and other materials, raising the issue during election campaigns, holding community forums, and direct lobbying of politicians at the municipal and provincial levels.