ISAC advocates for changes to policy and law that would address poverty and improve income security in Ontario.
We develop our analysis and recommendations by bringing together ideas from the international & cross-country policy worlds with those generated at the grassroots, working in partnership with local communities, community legal clinics, policy experts, and other advocacy groups, like the ODSP Action Coalition. Policy advocacy is an important tool in advancing our strategic plan.
We’ve highlighted some of our major areas of policy work below.
Each year, ISAC contributes to the Ontario Budget process by making submissions to Legislative committee hearings and consultations. We also often speak at these events.
We use the opportunity of the pre-Budget process to press for greater income security for Ontarians, and particularly for government to address the wildly inadequate benefit rates given to people who rely on Ontario’s two social assistance programs, Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). We also consider which provisions if any are included to improve the income security of workers.
Read ISAC’s 2024 Provincial Pre-Budget submission by clicking here. Different formats of this document along with previous years’ submissions can be found in our Publications archive.
Read ISAC’s 2023 Provincial Budget Analysis by clicking here. Analysis on previous years’ budgets can be found in our Updates section, along with other analysis on quarterly provincial economic updates and related reports from the Financial Accountability Office (FAO).
ISAC occasionally appears before standing and other committees during budget period. Links to those appearances will be posted in the Updates section under the “Provincial Budgets” category.
Each year, ISAC contributes to the Federal Budget process by making submissions to Legislative committee hearings and consultations. We also often speak at these events.
Just as we do with the provincial pre-Budget process, we use the opportunity of the federal pre-Budget process to press for greater income security for Ontarians. We often focus on Employment Insurance reform and expanding access to and improving federal benefits and credits designed for people with disabilities and people living on low incomes. We also consider which provisions if any are included to improve the income security of workers.
Read ISAC’s 2024 Federal Pre-Budget submission by clicking here. Different formats of this document along with previous years’ submissions can also be found in our Publications archive. Analysis on previous years’ budgets can be found in our Updates section, along with analysis on other federal economic updates and reports.
ISAC occasionally appears before budget-related committees. Links to those appearances will be posted in the Updates section under the “Federal Budgets” category.
Employment Insurance (EI) is a key piece of Canada’s social safety net. It is meant to offer a base of benefits to workers across Canada who may enter a period of unemployment, while they transition back into the workforce.
Over the last two decades, unemployed workers have faced serious and increasing barriers to accessing EI benefits. Shifts in the labour market have led to increasing numbers of workers who are employed in temporary, part-time or precarious work. Although they pay into EI, onerous EI eligibility requirements prevent these workers from qualifying for benefits. And even if they do qualify, the benefits amounts are inadequate. Further, migrant workers are effectively excluded from the EI program because of the conditions imposed by their work permits, despite contributing to the program.
Through individual submissions on legislation and through participation in the Ontario Community Legal Clinics EI Working Group, ISAC is active in advocating for Employment Insurance reform.
Read the EI Working Group’s submission, “A Safety Net For All: Reforming EI to Support Low-wage and Precarious Workers”, to the 2021 Federal Consultations on Reforming Canada’s Employment Insurance Program by clicking here. You can find this document in other formats and in French in our Publications archive.
Poverty reduction is an important policy framework that allows us to advocate to government for improvements to income security law and policy.
In collaboration with other advocates within and outside of the community legal clinic system, we work to advance poverty reduction policy at both the federal and provincial levels. To read more about our poverty reduction policy work, check out our Updates page.
Throughout the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, our poverty reduction work focused heavily on expanding access to temporary emergency benefits such as the CERB and the CRB, and improving access to the discretionary benefits that were offered to social assistance recipients by the provincial government.
People who live in poverty are often put at a disadvantage when accessing the range of benefits to which they are entitled.
For example, the Ontario government claws back dollar for dollar federal benefits such as Canada Pension Plan Disability (CPP-D) and Employment Insurance (EI) from families on Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program.
The legislation and regulations that guide the interactions between different government benefits have the effect of keeping people on low incomes. People receiving social assistance have to contend with benefits interactions and clawbacks regularly.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people received temporary pandemic benefits, and many people living on low incomes experienced problems with benefit interactions and clawbacks. Ontario clawed back 50% of every dollar after the first $200 Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) from people receiving social assistance. The Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) was clawed back dollar for dollar.
Seniors who received the federal Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) under normal circumstances were also impacted by interacting benefits. After receiving temporary pandemic benefits like the CERB or the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) in 2020, hundreds of thousands of seniors saw their GIS benefit reduced or ended the following year. You can read about our successful campaign to restore the GIS to low income seniors by clicking here.
Benefit interactions and clawbacks create a ceiling on income that traps people in poverty. ISAC actively works towards expanding access to benefits programs and reducing benefits interactions whenever possible.