ISAC has made a submission to the Minister of Finance. Informed by ongoing consultation with our community partners on issues relevant to our mandate, our submission includes recommendations on:
Investing in Justice for Workers:
• Recommendation #1 – Legislate paid sick leave: Legislate 10 Personal Emergency Leave days in the Employment Standards Act, 2000, including 7 days of paid sick leave. Legislate an additional 14 days of paid sick leave during declared pandemics.
• Recommendation #2 – Enforce workplace health and safety: To protect workers and curb the spread of COVID-19, mandate increased and ongoing proactive inspections of Ontario workplaces for health and safety violations, with at least quarterly inspections for high-risk sectors, and impose deterrent penalties on violators.
Investing in Income Security Programs
• Recommendation #3 – Immediately reinvest provincial savings into social assistance:
a) Raise social assistance rates immediately by 1.5% to restore the 2018 cut, and by 10%, 7% and 5% for the subsequent three fiscal years after for Ontario Works (OW) and by 5% for the subsequent three fiscal years after for the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), to follow the goals set in the Roadmap for Change (2017).
b) Reinstate retroactively to March 2020 and distribute automatically for the duration of the pandemic, the Emergency Benefit in the amount of $100 for single individuals and $200 for families.
• Recommendation #4 – Allow Ontarians to keep more money in their pockets:
a) End all clawbacks on COVID-19 related federal benefits including the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB), the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB), and other federal benefits including Canada Pension Plan Disability (CCP-D) and Employment Insurance (EI) for the duration of the pandemic. Forgive all overpayments – which only deepen poverty – for those social assistance recipients who accessed the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).
b) Eliminate the $10,000 limit on voluntary gifts and payments and raise the limit on cash and other liquid assets to $20,000 for OW recipients. For ODSP recipients, eliminate the $10,000 limit on voluntary gifts and payments and raise the asset limit to $100,000. This will help alleviate poverty among social assistance recipients in the present and in future.
• Recommendation #5: Ensure the success of modernization of social assistance:
a) Invest in robust trauma-informed and client-centred wraparound services including addiction and mental health supports, childcare, disability supports, and housing to provide life stabilization services and to address barriers to employment for those who are ready and able to work with such supports. Increase co-design of services with recipients.
b) Implement a new digital access benefit to pay for essential phone and internet equipment, and digital literacy training that will assist with using new digital tools and platforms.
c) If you do keep the Reform of Employment Services pilot, ensure there is sufficient job training and that there are quality jobs that are long-term, stable and provide decent wages and meaningful work.
Investing in Access to Justice
• Recommendation #6 – Ensure timely adjudication of Tribunal matters: Immediately fill adjudicator vacancies at the Social Benefits Tribunal and Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario with qualified and competent candidates to ensure timely and effective case hearings.
• Recommendation #7 – Invest in Legal Aid Ontario: Increase LAO funding to cover future potential shortfalls and develop a longer-term, structurally stable funding plan. This will support low-income Ontarians in accessing justice throughout the pandemic and beyond.
You can download our full submission and executive summary below: