As part of ISAC’s election advocacy, we sent all four major parties 10 questions on important issues that affect people living on low incomes in Ontario.
As of May 27, 2022, three of the four parties responded. We created a document, posted below, where we included all responses in their entirety and exactly as received, other than the removal of party logos and colours.
You can also download the answers in Word format by clicking here.
These are the full questions which were included in the questionnaire:
1. Poverty is a serious issue in Ontario, and one that is often a result of discrimination both in the workplace and throughout society at large. Rates of poverty are higher for women, Indigenous people, people with disabilities, and racialized people. Working age people with disabilities are twice as likely to live in poverty. Recent immigrants have a low-income rate of 31.4%, more than twice the rate of non-immigrants at 12.5%, and people with precarious immigration status are particularly disadvantaged, often facing multiple barriers to accessing government benefits. Racialized people in Ontario have a low-income rate of 21.3%, almost double the rate of 11.5% for non-racialized Ontario residents. Inequality experienced by Ontarians due to discrimination and poverty has long-ranging, intergenerational effects. Question: What is your party’s plan to end poverty in Ontario?
2. There is a lack of legislation in Ontario supporting equal pay, good benefits, and working conditions for all workers, regardless of their status as part-time, contract, or temporary workers. The practice of perma-temping, where employers offer repeated contracts to temp workers for lower pay, no benefits, and no job security, is a major problem for workers in the low-wage economy. Low-wage workers who take on gig work are also systematically misclassified as independent contractors, which deprives them of basic employment rights. Low-wage, precarious, and gig workers, most of whom are women, racialized, Indigenous, people with disabilities, and migrant workers, are hit the hardest by lack of pay transparency, misclassification, and lack of enforcement of existing employment protections. Question: How will your party support low-wage workers if elected?
3. Access to paid sick days in Ontario is uneven even though paid sick days are essential to worker safety and productivity. 57% of all workers and 78% of low-wage workers do not have access to any paid sick days. Legislating employer-paid paid sick days is also question of racial justice as racialized workers are less likely to have access to paid sick days. Question: Will your party support the implementation of 10 employer-paid, seamlessly accessible sick days for all workers?
4. The minimum wage has barely inched up since 2018, going from $14 to $15 in four years. This has not kept pace with rising cost of living and is far below the rate of inflation. Many workers are struggling to get by. Over 30% of working-age singles in Ontario were low-income in 2020. Approximately two million workers in Ontario make less than $20 an hour. Research shows that when the minimum wage increases, people spend money in their communities, local economies benefit, and job growth occurs. Question: When will your party raise the minimum wage, and what will they raise it to?
5. Too often, living with a disability often means living in poverty. People with disabilities are about twice as likely to live in poverty due to barriers to joining the labour force, inaccessible workplaces, and extra costs associated with living with a disability. In Ontario, a person living with a disability who qualifies for the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) receives $1169 per month, which leaves them in deep poverty. People with disabilities who are racialized, Indigenous, and/or members of 2SLGBTTIQ+ communities face additional barriers due to discrimination. Question: What specifically will your party do to support people with disabilities live lives of dignity? Would your party raise social assistance rates? If so, when and by how much?
6. The social assistance regime in Ontario is undergoing a once-in-a-generation overhaul right now. This “modernization” plan digitizes and uploads eligibility decisions and administration of social assistance to the province while leaving “wraparound” case management support to municipalities. All this appears to be happening with little consultation with social assistance clients or additional funding for services. The modernization plan is already half-way complete and legal aid clinics are hearing that the changes are causing barriers to access for people with disabilities, newcomers, and others. There is also a noticeable absence of a rate increase for Ontario Works (OW) recipients, who are forced to live on $733 a month. Question: Where would your party go from here and how would your party fix the problems with social assistance?
7. Under the plan to modernize social assistance, employment services have been removed from social assistance and moved to Employment Ontario, where they can be potentially contracted out to private companies, municipalities and non-profits on a pay-for-performance model. There is an important relationship between poverty and good jobs. Evidence from other jurisdictions shows pay-for-performance employment programs shuttle people into low-wage, precarious and contract work sometimes before they are job ready. This is of particular concern to clients with disabilities. Question: Does your party support the pay-for-performance model? What does your party propose to do to support people to become job ready, and within the current labour market, provide stable, meaningful and accessible jobs?
8. Municipalities have traditionally played a leading role in administering and delivering social services in Ontario. Budget pressures and an ongoing lack of funding from the provincial government may push municipalities to cut services or contract them to third-party providers. Question: If elected, how will your party work with and fund municipalities?
9. More and more government services are moving online, and some can only be accessed online. Remote hearings are now the default option at social justice tribunals. In-person hearing requests are only granted in limited cases, and for very specific reasons. This places the burden on people to prove their needs and creates a barrier to accessing justice for those without digital skills and/or without reliable Internet service. Digital and remote tribunal hearings add a barrier to communication in cases where translation and interpretation are required. The cost of digital access is also a barrier: Canadian cellphone and data plan rates are among the highest in the world, and are completely unaffordable for people living on social assistance. Question: Will your party provide funding to social assistance clients in the form of a monthly digital access benefit to ensure everyone can access the services they need?
10. Legal aid plays a vital role advocating for low-income and vulnerable Ontarians who are fighting for their rights, including securing access to benefits and opposing wrongful workplace dismissal. Even though every $1 spent in legal aid funding provides a rate of return of between $9 and $16, in 2019 the provincial government cut funding to Legal Aid Ontario by 30%. This resulted in decreased access to legal services for low-income and vulnerable Ontarians. Over 50% of clients served by community legal clinics have a mental or physical disability. Additionally, these cuts disproportionately impact Indigenous clients who represent 3% of Ontario’s population, but 14% of Legal Aid Ontario clients. Question: How will your party fund legal aid sustainably so that this work can continue?
These questions can also be used when speaking with local candidates. Click here for our tips for meeting with provincial election candidates!