Media Release: Bruce Grey’s Living Wage increases by 12.5% for 2022 to $20.70 per hour

The living wage is what a worker needs to earn, per hour, at 40 hours per week, in order to make ends meet where they live.

The United Way of Bruce Grey began issuing a living wage report in 2014 using a single income family profile. To add their voice to the provincial Ontario Living Wage Call for Action, the United Way reconfigured their data to align with the provincial representative framework. The framework was developed by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

How is the Living Wage calculated?

Major expenses that workers face such as shelter costs, transportation, childcare, and food are in the calculation. Also taken into account are other expenses such as internet access, a modest annual vacation, and clothing. Any applicable government taxes, transfers, and benefits are factored in as well. The result is an hourly wage that a worker must earn in order to make ends meet where they live.

For Bruce Grey, 3 demographic profiles were used to generate the standardized Living Wage for Bruce Grey:

  • Single person: $19.12
  • Single parent with 2 children: $24.74
  • 2 parents, 2 children: $21 .05 for both parents

“The most significant driver for the increase has been the cost of housing for people. The United Way did this calculation in the summer, utilizing data prior to the recent inflationary issues for food and other consumable costs” explains Executive Director Francesca Dobbyn. “This is the bottom, this is the barely making a budget work Living Wage.”

The budget does not include funds for:

  • Savings
  • Education savings for the children
  • Home-ownership costs
  • Costs to take care of a family member
  • Pets
  • Social engagements
  • Debt repayments

“The demand for emergency food rose sharply during the pandemic.  However, community meal programs and food banks are reporting on FoodBruceGrey.com they are still seeing high numbers and new faces.” Jill Umbach, Coordinator, Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force confirms. “Despite the long history of food banks in Grey Bruce, household food insecurity has persisted at high rates.”

Recent studies have found that about 1 in 6 people in Ontario live in a household experiencing food insecurity (Proof 2021) and about 1 in 5 Canadian children live in a food-insecure household. The recent Grey Bruce Nutritious Food Basket Survey revealed that for low-income households in Grey-Bruce, current income levels are not adequate to pay for basic living costs, including food and housing. 

The United Way of Bruce Grey and The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force advocate for a move from relying on a food charity model to income solutions that increase the incomes of vulnerable households in our community.

“A job should lift the employee out of poverty,” Dobbyn explains further. “With the significant increases to the cost of housing we see locally, people are working, yet sliding further and further into poverty.” While no one should live below the poverty line, there is an understanding and an expectation that being employed full-time should lift that person, and their family, out of poverty.

Benefits to businesses who pay a Living Wage include:

  • Reduced recruitment costs
  • Reduced training costs
  • Better morale
  • Employees do not have to hold down multiple jobs just to make ends meet
  • Less fatigue
  • Increased productivity
  • There are over 500 certified living wage employers in Ontario

For more information on the Living Wage report please contact Francesca Dobbyn at 519-376-1560 or execdir@unitedwaybg.com

For more information on Living Wage Ontario, please contact Anne Coleman, Campaign Manager Manager@ontariolivingwage.ca, Ontario Living Wage Network

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 108

Dear Colleagues, 

This week COP27 Conference has started with strong language around climate change and our survival on this planet. The head of the United Nations declaring a lack of progress that has the world speeding down a “highway to climate hell” in a “cooperate or perish” situation. 

There’s an increasingly well-established link between climate and issues of poverty/equity. Governments must address this problem by enacting transformative policies that address the root causes of climate change and income insecurity.

  • Green Resilience Project: released a 2022 Canadian report Conversations on climate change, income security and community resilience  From these conversations, people in Canada, especially those experiencing income insecurity or other forms of financial instability, stated that they are increasingly exposed to climate impacts but are often unable to participate in climate solutions due to systemic barriers. The project team developed 4 recommendations:
    1. Incorporate basic income into Canada’s plan for a just transition.
    2. Design income security and climate policy solutions to focus on improving individual and collective quality of life.
    3. Empower people and communities with the tools and resources they need to build or strengthen resilience 
    4. Ensure that corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share
  • Recently the North Bruce Peninsula Climate Action Plan team evaluated the potential equity impacts of their Climate Action Plan in North Bruce Peninsula.
  • Tamarack Institute has formed a Community Climate Transitions network around the themes of resident-led and partnership-based approaches to climate transition, centering equity and justice in climate work. Organizations and individuals can join their network. 
  • Voices at COP27 include Canadian Indigenous Youth who are real superheroes. They have a place at the negotiation table with heads of governments and an opportunity to speak their demands.
  • Canada’s Changing Climate Report 2019 chapter about the Prairies notes that climate change may exacerbate social inequities, specifically identifying Indigenous people as one of the groups that may be more vulnerable. The Prairie section also says that Indigenous knowledge is of “tremendous value” for climate science and adaptation planning.
  • Other subsequent reports include Health in a Changing Climate 2022 with a chapter on Climate Change and Health Equity.
  • More Homes Built Faster Act, Bill 23was introduced as part of the province’s plan to address the housing crisis by building 1.5 million homes over the next 10 years. Opposition to the Bill says it will greatly reduce environmental protection for wetlands, woodlands and other sensitive green spaces, and prohibit conservation authorities from protecting these areas. It is argued that what is needed to address the housing and climate change crisis is well-designed, low-cost family homes and climate friendly communities supported by transit.

DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION

  • Grey Bruce Local Immigration Partnership: is seeking volunteers to take part in a study on experiences of discrimination in Grey and Bruce Counties. The results of this survey will aim to inform programs to help the community become more inclusive. Learn more and register at https://lnkd.in/gx4m5dqK
  • Food Secure Canada, the People’s Food Institute (PFI) and the Walmart Foundation have launched the Indigenous and Black Peoples’ Food Sovereignty Planning Initiative (IBPFS). This initiative hopes to contribute to shifting power dynamics and learning on how to address structural and systemic barriers that undermine and prevent Black and Indigenous communities from realizing improved health, well-being and food sovereignty. For more info: contact Afua Asantewaa, Project Lead, communitiesconvenor@foodsecurecanada.org

INCOME SUPPORT 

  • Living Wage Week: The United Way of Bruce Grey and the Ontario Living Wage Network will release the 2022 rate on November 14th. We shall be discussing the calculation at our next Poverty Task Force meeting on Friday, November 18th. 
  • Student Loan Interest: the federal government has announced it will extend its pandemic pause on federal student loan interest in an effort to reduce some of the current financial pressures on young Canadians as the cost of living rises. Interest rates will still apply on the provincial portion of a student’s loan.
  • Tax Increase Relief Program: Grey County passed a bylaw in May 2021 to provide relief from tax increases to relieve financial hardship for seniors with low-income and disabled people. Each municipality has forms to make applications. 

HOUSING AND FOOD SUPPORT 

  • Safe N Sound Winter Hours: will be extended until 10pm and be open on weekends thanks to funding from the City of Owen Sound and Grey County Housing effective November 20th. 
  • Grey Bruce Community Garden Network: Simona Freiburg presented a growing season year end report to members of the Food Security Action Group. Tremendous contributions of fresh produce were donated to community meal programs, food banks and the Meaford Community Fridge.
  • FoodBruceGrey.com continues to track the increase in numbers of people using community meal programs and food banks as well as foodrescue and community gardens contributions.

On this Remembrance Day, November 11th, 2022 we remember those who have fought for peace and the protection of our country.

Stay well, Jill

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 107

Dear Colleagues, 

When I think of bananas, I think of food. I don’t think of housing. But I heard this term BANANA – “Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything” (or “Anyone”) – for the first time in our Housing Community of Practice meeting. This is an often used term by politicians and analysts when they face community opposition to certain land development. I don’t know how I didn’t hear it before? 

Doug Griffiths, in his book 13 Ways to Kill Your Community says that every city has its share of bananas. But we need to remind them that people experiencing homelessness in our communities are homegrown. They are our friends and family. So we need to tell people “don’t become a banana when it comes to development.”

Thinking about the term ‘affordable housing’, Doug Griffiths recommends that this term should be replaced with ‘diversified housing’ or his most preferred ‘appropriate housing’ to eliminate stereotypes. 

  • Bruce County has released its newest toolkit –  Affordable Housing Development Toolkit.  It is focused on supporting the creation of new affordable multi-residential and ground-related housing. 

INDIGENOUS SUPPORT AND ACTION

  • M’Wikwedong Indigenous Support Housing: has seen a decrease in the safety of the people on their housing lists. Previously, 70% of people were precariously housed and 30% of people were experiencing homelessness. That has flipped to 70% of people experiencing homelessness. 
  • Homeless on Homelands: the Women’s National Housing & Homelessness Network and the Indigenous women-led Keepers of the Circle have submitted 2 Human Rights Claims to the Federal Housing Advocate. They spotlighted the housing need and homelessness for marginalized women and gender-diverse people. 
  • Giiwe Sharing Circle/Housing: a recent sharing circle was held with housing partners at Silver Lake Camp. Lori Kewaquom and Lorne Pawis led the work of building relations and grounding ourselves.
    • Advocacy for Healing Program: is aimed at supporting the Saugeen First Nation members and families who have been affected by indigenous historical traumas.  Contact info:  Lori Kewaquom, Advocacy Program Coordinator, (519) 389-1164, lori.kewaquom@saugeen.org
    • M’Wikwedong IFC Cultural Resource Program: contact the new Coordinator Lorne Pawis, 519-371-1147 x 231, crc@mwikwedong.com.
  • Giiwe Retreat: 2 December 2022.  A full day retreat is planned at Silver Lake Camp, Sauble Beach. Contact Diane Giroux for details. giiwe.home@gmail.com.
  • Gladue Courts: M’Wikedong IFC has announced a new Indigenous People Court system for self-identifying Indigenous adults and youths, including Metis and Inuit and First Nations. They’re intended to help rectify the over-representation of Aboriginal people in custody, a reflection of intergenerational harm and the impact of colonialism. 
  • Treaties Recognition Week is November 6-12 in Ontario. Treaties Recognition Week honours the importance of treaties and helps Ontario students and residents understand the significance of treaty rights, treaty relationships and their relevance today.

HOUSING SUPPORT AND ACTION

Work is being done on addressing the homelessness situation and building more medium-term support beyond the Short Term Shelter Program. 

  • Grey County Short Term Shelter Program:  Anne Marie Shaw spoke to Grey County Council highlighting the significant community need for the program before the winter season. (At 1:38:49 mark)
    • The By Names List has seen a huge increase in the number of people sheltered from 25-30 people in 2020 to 107 in 2022. 
    • 30 motel rooms are secured for shelter and they are full. 
    • 900 nights of shelter were provided in September at an estimated cost of $80,000. This is not sustainable based on the current provincial funding.
    • Hotels are low barriers but do have rules. Thus some people are asked to leave. More and more cases are complex requiring 24 hr mental health care that is not currently available in the area. 
    • 11 people were housed off the By Names List in October. 
    • We are still experiencing not enough support to keep people housed and not enough affordable housing stock. Rental rates are above OW/ODSP housing allowances. 
    • Bayview Treatment Center is underway led by Grey Bruce Health Services and 14th Street transitional supportive housing is on schedule for 12 new beds and support from CMHA. 
  • Warming Centres: plans are underway with lower-tier municipalities to provide warming centres. In Owen Sound, discussions are underway to support Safe N Sound to provide extended hours. All Warming Centres shall be listed on 2-1-1. 
  • Access to safe spaces remains a critical issue for many street-involved people. Solutions are still not sufficient access to washrooms and drinking water.  
  • RentSafe Owen Sound Collaborative: the Tenant-Landlord Survey has been extended to November 11th. Erica Phipps spoke to the reasons for the data collection and rental housing. 
  • Vital Signs on Housing: 1 Dec 2022, 4pm – 6pm, a virtual public conversation is being planned. Lightning speakers will spark conversation from many of our local initiatives. More details to come. 

INCOME SUPPORT 

  • Canada Housing Benefit program: a proposed one-time top-up, tax-free payment of $500 to provide direct support to low-income renters—those most exposed to inflation—who are experiencing housing affordability challenges is planned for the end of the year. Pending Parliamentary approval and Royal Assent of enabling legislation.
  • GST Tax Credit announcement that it will be doubled for 6 months.  Single Canadians without kids will get up to $234 more, couples with two kids will get up to $467 more, and seniors will get $225 more on average. 
  • Climate Action Incentive Payment (CAIP) is being dispersed. The CAIP is a tax-free payment created to help offset the cost of federal pollution pricing. 
  • Utility Alert: the United Way has issued an alert on the increasing price of oil and propane gas costs and changes to the delivery policies.
    • There has been a 31% (oil) and 42% (propane gas) increase. Oil and Propane companies are now placing minimum orders that exceed their grant capacity ($700). And these companies are requiring any arrears to be paid before delivery. Challenges also exist with limited area coverage and difficulty for households to find/change providers.
    • Electricity rates are dropping this winter. 
  • Utility Supports:  are available from the United Way of Bruce Grey grant: $700 and Homelessness Prevention Initiative (Grey or Bruce County Social Services): $800 grant for single, $1500 for family.
  • United Way Utility Assistance Program supported 303 households in 2021-2022. Of those households, 32% of households have children and 61% of the households are trying to manage on a single income. They saw a 14% increase in wood applications and 136% increase in average arrears for Hydro One customers. Average arrear support payment was $1,733 in 2021-2022, a significant increase over average in 2020-21 of $420. A total of $173,321 was paid out for arrears and $232,594 was granted to households in need. 
  • Fraud Alert: be aware of a company called Ontario Green Savings posing as a government program.  

HEALTH EQUITY 

  • Expanded Health Benefits: the Ontario government is seeking public feedback on plans to expand benefits like health, dental, prescription drug and vision care to more workers who need coverage. An online public survey ends December 16th, 2022.
  • Mobile Mental Health and Addiction Response Team (MMHART): CMHA and the Owen Sound Police launched on November 1st, a new mobile crisis intervention program that will consist of CMHA mental health workers embedded with the police  Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), 
  • Health Quality Care: serious challenges to the quality of care in our health care services are continuing to impact on vulnerable people.  We are seeing walk-in clinic closures, Emergency Room closures, shortage of health staff and long wait lists for health services.  Patients who require post-hospital care are being discharged into homelessness. The government will charge long-term care patients who won’t leave a hospital. 

 FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES

  • Ontario Trillium Foundation Resilient Communities Fund: supports the recovery efforts of organizations impacted by COVID-19 and helps them respond with immediate, medium, and longer-term recovery projects. Projects should be focused on developing new approaches; starting new activities; adjusting strategies, or planning for future challenges. The Fund is set to open for application intake on November 9, and it closes on December 7. Link – https://otf.ca/our-grants/resilient-communities-fund#eligibility

Stay well, Jill 

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 106

ELECTION EDUCATION # 8

Dear Colleagues, 

The 2022 Municipal Elections are over! We now prepare to welcome returning and new municipal representatives to Council. We seek to renew our efforts to address poverty related issues and to welcome new representatives to contribute to the work. 

The goals remain the same as during the election debates!  People of all economic levels want:  a steady and sufficient income, a home that is safe and affordable; good health care and representatives in government that work together to improve our well-being.  

  • During the election period, we sent out 7 weekly Election Education Community Updates via email and as blog posts on our website. Number 8 will be our last one. We shall continue to send out bi-weekly Community Updates.  You can subscribe to our Community Updates via our website or email. Anyone is welcome to receive them!  
  • We have updated the information on our Poverty, Voting and Elections page to reflect the election results.  The issues that are still front and centre for the work we do remain on the page. 

ELECTION ANALYSIS

electHERnow.ca Grey Bruce is a non-partisan volunteer group committed to gender balance in the municipal government.  They have provided a breakdown of women municipal representatives for each municipality. 

  • In Grey Bruce, 27% of municipal positions were held by women prior to this municipal election. As of October 24, 2022, 29% of municipal positions in Grey Bruce are held by women, whereas 51% of the Grey Bruce region’s population are women. (Source: 2021 Census Release of Population/Gender and electHERnow.ca). 
  • At the County level, 0% of Bruce County Council positions are held by women and 28% of Grey County Council positions are held by women. 
  • Per Municipality Council level, positions held by women ranged from 14% (6), 20% (3), 29% (1) 43% (4), 44% (2) to 57% (1). Not all councils have the same number of members so the ratios of men:women vary. See the breakdown of representation per municipality prepared by electHERnow.ca

AMO‘s 2022 Ontario Municipal Election website provides a running analysis of previous election results compared to 2022 election results. We have included the links to each municipalities’ election results and statistics on our Poverty, Voting and Elections page.  

  • How votes are cast continues to move to technology-based methods. In 2022, 15 out of 17 municipal governments in Grey Bruce used an internet/phone combined method. The use of mail-in ballots was used in 2 municipalities (Meaford and Chatsworth) and 1 municipality used an internet/paper combined method (Grey Highlands). 
  • Voter turnout ranged from 27.19% to 43.60% against Ontario’s average of 36%. 

DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION

We don’t have any statistics yet on diversity and representation per council. We hope to have more analysis soon. 

We encourage new Councilors to read our Community Voices’ Diversity and Inclusion of People on Low Income in municipal government.  We All Live Here (infographic) speaks to the need for more diversity and inclusion in municipal decision-making.

MUNICIPAL REPRESENTATION AT POVERTY TASK FORCE

We have benefited from strong leadership from Bruce County and Grey County Councils, Wardens and Human Services representatives. All municipal, provincial and federal representatives are welcome to attend Poverty Task Force and Action Group meetings. Please contact Jill Umbach @ povertytaskforce@unitedwaybg.com to join.  

Recently, the City of Owen Sound passed a motion to have formal representation to the Poverty Task Force. We look forward to this formal representation and will be extending an invitation to all lower-tier municipalities to join us! 

Stay well, Jill