Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 115

Dear Colleagues, 

More than ever, as the number of families experiencing food insecurity is soaring, so is the need for us to work together to increase food accessibility for children, families and seniors. 

The Daily Bread Food Bank in Toronto saw more visits in March 2023 than it ever has before, saying visits have quadrupled since the COVID-19 pandemic. The rise in clients is attributed to the stagnating income that hasn’t kept pace with inflation and the rising cost of housing.

While our Food Bruce Grey app is still collecting the first quarter 2023 local data, community food programs are reporting that their numbers have not decreased and many are seeing an increase in new clients. 

Many of these community food programs are run by volunteers or heavily rely on volunteers. A recent article in The Philanthropist Journal speaks to the crisis and the CEO of the United Way PEI has stated “We’re at a tipping point here. In rural areas especially, the same people are being asked to sit on every board and service club.”  With a decline in volunteers there is staff burnout and donor fatigue challenging the work of non-profit organizations. 

  • Statistics Canada has reported that volunteer participation in Canada is at an all-time low – thanks to the pandemic.  More than 65% of non-profit organizations serving households and individuals are experiencing a shortage of volunteers. 
  • A 2022 Ontario Nonprofit Network report indicates that 62% of 1,500 non-profit organizations surveyed lost volunteers. More than 50% are struggling to recruit new volunteers, and 40% say they are having difficulty convincing former volunteers to return.
  • Charity Insights Canada Project survey, 59% of respondents indicated that the pandemic affected how they engaged with volunteers, and 57% said they were experiencing difficulty recruiting volunteers.

Potential solutions include acknowledging the impact of the pandemic, understanding generational differences, and convincing funders to do more to help organizations.


  • Grey Bruce Public Health have been notified of 7 non-fatal overdoses within the last 4 days in Grey-Bruce (12 April 2023). 
  • Fentanyl is the suspected drug in almost all of the overdoses, the method of administration was inhalation/smoking.  
  • Grey Bruce Public Health, SOS, GBHS, CMHA and other partners are undertaking outreach efforts in targeted locations/communities. The teams will be equipped with naloxone, safe use equipment, education and can connect individuals to health and social services. 
  • SOS Mobile Outreach will be holding the next fixed site event at the Owen Sound Farmers Market on Wednesday April 19th from 1-3p.m. Please encourage clients to attend.
  • Please encourage all people who use drugs to have naloxone on hand and to always use drugs with a sober friend who can administer naloxone. Call 911 in the case of an overdose. Naloxone is available at pharmacies, participating communities and at Grey Bruce Public Health Mon-Fri, 8:30 am to 4 pm, no appointment needed. 


  • National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2 Spirited People also known as Red Dress Day on May 5th honours the thousands of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, 2 spirit, and gender diverse people in Canada by encouraging learning and building awareness to end violence against Indigenous women, girls, 2 spirit, and gender diverse people. 
  • Call to Action 41 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report calls on the federal government of Canada to begin an inquiry into the numerous cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
  • Starting in 2016, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girlsheld 15 community hearings, and spoke with 2,386 people. A final report was released in June 2019 which includes 231 Calls for Justice that “represent important ways to end the genocide and to transform systemic and societal values that have worked to maintain colonial violence.
  • A Community Fire to remember and honour women shall be held at Gichi-Name Wiikwedong Reconciliation Garden, Kelso Beach, Nawash Park. 11am-1pm. All are welcome. 


  • My Dad’s Group: BGCFS and the Men’s Program/CMHA start new spring sessions on May 8th and 16th in Hanover and Owen Sound.  Read more at: CMHA website. Register by calling 519-372-2720 or emailing Jon Farmer at jfarmer@cmhagb.org.


  • Ultra-Low Overnight Electricity Price Plan: the Ontario government has announced a new price plan.  The new ultra-low overnight rate, set by the Ontario Energy Board, will be 2.4 cents/kilowatt-hour (kWh), everyday, 11pm-7am, which is 67% lower than the current off-peak rate.
  • Rebound Owen Sound: held a community housing awareness event for the City of Owen Sound on March 23rd, 2023. The event brought many partners together on a panel and is posted on YouTube at:shorturl.at/aqsGZ  
  • Housing Affordability Matrix for Owen Sound Personal Support Workers (PSWs) was discussed at the Institute of Southern Georgian Bay. Erin Deviney, Analyst, concluded that there is a tremendous demand for PSWs in Owen Sound and affordable housing would be challenging for the salaries available.  Read more at: shorturl.at/irKWX 
  • Homeless Encampments: the Office of the Federal Housing Advocate has launched a dedicated online portal where people can share their stories as well the solutions they would like to see for people living in homeless encampments. 
  • The Federal Housing Advocate invites individuals and organizations across Canada, particularly people with lived experience of encampments and organizations that work with them, to contribute to the formal review of homeless encampments. You can find more information about the review and the Advocate’s work on this issue here


  • Community Foundation Grey Bruce: Spring and Fall community projects grant applications are open. Deadlines are Friday, April 15th and Sept 15th, 2023. Apply online or contact Jennifer Legge, Grants and Donor Relations Coordinator, 519-371-7203,  jen.legge@cfgb.ca for more info.


  • Emergency Paid Sick Leave: on March 31st, 2023 the Ontario government ended the paid sick leave portion of the Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (IDEL).  Through the IDEL program, employees could get up to 3 paid sick days, up to $200/day, between April 19, 2021, and March 31, 2023.  The government has not said when unpaid IDEL leave will stop being available. CLEO has prepared some guidance for employers and employees on the changes and what remains. 
  • OSAP Loans Payment:  effective April 1st, 2023, the Government of Canada has permanently eliminated the accumulation of interest on all Canada Student Loans including loans currently being repaid. You continue to be responsible to pay any interest that may have accrued on your loan before April 1, 2023.

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update #114

Dear Colleagues, 

It is that time of year for budgets and taxes! 

But while we are promoting the incredible work being done by volunteers and staff under the Community Volunteer Income Program in Grey Bruce we are also mourning the loss of many people to drugs and the increase in overdoses. 

  • Grey Bruce Public Health is warning people who use unregulated street drugs that they are at significant risk of experiencing an overdose/poisoning due to the local supply containing potentially toxic substances, including the highly potent opioid fentanyl.  
  • The Chief Medical Officer of Health and the Chief Coroner for Ontario have reported evidence of an increase in xylazine and benzodiazepine in Ontario’s unregulated drug supply. Preliminary data for opioid toxicity deaths in Ontario shows Xylaxine was detected in 2-4% of opioid toxicity deaths between 2021 Q4 and 2022 Q3. Benzodiazepines were detected in 63% of cases in 2021 and 41% of cases in 2022. These have been confirmed in our local supply.
  • The GBPH received notification of 2 fatal overdoses and 5 non-fatal overdoses within the past week. Recent awareness events shared that a fatal overdose can happen to anyone. 

Truth and Reconciliation Call to Action 49 

  • Doctrine of Discovery: The Vatican on Thursday formally repudiated the colonial-era “doctrine of discovery”, saying it had been “manipulated” for political purposes by colonial powers “to justify immoral acts against Indigenous peoples that were carried out, at times, without opposition from ecclesial authorities.”  


The Federal government released its 2023 Budget: A Made-in-Canada Plan: Strong Middle Class, Affordable Economy, Healthy Future

  • Canadian Dental Care Plan:  in 2022, the government set up a temporary dental benefit for uninsured children under the age of 12 in families with a household income of less than $90,000.  That benefit will end by June 2024. In its place, the government has announced it will provide $13 billion over 5 years starting in 2023-2024, to provide dental coverage for all uninsured Canadians with an annual family income of less than $90,000 or for single Canadians earning less than $70,000. Families that make less than $70,000 will not have co-pays.
  • GST Rebate/Grocery rebate:  a top-up for low-income families via the GST credit. It works out for a maximum amount of $20/month single and $40/month for family. 
  • PayDay Loan Interest rates: changes to the Criminal Code will lower the rate of interest from 47% to 35% annual percentage rate. 
  • Housing:  the government proposes $4B over 7 years to implement a co-developed Urban, Rural and Northern Indigenous Housing Strategy. The government will reallocate National Housing Co-Investment Fund dollars from the repair stream to the new construction stream, as needed.  
  • The government will directly fund municipalities that submit action plans with a goal to “build more faster,” through methods like accelerating project approval timelines, increasing densification and freeing up unused land – all while keeping affordable housing units in mind as well.

The Provincial government released their 2023 Budget: Building a Strong Ontario. 

  • Housing: an additional $202 million/year over the next 3 years for Homelessness Prevention Program and Indigenous Supportive Housing Program.  
  • Minimum Wage Increase: the Ontario government is increasing the minimum wage to $16.55 an hour on October 1, 2023. This 6.8% raise for low-income workers is to  offset the rising cost of living.




  • Grey Bruce Food Share (GBFS): a new, formal partnership of OSHaRE and The Salvation Army Owen Sound will start this summer.  It will be located at 263 10th Street East in Owen Sound across the parking lot from OSHaRE. 
  • During the pandemic, an informal Grey Bruce Food Distribution Network for Not-For-Profits was in place. This new formal partnership will bring food sharing to a new level by contributing surplus food items to other charities and non-profits across Grey Bruce. GBFS will continue to support over 25 local food sharing agencies who support families and individuals struggling with food insecurity.  
  • OSHaRE is Grey Bruce’s largest recipient of Second Harvest’s Food Rescue. On average OSHaRE rescues over 11 tons of food monthly and The Salvation Army approximately 3 tons. The Salvation Army will use the fresh produce from GBFS to implement Grey Bruce’s first “Fresh Food – Food Bank” – a healthy shift in food options provided to some 700 participants in need.

Stay well, Jill 

MEDIA RELEASE: How to get help filing your income tax return in the Grey Bruce — for free

Volunteers at free tax clinics across the region can help people with low or modest incomes file returns

Tax season has begun! Volunteers across Grey Bruce are available to help people with low or modest incomes file their income tax and benefit returns, potentially earning them money they could be entitled to.

During March and April, dozens of tax clinics across the region are offering filing services -free of charge – through the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program. The clinics are being held at Bruce County libraries, community social organizations and seniors’ centres with drop-off, by appointment or virtual options available. In 2022, the CRA reported 2,430 individuals were assisted to file 2,640 tax returns by 14 community organizations in 20 locations across Bruce County and Grey County.  

“I’m proud to once again support the Free Tax Clinics offered across Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound by many local community groups and services.” MP Alex Ruff, “My thanks to all these organizations and individuals that make this great service possible for those in need.”

The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force has created a 211 listing @ freetaxclinics.ca or people can call 211 and find a clinic near you.

Benefits being left on the table

Around 10 to 20% of Canadians don’t file their taxes and are missing out on government benefits as a result. Homeowners are most likely to file than renters. And people with lower income are less likely to file than people living above the poverty line. (Financial Resilience Institute, 2022)

“Beyond being necessary to qualify for government benefits, such as the Canada Child Benefit or Guaranteed Income Supplement for Seniors, filing taxes can also open the door to additional financial aid.” Jill Umbach, Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force, “Rent supplements and applications to Rent Geared to Income housing require a statement of your level of income.”

Eligibility for help from a free tax clinic is based on annual income. The maximum eligible income is $35,000 per year, with the threshold increasing for each additional member of a household. However, adjustments can be made based on local economic factors, according to CRA.

Tax filers must also have a “simple tax situation,” meaning they don’t earn income from self-employment, business, rental, interest, capital gains or foreign sources. They also can’t have declared bankruptcy during the tax year.

For Assistance and Media Interviews:

For those in the Owen Sound area, MP Alex Ruff’s office offers assistance in booking appointments, 519-371-1059.

For media interviews or clarification on this press release contact Jill Umbach, Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force, 519-377-9406.

Poverty Task Force Annual Report 2022

Each year the Poverty Task Force’s goal is to demonstrate how the work of the PTF changes lives and communities.

The PTF is a member of the Communities Ending Poverty/Tamarack Institute. Communities Ending Poverty is a powerful collective impact movement comprised of 330 municipalities and represented by 80 regional poverty reduction roundtables across Canada. We have learned that to end poverty, it takes the whole community and our entire country working together.

Our Impact Report 2020 sets the baseline for annual reporting against a set of data collected from partners and government statistics. Since March 2020, partners have been focused on COVID 19 pandemic response therefore our planned collective impact reporting has been delayed. In the interim, we have released several Annual Reports – Annual Report 2021 and Annual Report 2022 that speak to our strategic directions.