Losing Ground – Income Inequality in Ontario

A new analysis by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) – Losing Ground Income Inequality in Ontario, 2000-15  describes an increasingly “polarized” Ontario labour market that is shifting away from stable manufacturing jobs to more precarious service sector work and rewarding higher-earning families while punishing poorer ones.

The report  examines 15 years of income inequality for families raising
children in Ontario (2000 to 2015), comparing it with national data for context,
and finds several disturbing trends.

The data reveal that the top half of Ontario families take home 81 per
cent of earnings; the bottom half of families take home only 19 per cent.
What’s more, the richest families in Ontario earned almost 200 per cent of
the average family’s earnings in 2013–15.

It is a story of sustained labour market income inequality that is being
driven by slow economic growth and increases in precarious work. Simply
put, lower–middle class and working poor families are losing ground.
The Ontario data show a drop in the share of earnings for families in the
bottom half, falling from 22 per cent in 2000–02 to 19 per cent in 2013–15.
That income shifted from the bottom half to the top half of the income distribution:
the top half’s share of earnings rose from 78 per cent in 2000–02
to 81 per cent in 2013–15.

On a national level, the story of income inequality among Canadian families
hasn’t changed much since 2000. The lion’s share of earnings goes to
the richest families, at the expense of the rest. Nationally, families in the
bottom half of the earnings distribution saw their share of earnings flatline
at 21 per cent between 2000–02 and 2013–15.

Dynamics within the labour market are at issue. The experience since the turn of the century clearly indicates that Ontario needs a raise. And that proposed changes to labour market rules in the province’s Bill 148 (Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017)—which among other crucial reforms would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by January 2019—are long overdue.

It’s about fairness. It’s about changing labour laws to reflect a seismic
shift in Ontario’s labour market. It’s about requiring employers to do their
part to reduce labour market inequality.

 

 

Fighting poverty with food security

 

Public Health Dietician Laura Needham (left) and Jill Umbach, Planning Network Coordinator with Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force, discussed food security issues with Saugeen Shores councillors at their July 24 meeting. Councillors were asked to consider endorsing a Bruce Grey Food Charter to create a just, sustainable and secure food system.  

For the past four years the Grey Bruce Poverty Task Force – politicians, 51 social agencies and community-based partners – have examined the root causes of poverty and identified barriers to change.

One of the main issues is food security – having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, appropriate and nutritious food – supported by a Food Charter that values health, social justice, culture, education, sustainable economic development and the environment.

Jill Umbach, Planning Network Coordinator with Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force, and Public Health Dietician Laura Needham asked councillors to consider endorsing the Food Charter, which acknowledges the basic right to food, and is a commitment to work to towards a “vibrant, sustainable, food secure community,” Councillors were also asked to reconsider the way they “treat people who don’t have food.”

She said the 21 food banks in Grey Bruce do not address the main cause of food insecurity, so they need to change the “cultural way that we treat people who don’t have food,” so food banks aren’t the “go-to place for people with low income.”

“Rather than looking at a charitable situation all the time… we want those people to actually access other systems – whether it is connecting with fresh produce from a farmer that’s got excess, or whether its connecting to community gardens that are good for mental health but [where they] also can access fresh food….” Umbach said.

Food banks are still needed for crisis back-up, but Umbach said low-income people need better access to food that involves them more in the food system, including community gardens and school snack programs.

Coun. Mike Myatt said the 17 per cent poverty rate for those under-19 in Grey Bruce “struck a chord” and asked the source of the statistic and if the number was broken down further to give a Saugeen shores number.

Umbach said it was Census Canada data estimating that in Saugeen Shores, the average rate would be 14 to 17 per cent because the economy is stronger in Bruce than in Grey County. After the meeting Umbach said the 17 per cent figure represents the number of people under 19 in a family of four with annual income less than $42,000.

Coun. Neil Menage asked if people could legally give away surplus food – he’d had to compost an over-abundant crop of grapes. Umbach said it is “totally acceptable” noting there are Second Harvest programs and they are all noted on a food asset map. Menage also suggested they could develop community gardens in local passive parks.

Saugeen Shores Coun. Dave Myette thanked Umbach and Needham for “planting the seeds” to develop food security, and said he’d bring a motion to endorse the Food Charter at the future town council meeting.

In related news…

Umbach said the first Grey Bruce Poverty Task Force, Bridges Out of Poverty program – Getting Ahead –  holds its first sessions in Port Elgin,  starting on August 14 at the Community Housing Centre.

The program offers people receiving Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Program benefits, an eight-week program that looks at generational and situational poverty and looks at the resources available for low-income people in the community to deal with housing, transportation and social issues. Anyone interested should contact their worker for a referral. She said some of the graduates of the Port Elgin Bridges Out of Poverty program would be invited to speak to Saugeen Shores Council at a future date about their experiences.

A Rise in Living Wage in 2017

The United Way of Bruce Grey updated its Living Wage Rate 2017. It found that in 2017, a family of three consisting of a single parent, a 15-year-old and an eight-year-old would need the sole earner to work 40 hours a week making $21.01 an hour to get by.

The rate was last updated in 2015, using 2014 data. Housing costs have significantly increased total household costs. The average rent across Ontario is now $1,115 and the United Way has found that many rental units in Bruce Grey are priced over the $1,000 threshold.

The rate has been updated by the United Way Bruce Grey at a time when the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force and partners are engaged in discussions about Ontario’s minimum wage being raised to $15 an hour.

In May 2017, Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government announced its plans to raise the minimum wage from its current $11.40 to $14 on Jan. 1, 2018 and $15 on Jan. 1, 2019.  The change has been welcome by some economists and the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force who say it can help the economy by increasing people’s ability to get by and be better consumers in local economies.

The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017   (Bill 148) proposes important changes to address Ontario’s outdated labour laws and seeks to reduce precarious work.  The proposed legislation, which also includes equal pay for part-time workers, increased vacation entitlements and expanded personal emergency leave, started committee hearings on July 17th that are traveling across the province.

On July 17th, the City of Owen Sound Council approved a motion to request the government carry out an economic impact study of the increase in minimum wage within 2 years. On July 21st,  the Owen Sound and District Chamber of Commerce held a town hall meeting on the issue, held in conjunction with the Keep Ontario Working Coalition.  The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force and its partners were at both discussions.  David McLaren shared  ON Labour Reform Facts on Need  for a $15/hr minimum wage which references 7 decades of economic impact studies of raising the minimum wage.

With the increase in a living wage, this educates people on why the United Way Bruce Grey and other organizations are in favour of the wage increase.  The FairWorkplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 goes beyond cathcing up with the rising costs of living in Ontario and address practices of precarious work that are the new norm in the workplace.

Living Wage Rate 2017

Grey Bruce Online Food Map is Launched; Targets Hunger and Waste Reduction

The Food Security Action Group (FSAG) has launched a Bruce Grey Food Assets Map. The map will help to connect organizations and businesses looking to build better food security throughout the region.

Currently, the Food Assets Map includes programs and initiatives like community gardens, community meals, food banks, food education, good food boxes, meal delivery services, student nutrition programs, and other support services. Food businesses on the map include farmers’ markets, distributors, grocers, producers, processors, restaurants and cafés. The map also captures food system infrastructure assets such as dry and cold storage, commercial kitchens and transportation opportunities.

Are you part of the food system in Grey Bruce? If so, FSAG wants you on the map. Individuals and groups may submit new assets for the map using a crowd-source form hosted by Grey County.

Over the next few months, FSAG will use mapped resources to engage partners in a Grey Bruce Food Gleaning project. Gleaning is the act of collecting leftover foods that would otherwise go to waste and connecting those foods to people in need. According to a 2014 Value Chain Management Centre report, Canadians waste a staggering $31 billion in food every year. Food gleaning can play a role in reducing food waste and its impacts, producing social, environmental and economic benefits.

The map was developed in partnership with Grey County GIS Mapping Services following a survey and interviews with food security programs and services. The Food Security Action Group is a branch of the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force.

Community members are encouraged to connect with Jaden Calvert of FSAG to help populate the map or to contribute to regional food gleaning projects:  jaden.calvert@gmail.com.

For technical issues with the map, contact Grey County GIS at gisdesk@grey.ca.  Please reference Bruce, Grey, Food Asset Map.

Link to map: http://grey.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=a70b87bc334846638b8d738ab26fced9

Link to map form: http://grey.maps.arcgis.com/apps/GeoForm/index.html?appid=ed0501c109e7401eb1f0f262a51dac17

Ontario Releases Basic Income Consultation Feedback

Province Moving Forward with Pilot Program in 2017

Ontario is releasing a report that summarizes the feedback gathered from thousands of people across the province on how to design and deliver a basic income pilot.

Basic income is a payment to eligible families or individuals that ensures a minimum income level. It is designed to help people meet their basic needs while supporting long-term social and economic prosperity and security for everyone.

More than 35,000 people and organizations shared their ideas on a range of topics including who should be eligible for a basic income, which communities to include, how a basic income should be delivered and how the pilot should be evaluated, during the consultations.

Consultation feedback supports a basic income pilot that:

  • Includes Ontario residents aged 18-64 living in socially and economically diverse communities, in urban, rural and northern locations
  • Helps people living on low incomes meet their basic needs
  • Lifts people out of poverty, with long-term improvements in health, employment and housing.

The consultations help build on the advice the government received from the Honourable Hugh Segal in his discussion paper.

The province continues to engage with First Nations, urban Indigenous, Métis and Inuit communities to ensure their unique perspectives are heard and to tailor a culturally appropriate approach that reflects their advice.

All input received through the consultation process is being considered as the government works to introduce a plan for Ontario’s Basic Income Pilot in spring 2017.

Exploring new ways to help people living in poverty reach their full potential is part of the government’s plan to create jobs, grow the economy and help people in their everyday lives.

Quick Facts

  • Between November 3, 2016 and January 31, 2017, about 1,200 participants attended 14 public consultations held in communities across Ontario. Over 34,000 people completed the online survey. Written submissions were received from more than 80 community organizations and groups with expertise and experience in fighting poverty.
  • The province is looking to create a pilot that would test how a basic income might benefit people living in a variety of low income situations, including those who are currently working.
  • Finland launched a guaranteed income pilot in January 2017 and the Netherlands and Kenya are also looking at developing pilot projects that test the idea of a basic or guaranteed annual income.
  • Y-Combinator, a California technology company has announced it will be piloting a basic income project that is expected to run for five years.

Additional Resources

Filing a Tax Return could mean More Income

Tax season is here.  The Income Security Action Group of the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force encourages everyone to file a tax return. For modest and low income Canadians, filing a tax return may actually help increase the number of benefits they can collect and may result in an increase in their income. Many Canadians have no idea they would get money back, and they fear being told they have to pay the government for back taxes they cannot afford.  But this is not the case for most people on low income.

Here are three good reasons to file for 2016:

  1. To qualify for programs including the Canada Child Tax Benefit, the GST/HST credit, and the Ontario Trillium Benefit, which all pay cash when you qualify.
  2. To take advantage of certain tax credits like the Working Income Tax Benefit
  3. To recover any tax you may have overpaid from your pay cheque.

“If a tax return is not filed, the family may miss out on benefits that could help increase their income and decrease health inequities,” says Jill Umbach of the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force.  “There are some incredible volunteers that provide free tax services to people on low income all across Grey-Bruce. We encourage everyone to take advantage of these services to file this year’s and prior years’ taxes.”

Support in filing your taxes is a hugely important anti-poverty and health intervention.  The Canadian Revenue Agency supports programs that prepare taxes for low-income Canadians through its Community Volunteer Income Tax Program. Take advantage of the free tax clinics throughout Grey and Bruce.  A list of clinic dates, times and locations can be found by calling 211 or check on line at 211 Information Bruce Grey or The HealthLine.   For a listing prepared by the Poverty Task Force:  Volunteer Income Tax Clinics_Listing_March 2017

For More Information:

Jill Umbach

Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force
519-377-9406
jill.umbach@gmail.com

 

 

 

Basic Income Pilot Consultations

The Ontario government is launching a pilot project to study how giving people a basic income might reduce poverty and improve health, housing and employment outcomes in Ontario.

The Ontario government released a Discussion Paper by Honourable Hugh Segal in June 2016 entitled Finding a Better Way: A Basic Income. The Ontario government has been holding public consultations, online surveys and welcomed feedback from the public and professionals working in social services.

The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force have provided input on the Pilot at various consultations:

  • Members of the Poverty Task Force and Community Voices participated in the Hamilton Consultation hosted by the Ontario government on November 22nd, 2016.
  • Members of the Poverty Task Force participated in the OMSSA consultation.
  • Members of the Poverty Task Force, its Action Groups and Community Voices held their own stakeholder consultation on January 13th 2017. The Poverty Task Force has submitted the summary of this discussion as an Official Submission to the Ontario government.

The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force works with over 34 agencies, networks and key community stakeholders in Bruce and Grey Counties – to enhance our common understanding of poverty-related issues through solution-based research, knowledge development and information sharing. We are informed by diverse voices of experience and support poverty reduction local action through our action groups and Community Voices.

The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force supports the government’s initiative to investigate a Basic Income Guarantee as a strategy for reducing poverty and income insecurity.

The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force (Poverty Task Force) envisions the revitalization of our rural communities where people are empowered to reach their goals, are able to afford to participate in our community, where a more robust economic development and local investment will reverse the rise of precarious work, loss of benefits to families and out-migration of youth/young families in our communities.

The Poverty Task Force recognizes the Basic Income Pilot as one component of a poverty reduction strategy but we recommend that the government continue to invest in new job opportunities, reduce precarious work and ensure sufficient income wages/benefits. We recognize that the government can’t afford to provide all income supports and that we will need the private sector paying a living income. We need to move away from “maintaining poverty”.

The Poverty Task Force believes that the stigmatization of people on social assistances needs to stop. Providing people with more resources and the choice in how they spend their money will provide a sense of community by leveling the playing field.

We advise the government to continue to build broad public support in the media and our rural communities for the Basic Income Pilot. The Pilot needs to be a concept easy enough to understand by all people. The government needs to build trust with those people who would transition from Ontario Works/ Ontario Disability Support Program to the Pilot and identify champions for the Pilot from middle-class/wealthy economic levels that will support the Pilot over the next 3 years.

QUICK FACTS:

20% of families in Owen Sound-Georgian Bluffs and 41% of lone-parent families earn a median income of only $15,590 – half of Statistic Canada’s Low Income Cut-off for a family of 4. (Stats Can)

Over the past 3 years, food bank usage across Grey and Bruce Counties has increased by 92%, compared to the Canadian average of 26% since 2008. (United Way Bruce Grey Hunger Report 2015)

55.3% of those seeking housing assistance in Bruce County are at risk of being homeless. (Bruce County Long Term Housing Strategy, 2013-23)

1 in 6 children under age 18 live in poverty in Ontario. That is 18.8% of children under the age of 18 living in poverty (LIM-AT) (Stats Can, July 2016)

1 in 5 children under 6 live in poverty in Ontario. (Stats Can, July 2016)

1 in 7 families with children live in poverty in Ontario. Poverty rates differ greatly amongst different types of families. Among couples with children, 9.2% live in poverty, while the rate of lone parent families living in poverty is at 30.4%. This stark difference can be partially attributed to the gender pay wage gap in Ontario. (CANSIM 111-0011 Family characteristics, by family type, family composition and characteristics of parents, annual CANSIM)

LEARN MORE:
For more details of the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force discussion see the full Official Submission from the January 13th meeting –  Poverty Task Force submission on Basic Income Pilot

To inform stakeholders and help guide the discussion, the Ontario government published the Discussion Paper Finding a Better Way: A Basic Income Pilot Ontario.

The Ontario government opened a Public Survey to explore new ways to deliver income support across the province.

The Ontario government held a series of in-person consultations across Ontario and has summarized the feedback on its website.

For more information, contact:
Jill Umbach
Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force (BGPTF)
Tel: 519-377-9406
Email: jill.umbach@gmail.com

Francesca Dobbyn,
United Way of Bruce Grey
519 376 1560
execdir@unitedwaybg.com

Basic Income Pilot Consultations

he members of the Income Security Action Group are encouraging all members of the Poverty Task Force to visit the Basic Income Pilot Consultation page of the Ontario Government.

In June 2016,  the Honourable Hugh Segal prepared a discussion paper, Finding a Better Way: A Basic Income Pilot for Ontario, which the governmnet is using as the starting point for this consultation.  There is a full report and an executive summary available.

Providing a Basic Income can help:

  • lift more people out of poverty
  • simplify the income security system
  • improve people’s health, empower people to get jobs and help people afford housing
  • give people more certainty and empower them to actively participate in the economy
Use this  basic-income-pilot-consultation_flyer_2016 to circulate to colleagues and people in the community to complete 2 surveys.
Most recently, members of the Income Security Action Group and Community Voices attended the Hamilton Consultation on the Pilot.  Read the basic-income-pilot-consultations_hamilton-summary from that meeting as prepared by the government.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us!

Responce to the new Government of Ontario Long-Term Energy Plan

Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force and United Way of Bruce Grey Respond to the new Government of Ontario Long-Term Energy Plan (LTEP)

Ontario’s new Long-Term Energy Plan (LTEP) – to be launched in spring/summer of 2017 – will determine the direction for Ontario’s energy future for the next 20 years.

In accordance with the Electricity Act (1998), the Ministry of Energy for Ontario has invited Ontarians to participate in a review of the proposed LTEP and provide their opinion on the province’s long-term energy needs and how to meet them.

As part of the consultation and engagement process, information sessions are currently being held across the province where consumers, distributors, generators, transmitters and other stakeholders are invited to learn more about the new LTEP and voice their opinions.

The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force (BGPTF) is a network of more than 34 local government and social organizations working together to with key community stakeholders to advocate for the elimination of poverty and to enhance our common understanding of poverty-related issues through solution-based research, knowledge development and information sharing.

The BGPTF has identified the provision of safe and affordable housing as a critical local need. As such, the BGPTF encourages the Government of Ontario to ensure that all discussions related to long-term energy strategies at the provincial planning level include the needs of vulnerable populations and the availability of affordable housing as outlined in the Government of Ontario’s Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy.

On November 1, 2016, BGPTF partner and Executive Director of the United Way Bruce Grey Francesca Dobbyn attended the Barrie consultation on the LTEP and shared local input on how energy plans can be better integrated with provincial planning and to ensure broader community planning and local community needs are taken into account during long-term fuels and electricity planning.

  RECOMMENDATIONS:

Recommendations for the Ontario government’s Long-Term Energy Plan include:

  • Control escalating utility costs to ensure Ontario maintains a sustainable supply of affordable housing;
  • Ensure greater transparency to inform and educate tenants of the costs associated with utilities when they enter into a new lease (e.g. consumption patterns of previous tenants);
  • Legislate disconnection policies preventing winter disconnects and waiving re-connection fees for low-income populations. While some companies (e.g. Hydro One, Union Gas) have general policies against winter disconnects, others continue to enforce disconnects during the winter, placing vulnerable populations at risk;
  • Investment in additional conversion programs which provide individual households and non-profit housing units access to efficient and affordable heating systems;
  • Entice landlords to upgrade rentals with efficient heating systems through the provision of incentives and home insulation programs;
  • Increase the range and depth of social security benefits to ensure that vulnerable populations have access to safe and affordable housing. For example, 1. Increase rent supplements – or non RGI programs – to provide a broader range of options and opportunities for households in need; 2. Increase the availability of affordable housing stock; 3. Reduce the risk of re-housing by promoting inclusive rental agreements which include utility costs in the monthly rent;
  • Increase engagement with community-based organizations who provide direct support to low-income clients who face eviction or disconnects as a result of being unable to pay utility bills;
  • Increase recognition of agencies that provide services to assist low-income families manage utility usage and bill payment, including the provision of funding for services offered;
  • Examine the role of third party (or ‘re-energy’) providers over concerns that low-income earners and seniors in our community are being taken advantage of;
  • Review the merits of the current delivery fee system against a more equitable flat-fee rate system;

QUICK FACTS:

  • 20% of families in Owen Sound-Georgian Bluffs and 41% of lone-parent families earn a median income of only $15,590 – half of Statistic Canada’s Low Income Cut-off for a family of 4. (Stats Can)
  • Over the past 3 years, food bank usage across Grey and Bruce Counties has increased by 92%, compared to the Canadian average of 26% since 2008. (United Way Bruce Grey Hunger Report 2015)
  • Between 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2016, 5 local agencies – United Way Bruce Grey, YMCA Housing Services, The Salvation Army Wiarton, Grey County Housing and Bruce County Housing Services – expensed more than $1 million dollars to assist with energy poverty in our region. (Utility Needs in Bruce and Grey Counties, United Way Bruce Grey, August 2016)
  • 3% of those seeking housing assistance in Bruce County are at risk of being homeless. (Bruce County Long Term Housing Strategy, 2013-23)
  • Delivery fees are based on population density. As a result, fees vary greatly within Grey and Bruce Counties. For example, the city of Owen Sound is charged an urban density rate; many small towns fall under ‘medium’ density; and some 30-40% of our catchment area are charged at a more expensive ‘low’ density rate.
  • Areas falling outside the natural gas shadow face greater risk since they have no alternative affordable heating sources.
  • Survey results indicate that Getting Ahead program graduates in Grey and Bruce Counties are paying at least 75% of their Ontario Works/Ontario Disability Support Program benefits on housing. (Adult Learning Centre, 2015)

LEARN MORE:

For more information, contact:

Jill Umbach                                                                 Francesca Dobbyn,

Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force (BGPTF)                  United Way of Bruce Grey

Tel: 519-377-9406                                                       519 376 1560

Email: jill.umbach@gmail.com                                   execdir@unitedwaybg.com