Breaking The Cycle Of Poverty
Ontario's Poverty Reduction Strategy
Ontario's first-ever, long-term Poverty Reduction Strategy, Breaking the Cycle, was launched on December 4, 2008.
The Strategy sets clear goals for poverty reduction in the province. It focuses first on Ontario's children and youth, with the target of reducing the number of children living in poverty by 25 per cent over five years. Reaching that target and lifting some 90,000 children out of poverty means taking important steps to help low-income families build brighter futures for themselves and their children.
Highlights Of Breaking The Cycle: The First Year
During the first year of the strategy, several initiatives and programs were rolled out to assist low-income families and their kids, including:
- Accelerating the phase-in of the Ontario Child Benefit (OCB) two full years ahead of schedule, bringing the maximum benefit to $1,100 annually per child; it will increase again to $1,310 annually per child within five years;
- Committing to the phase-in of full-day learning for four- and five-year-olds beginning in September 2010, with an investment of $200 million in 2010 and $300 million the following year; a portion of the phase-one schools will serve low-income neighbourhoods;
- As part of the package that includes a move to the Harmonized Sales Tax, approximately 2.9 million low- to- middle- income individuals and families will get a new sales tax credit of up to $260 per adult and child per year;
- Investing more than $1.2 billion in federal and provincial funding for social and affordable housing over two years;
- Stabilizing rent bank funding at $5 million annually, helping tenants with short-term rent arrears stay in their homes;
- Increasing the Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program rates to help our most vulnerable families and individuals;
- Increasing the minimum wage to $9.50 in 2009, and to $10.25 in 2010 - representing a 50 per cent increase since 2004;
- Investing in after-school programs that benefited more than 15,500 children and youth in 2009;
- Expanding the Children in Need of Treatment (CINOT) dental program to include children and youth up to their 18th birthday through an investment of $13 million;
- Expanding the Youth Opportunities Strategy -- more than doubling the number of disadvantaged youth who are gaining valuable summer job experience with local employers and police services; and
- Amending the Employment Standards Act to provide new protections for temporary agency workers and invested $4.5 million to hire employment standards officers.
Poverty Reduction Act
The Poverty Reduction Act, 2009, was passed with all party support on May 6, 2009.
The act ensures poverty will remain a priority in the province by requiring current and future governments to:
- Report annually on initiatives to reduce poverty;
- Develop a new strategy at least every five years; and
- Consult before developing these strategies, including consultation with those living in poverty.
Measuring progress is a key part of Ontario's Poverty Reduction Strategy.
In this first year, the government established indicators to measure progress. These indicators include:
- Birth Weight,
- School Readiness,
- Educational Progress,
- High School Graduation Rates,
- Depth of Poverty Measure,
- Low Income Measure,
- A new Standard of Living Indicator (also called Deprivation Index), and
- A new Ontario Housing Measure.
Progress on all poverty reduction indicators will be measured from 2008, the baseline year. While data for income indicators, from Statistics Canada, may lag by as much as 18 to 24 months, the latest information available is presented in the first Annual Report. Future reports will contain more information on our progress on all the measures.
Consultations conducted across the province in 2009 will guide the development of the Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy to make it easier for Ontario families to find and maintain affordable housing.
A review of Ontario's social assistance system will be undertaken with the goal of removing barriers and increasing opportunity for those who require assistance. To help facilitate this, Ontario is creating a Social Assistance Review Advisory Group chaired by Gail Nyberg of the Daily Bread Food Bank. The Working Group has been asked to advise Minister of Community and Social Services, Madeleine Meilleur, on the scope of the review of Ontario's social assistance system, followed by recommendations to remove barriers and increase opportunity for those who require assistance.