Hamilton East-Stoney Creek NDP MPP Paul Miller seeks “fairness” in social assistance rates

News Apr 18, 2016 by Kevin Werner Stoney Creek News

Hamilton East-Stoney Creek NDP MPP Paul Miller is one step closer to a historic first.

Last week the Ontario Legislature unanimously approved his private member’s bill on second reading that would create a commission to recommend setting Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program rates based on the actual cost of living in various sections of Ontario using evidence-based information.

“I was quite thrilled when it was unanimously supported,” said the veteran MPP.  “Even (Premier Kathleen) Wynne support it. But I never get overly excited about second reading. Only until it’s approved on third reading.”

He said there is always the possibility the bill could die on the order table if the Legislature is dissolved.

“It’s such a waste of time and work to re-introduce it,” said Miller.

But since the bill was unanimously supported, he hopes the Liberals will also see the benefits of passing the legislation.

The bill was sent to the Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills to be reviewed by an all-party membership. The committee will hold, public meetings, which Miller will attend, and the bill will be examined clause by clause.

On hand at Queen’s Park when the vote was taken was representatives from the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, who have advocated for the province to set higher social assistance rates. Miller praised both Tom Cooper, director of the organization, and Craig Foye, of the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic, who helped to craft the bill.

“Foye was instrumental in drafting this bill,” said Miller.

Cooper has argued that social assistance rates have since 1993 fallen below the annual cost of living jumps,  where a single parent with a child receives about $602 a month, yet rent is over $1,000 in Hamilton. In this year’s budget the Liberals did increase social assistance rates by 1.5 per cent for people on OW and ODSP.

Miller said his bill would create the Social Assistance Research Commission, an advisory group composed of people who have experience with living on ODSP and OW, are familiar with social assistance programs, and other stakeholders.

The idea is the commission would recommend social assistance rates based on available evidential information rather than conform to a political whim, said Miller. Social assistance rates would then correspond to each Ontario region’s cost of living situation. He suggested the cost of living would be more expensive in an urban area rather than in a rural environment.

“This is about fairness,” he said. “We are in dire need of this.”

If everything goes according to plan, Miller’s bill will be revised at the committee stage, and then would be recommended to be introduced in the legislature for third reading. It could happen, he said,  by this fall.

Miller has been able to shepherd other private member bills through the legislature, which is a difficult feat at the best of times. The Legislature approved his private member’s bill in 2015 to provide health and safety, and income protection for child actors (it went into effect February 2016) and he co-sponsored a private member’s bill to create Lincoln Alexander Day, which was passed in 2013.

“I’ve been fortunate,” said Miller, for his success at getting support for his bills. “My timing has been pretty good.”

Hamilton East-Stoney Creek NDP MPP Paul Miller seeks “fairness” in social assistance rates

News Apr 18, 2016 by Kevin Werner Stoney Creek News

Hamilton East-Stoney Creek NDP MPP Paul Miller is one step closer to a historic first.

Last week the Ontario Legislature unanimously approved his private member’s bill on second reading that would create a commission to recommend setting Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program rates based on the actual cost of living in various sections of Ontario using evidence-based information.

“I was quite thrilled when it was unanimously supported,” said the veteran MPP.  “Even (Premier Kathleen) Wynne support it. But I never get overly excited about second reading. Only until it’s approved on third reading.”

He said there is always the possibility the bill could die on the order table if the Legislature is dissolved.

“It’s such a waste of time and work to re-introduce it,” said Miller.

But since the bill was unanimously supported, he hopes the Liberals will also see the benefits of passing the legislation.

The bill was sent to the Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills to be reviewed by an all-party membership. The committee will hold, public meetings, which Miller will attend, and the bill will be examined clause by clause.

On hand at Queen’s Park when the vote was taken was representatives from the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, who have advocated for the province to set higher social assistance rates. Miller praised both Tom Cooper, director of the organization, and Craig Foye, of the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic, who helped to craft the bill.

“Foye was instrumental in drafting this bill,” said Miller.

Cooper has argued that social assistance rates have since 1993 fallen below the annual cost of living jumps,  where a single parent with a child receives about $602 a month, yet rent is over $1,000 in Hamilton. In this year’s budget the Liberals did increase social assistance rates by 1.5 per cent for people on OW and ODSP.

Miller said his bill would create the Social Assistance Research Commission, an advisory group composed of people who have experience with living on ODSP and OW, are familiar with social assistance programs, and other stakeholders.

The idea is the commission would recommend social assistance rates based on available evidential information rather than conform to a political whim, said Miller. Social assistance rates would then correspond to each Ontario region’s cost of living situation. He suggested the cost of living would be more expensive in an urban area rather than in a rural environment.

“This is about fairness,” he said. “We are in dire need of this.”

If everything goes according to plan, Miller’s bill will be revised at the committee stage, and then would be recommended to be introduced in the legislature for third reading. It could happen, he said,  by this fall.

Miller has been able to shepherd other private member bills through the legislature, which is a difficult feat at the best of times. The Legislature approved his private member’s bill in 2015 to provide health and safety, and income protection for child actors (it went into effect February 2016) and he co-sponsored a private member’s bill to create Lincoln Alexander Day, which was passed in 2013.

“I’ve been fortunate,” said Miller, for his success at getting support for his bills. “My timing has been pretty good.”

Hamilton East-Stoney Creek NDP MPP Paul Miller seeks “fairness” in social assistance rates

News Apr 18, 2016 by Kevin Werner Stoney Creek News

Hamilton East-Stoney Creek NDP MPP Paul Miller is one step closer to a historic first.

Last week the Ontario Legislature unanimously approved his private member’s bill on second reading that would create a commission to recommend setting Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program rates based on the actual cost of living in various sections of Ontario using evidence-based information.

“I was quite thrilled when it was unanimously supported,” said the veteran MPP.  “Even (Premier Kathleen) Wynne support it. But I never get overly excited about second reading. Only until it’s approved on third reading.”

He said there is always the possibility the bill could die on the order table if the Legislature is dissolved.

“It’s such a waste of time and work to re-introduce it,” said Miller.

But since the bill was unanimously supported, he hopes the Liberals will also see the benefits of passing the legislation.

The bill was sent to the Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills to be reviewed by an all-party membership. The committee will hold, public meetings, which Miller will attend, and the bill will be examined clause by clause.

On hand at Queen’s Park when the vote was taken was representatives from the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, who have advocated for the province to set higher social assistance rates. Miller praised both Tom Cooper, director of the organization, and Craig Foye, of the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic, who helped to craft the bill.

“Foye was instrumental in drafting this bill,” said Miller.

Cooper has argued that social assistance rates have since 1993 fallen below the annual cost of living jumps,  where a single parent with a child receives about $602 a month, yet rent is over $1,000 in Hamilton. In this year’s budget the Liberals did increase social assistance rates by 1.5 per cent for people on OW and ODSP.

Miller said his bill would create the Social Assistance Research Commission, an advisory group composed of people who have experience with living on ODSP and OW, are familiar with social assistance programs, and other stakeholders.

The idea is the commission would recommend social assistance rates based on available evidential information rather than conform to a political whim, said Miller. Social assistance rates would then correspond to each Ontario region’s cost of living situation. He suggested the cost of living would be more expensive in an urban area rather than in a rural environment.

“This is about fairness,” he said. “We are in dire need of this.”

If everything goes according to plan, Miller’s bill will be revised at the committee stage, and then would be recommended to be introduced in the legislature for third reading. It could happen, he said,  by this fall.

Miller has been able to shepherd other private member bills through the legislature, which is a difficult feat at the best of times. The Legislature approved his private member’s bill in 2015 to provide health and safety, and income protection for child actors (it went into effect February 2016) and he co-sponsored a private member’s bill to create Lincoln Alexander Day, which was passed in 2013.

“I’ve been fortunate,” said Miller, for his success at getting support for his bills. “My timing has been pretty good.”