Paul Miller's private member's bill would do a lot of public good

Opinion Apr 20, 2016 Hamilton Mountain News

Last week there was some potentially good news for those in Hamilton and across the province living in poverty.

In a vote that somehow flew under the public’s radar, the Ontario Legislature unanimously approved second reading of a private member’s bill by Hamilton East-Stoney Creek MPP Paul Miller. His bill would create an advisory group called the Social Assistance Research Commission to recommend Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program rates to the government that would be specific to each Ontario region based on the actual cost of living.

Miller said it would be the first time that social assistance rates, which have become a predictable political football, would instead be established based on available evidence. It was a recommendation the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction urged the provincial government to adopt in 2012 as part of the comprehensive review of social assistance rates, but it was ignored.

Poverty activists have argued that social assistance rates are woefully inadequate to help people living in poverty to make ends meet, especially in high cost urban areas.

The monthly income for a single person on Ontario Works is $599 a month, while for Ontario Disability Support Program, the monthly income for a single person is $1,065. Yet in Hamilton, rents for a one-bedroom apartment are around $792 a month. Or how about if you live in Toronto, paying $1,067 on rent, and spending the entire disability check on shelter?

Despite Hamilton’s economic rejuvenation, poverty continues to exist. According to the Social Planning and Research Council, there are still 60,000 children, men and women who rely on social assistance.

While the unanimous vote last week was an unusual vision of political stripes joining together, the legislation still needs to be passed. The bill goes to a standing committee for public hearings. Miller hopes the legislation is ready for a final vote this fall.

In reality, it shouldn’t take a private member’s bill from the smallest opposition party to convince the government to do the right thing when it comes to improving social assistance rates. The Liberals did increase the rates by 1.5 per cent in this year’s budget, but if they were actually committed to fighting poverty, they should also adopt two other recommendations from the Hamilton Roundtable For Poverty Reduction: integrating Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program, and work with the federal government to make the employment insurance system more responsive to people’s needs.

That would be a good start.

Paul Miller's private member's bill would do a lot of public good

Opinion Apr 20, 2016 Hamilton Mountain News

Last week there was some potentially good news for those in Hamilton and across the province living in poverty.

In a vote that somehow flew under the public’s radar, the Ontario Legislature unanimously approved second reading of a private member’s bill by Hamilton East-Stoney Creek MPP Paul Miller. His bill would create an advisory group called the Social Assistance Research Commission to recommend Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program rates to the government that would be specific to each Ontario region based on the actual cost of living.

Miller said it would be the first time that social assistance rates, which have become a predictable political football, would instead be established based on available evidence. It was a recommendation the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction urged the provincial government to adopt in 2012 as part of the comprehensive review of social assistance rates, but it was ignored.

Poverty activists have argued that social assistance rates are woefully inadequate to help people living in poverty to make ends meet, especially in high cost urban areas.

The monthly income for a single person on Ontario Works is $599 a month, while for Ontario Disability Support Program, the monthly income for a single person is $1,065. Yet in Hamilton, rents for a one-bedroom apartment are around $792 a month. Or how about if you live in Toronto, paying $1,067 on rent, and spending the entire disability check on shelter?

Despite Hamilton’s economic rejuvenation, poverty continues to exist. According to the Social Planning and Research Council, there are still 60,000 children, men and women who rely on social assistance.

While the unanimous vote last week was an unusual vision of political stripes joining together, the legislation still needs to be passed. The bill goes to a standing committee for public hearings. Miller hopes the legislation is ready for a final vote this fall.

In reality, it shouldn’t take a private member’s bill from the smallest opposition party to convince the government to do the right thing when it comes to improving social assistance rates. The Liberals did increase the rates by 1.5 per cent in this year’s budget, but if they were actually committed to fighting poverty, they should also adopt two other recommendations from the Hamilton Roundtable For Poverty Reduction: integrating Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program, and work with the federal government to make the employment insurance system more responsive to people’s needs.

That would be a good start.

Paul Miller's private member's bill would do a lot of public good

Opinion Apr 20, 2016 Hamilton Mountain News

Last week there was some potentially good news for those in Hamilton and across the province living in poverty.

In a vote that somehow flew under the public’s radar, the Ontario Legislature unanimously approved second reading of a private member’s bill by Hamilton East-Stoney Creek MPP Paul Miller. His bill would create an advisory group called the Social Assistance Research Commission to recommend Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program rates to the government that would be specific to each Ontario region based on the actual cost of living.

Miller said it would be the first time that social assistance rates, which have become a predictable political football, would instead be established based on available evidence. It was a recommendation the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction urged the provincial government to adopt in 2012 as part of the comprehensive review of social assistance rates, but it was ignored.

Poverty activists have argued that social assistance rates are woefully inadequate to help people living in poverty to make ends meet, especially in high cost urban areas.

The monthly income for a single person on Ontario Works is $599 a month, while for Ontario Disability Support Program, the monthly income for a single person is $1,065. Yet in Hamilton, rents for a one-bedroom apartment are around $792 a month. Or how about if you live in Toronto, paying $1,067 on rent, and spending the entire disability check on shelter?

Despite Hamilton’s economic rejuvenation, poverty continues to exist. According to the Social Planning and Research Council, there are still 60,000 children, men and women who rely on social assistance.

While the unanimous vote last week was an unusual vision of political stripes joining together, the legislation still needs to be passed. The bill goes to a standing committee for public hearings. Miller hopes the legislation is ready for a final vote this fall.

In reality, it shouldn’t take a private member’s bill from the smallest opposition party to convince the government to do the right thing when it comes to improving social assistance rates. The Liberals did increase the rates by 1.5 per cent in this year’s budget, but if they were actually committed to fighting poverty, they should also adopt two other recommendations from the Hamilton Roundtable For Poverty Reduction: integrating Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program, and work with the federal government to make the employment insurance system more responsive to people’s needs.

That would be a good start.