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Ontario Finishes Last on Poverty Indicators

29/08/2012 – Ontario Common Front, a coalition of labour and community groups, has released a new report on poverty and inequality in Ontario.

The province of Ontario is dead last nationwide when it comes to certain indicators related to income inequality, poverty and public service provision, says one non-governmental coalition.

The Ontario Common Front released its report, Falling Behind: Ontario’s Backslide into Widening Inequality, Growing Poverty and Cuts to Social Programs, at Queen’s Park today in advance of the drafting of next spring’s budget, reports the Toronto Star.

The five years of austerity budgets announced not too long ago “will only widen the chasm if left unchecked,” says the group. Meanwhile, the past three decades have shown that Ontario has witnessed the largest change in income inequality and the second-largest increase in poverty (BC witnessed the highest). About 13 per cent of the population lives in poverty.

 

Ontario spends just over a half of the national average on affordable housing, says the report (citing 2009 Wellesley Institute data). More and more people are being added to the waiting list for socially-assisted housing, says a separate article in the Toronto Star. Some 56,000 households with children are still in need.

The province’s hospitals also get the least amount of public funding—not surprisingly then, provincial out-of-pocket health care expenditures are Canada’s highest. Overall, Ontario spends less than any other provinces on public programs and services.

“Ontario government’s commitment to reduce child poverty by 25 per cent by 2013 is being swept aside,” says the report. However, the government views things differently, citing its introduction of the Ontario Child Benefit that supports one million kids as well as its introduction of full-day kindergarten and other education and socioeconomic success.

Indeed, the “25 by 2013” strategy made Ontario the third province with a plan of this nature but the first with specific targets for poverty reduction, says Campaign 2000..

Campaign 2000, a group of 120 organizations working on child and family issues, seeks to actualize 1989 House of Commons promise to children of eliminating child poverty by the year 2000.

Since the recession, however, says the group’s 2011 report card on child and family poverty, average and median incomes declined in Ontario, BC and Alberta.

“In Ontario, there are one in seven children living in poverty. In Hamilton, unfortunately, that number is one in four,” said Tom Cooper, director of the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, to the CBC. And, more than a third of Ontario’s food bank users are children.

Earlier this year, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned that poverty in Canada has “a child’s face.” The organization’s report found that 13.3 per cent of children live in poverty—a slight improvement over previous years but still checking in at 18th place out of 35 other industrialized countries reviewed.

NT5