Registered nurses demand government make good on its promise to end poverty

TORONTO, August, 22, 2013 – A more determined effort is required if the Liberal government wants to meet the promise of an Ontario where people’s lives are not cut short by the devastating health impacts of poverty, say Ontario nurses.

Members of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) sent a letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne Thursday, calling on her government to implement desperately needed measures that will make a difference for thousands of families and single adults who continue to struggle in a province as wealthy as Ontario.

“We’re pleased the government announced it is renewing its poverty strategy as outlined in the legislation it passed in 2009. Its actions to date have made a small dent in the overall problem,” says Rhonda Seidman-Carlson, president of RNAO. “We get concerned when the government uses the economic downturn as an excuse to slow down action on this important issue. It is simply unfair to those who are profoundly affected by this problem. Nurses know this because so many of them meet people in their daily practice who are quite literally living on the edge. You simply can’t be healthy if you are struggling to feed your family, and find meaningful work and adequate shelter,” adds Seidman-Carlson.

Despite the government’s claim that more than 40,000 children and their families were lifted out of poverty between 2008 and 2010, RNAO says the situation remains serious with 383,000 children still living in poverty, more than 573,000 households deemed “food insecure” or lacking basic access to nutritious food in sufficient quantities to maintain good health, and thousands of single adults on social assistance forced to make ends meet on a monthly income of $606.

RNAO says the government already has plenty of evidence of what needs to be done to tackle this pervasive and solvable problem:

  • Ensuring paid work is a pathway out of poverty by increasing the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation
  • Reforming Ontario’s social assistance system so it reflects the actual cost of living
  • Improving access to affordable housing, supportive housing and addressing homelessness
  • Reversing the severe cuts to the child dental care program and extending it to adults in need
  • Providing access to high quality, not-for-profit child care
  • Ensuring effective training and workforce development opportunities are available

“The reality is, inaction on poverty is bad health, social and economic policy for Ontarians and for the province,” says Doris Grinspun, chief executive officer of RNAO. “It prevents people who want to realize their full potential and make a meaningful contribution to their community from doing so because the system is stacked against them and sets up the next generation to struggle just as their parents are.”

To read RNAO’s open letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne, please click here.

The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses’ contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve.

For more information about RNAO, please visit our website at

Marion Zych, Director of Communications, RNAO
Cell: 647-406-5605 / Office: 416-408-5605
Toll free: 1-800-268-7199 ext. 209
[email protected]


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