It is no secret that the Ontario Liberals are not in robust shape as an election looms and that their Budget was designed to shore up their credentials as the progressive alternative to Doug Ford’s Tories. This being so, a wretched 3% increase for those living in deep poverty on social assistance is quite appalling. Had they increased the rates by ten times as much, they would not have come close to putting people on social assistance, back to the levels of poverty they lived in, prior to the Tory cuts of the 1990s.

In what may be a final gesture from the Liberals, they have raised social assistance rates above inflation. This is the only year since they were elected in 2003 that there has not been a decline in real income for the poorest people in Ontario. If we consider the rate of inflation of 2.1% in this Province, those on social assistance have just had their incomes restored to the tune of 0.9%. This is hardly the road to social justice and poverty reduction we have long been promised, but never experienced.

The provincial government is coordinating homeless counts in a dozen communities throughout the province in the coming weeks to help develop a plan focused on permanent housing and services.

“Too many people struggle to find housing in our province,” Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction said in a press release. “It’s a major issue in many communities across B.C., and something we hear repeatedly as we talk to people about how to reduce poverty.”

Ottawa city councillors are coming to grips with the difficult reality that their goal to end chronic homelessness by 2024 may have been too lofty.

Councillors sat through a marathon meeting Thursday as housing advocates, economists, community activists, formerly homeless people and even Coun. Mark Taylor piled idea on top of idea to get people into housing and out of emergency shelters.

But with each new proposal, councillors’ outlooks appeared to turn more bleak.

It seems that no matter how many people are housed there are more and more people needing support and not enough money to go around.

Eliminating gaps in the Poverty Reduction Strategy remains a goal with the Lakehead Social Planning Council.

Researcher Bonnie Krysowaty is working with the province to zero in on what she calls low social assistance rates.

“If you brought them to today’s cost of living, we’d have to raise the rates by about 40%,” Krysowaty points out, “They’re quite low, people living on those programs are living in poverty.”

Our existing income security system is failing to meet Ontario’s needs. It is falling short on adequacy, design, and delivery. It is burdensome for governments to administer and for recipients to navigate. It undermines the economic growth of the province. In the long term, the costs of maintaining this status quo are far greater than the costs of improving the system.

Ontarians deserve political leadership that acts on behalf of all Ontarians, not just those that fit into their political target markets. It’s time for our party leaders to be open, honest, and ambitious on income security.

With the reading of Tuesday’s budget, it feels like the door to change for those living in poverty might have opened a small crack – but a celebration would certainly be premature.

The government will finally put an end to the cruel policy of clawing back child support payments from single parents on Income Assistance. This will mean more much-needed money for parents struggling to make ends meet, and for their children. While the premier only learned of the penalty last fall, Nova Scotians on assistance have been grappling with it for years and advocating for change. For once, their voices haven’t been ignored.

For many in cottage country, their bank balance keeps them out of the grocery store.

Parry Sound’s Teresa Young lives daily with food insecurity, that is insufficient income to purchase nutritious food, a reality all too familiar to Muskoka’s Gordie Merton and Darlene Osborne. And these three aren’t alone. One of every eight Ontario households is in the same predicament, with those on social assistance and even many in the workforce struggling with the cost of putting food on the table.