Things have been getting better in Ontario over the past few years – for those who were doing OK in the first place. For those who were already struggling, it’s another story. They’ve actually been slipping backwards.

Stripped of the economic jargon, that’s the basic finding of a new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

It confirms what was already known from other studies: that income inequality has been getting worse over the past decade and a half. And it provides more evidence that the Wynne government is on the right track with its important reform of the province’s labour laws.

The key factor in growing inequality has been the dramatic increase in so-called precarious work – often low-paid, contract, and part-time work. As the CCPA’s senior economist, Sheila Block, documents in her report, it has resulted in essentially two separate labour markets in Ontario.

It’s 7:15 a.m. and a woman is sleeping on the pavement across from Victoria’s Reeson Park, a small green space on Wharf Street. She has no tent to block the morning breeze, just a weathered comforter and her dog nestled beside her for warmth. On the ledge next to her sit two bottles of red and pink nail polish, an open bottle of Sprite and a half-finished mickey of whisky. A bike tire rings the handle of her shopping cart.

Victoria police Staff Sgt. Colin Brown leans over her. “Hey ma’am, it’s the police, time to wake up.”

She stirs, pulls her arm across her eyes and nestles into her dog.

“Sorry to wake you,” Brown says. “It looks like you’ve got a warm friend there with you.”

Brown gives her some space and heads to a neighbouring tarp-covered encampment that overlooks the Johnson Street Bridge.

It was at the beginning of August when the 21-year-old, who is eight-months pregnant, was told she had to leave Leeder Place Family Shelter, located in East Gwillimbury, just north of Newmarket, without a place to stay.

She and her partner, Tim Black, 27, say they had given notice of intent to leave the shelter, but when their new accommodations fell through, they went back to the shelter with a week to go before they were scheduled to leave and asked to stay.

Nonetheless, when the date came, they were forced to leave, as the shelter had given their space to another family.

When Davenport-Tobin tried many other options available, she was told, “Sorry, no beds here”.

Anti-poverty advocates gathered Aug. 19 at Allan Gardens in downtown Toronto — a part of town that has seen its share of poverty — to protest the gentrification of the city’s downtown at the same time as homelessness is on the rise and affordable housing, on the decline.

“I don’t think it’s come as a surprise to anyone that we’re in the midst of a housing crisis,” said Yogi Atcharya of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, who organized the noon-hour rally and barbecue. “The city’s own number say that there has been a crisis in homelessness that is in an unrelenting upswing since 2012. There are record numbers of homeless death. We’re in the midst of an opioid crisis, so it’s a really dark time for a lot of people and particularly homeless people.”

The rally, said Atcharya, is a part of a larger campaign that OCAP is embarking on to highlight the city’s housing crisis. The group will be rallying again in October and once more on the National Day of Housing in November.

Re: “’22 Victoria Games bid envisions $955M budget, new stadium,” Aug. 17.

This is a great idea if you are rich and indifferent to the homeless.

But if there is a spare billion dollars kicking around, it has to be steered into social housing, and into salaries for the phalanx of social workers needed to deal with our welfare-disabled injured neighbours.

They live at the intersection of drastic illness and deep poverty. It’s not that complicated: If you are sick you can’t work, and when you can’t work you become poor. There’s no way out and no way up, except for a rare few.

In 1997, only 2.5 per cent of Ontario workers earned minimum wage. By 2015, that figure had risen to 11.6 per cent and fully one-quarter of Ontario workers earned less than $15 per hour.

That woeful trend coincides with an increase in homelessness and reliance on food banks, growing employment insecurity and soaring income inequality.

All of that is just dandy for Joe Andely (letter: Higher Prices for the Consumer) and like-minded conservatives. They believe that “the market determines what wages an employee deserves and government interference is bad news.”

By that logic perhaps we should not increase the minimum wage but eliminate it altogether, together with collective bargaining, sick days and paid vacations.

Shall we allow for the return of child labour, the 12-hour work day and the six-day work week if the market so dictates?

Decades of attack on the stability of pensions in Canada is nothing short of a crisis looming over the future of our economy, and it must be addressed now before too much damage is done.

We are already beginning to see the effect of past pension cuts.

The stark fact is that fewer and fewer Canadians can look forward to a decent pension. As well, with all the pressures of daily life and raising families, few of us find it possible to save for retirement.

Consider that just over 20 years ago, only 3.9 per cent of seniors lived in poverty. By 2015, the rate was 14.3 per cent — something to be ashamed of, and the situation is unlikely to get better as pensions continue to be attacked.