As Food Prices Soar, Ontario Liberal Budget Intensifies the War on the Poor

Image description: Infographic titled "Rising Canadian Food Prices". Text includes: onions - +17%, carrots - +14%, potatoes - +14%, beef - +14%, celery - +46%, apples - +12%, macaroni - +13%, soup - +11%, grapefruit - +23%. Image courtesy of Calgary Food Bank; data from Statistics Canada

The 2016 Ontario Budget provides an increase for those on Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) that is pegged below even the official rate of inflation, let alone the real cost of living increases that poor people are experiencing.

The Budget provides a wretched 1.5% increase to those on social assistance, with an extra pittance for those with the lowest incomes of all, single people without children on OW, that will provide them with a total additional payment of $25 a month. At present, they are seeking to survive on a maximum of $681 a month. These increases will not even kick in until September and October.

Officially, inflation is running at 2%, which makes this ‘increase’ a cut in real income. However, those living on sub-poverty social assistance pay a much greater portion of their income to cover the most basic costs, especially food. The latest available figures show that food costs are going up at 4%, double the general rate of inflation. Vegetables prices have gone through the roof and are soaring at a rate of 18.2%. By ignoring this reality, this Budget strikes at the ability of the poorest people in Ontario to obtain food and retain their housing.

Last year, Toronto food banks saw an increase in demand of 12% and a staggering rise of 45% in the inner suburbs. The average food bank user, after paying for rent and utilities, had an income of only $6.67 a day to try to live on. How much worse does the Wynne Government imagine it is possible to make things before people simply can’t find the means to survive?

The reality of exploding food prices may be something the people running the Government think they can ignore, but the poor don’t have the luxury of such an attitude. In response to this Budget and the grave implications it has for those in poverty, OCAP will hold urgent discussions with key allies and propose we take immediate action to demand and win a meaningful increase in social assistance rates that can enable people to eat properly and keep a roof over their heads.