The Ontario Social Assistance Review must present a clear vision, put a focus on health promotion and illness prevention and do so with dignity, equity and opportunity.
I believe that all Ontarians can offer a meaningful contribution to society and our social assistance programs should help them to do so.
The current system penalizes those who, for a variety of reasons, may be unable to work a traditional 40 hour week but still have plenty to offer society. It's time to stop clawing back dollars whenever a social assistance recipient makes efforts towards an independent life.
Assistance levels need to be adequate, so that people receiving assistance can maintain a healthy standard of living. People receiving assistance should have access to public transportation, healthy local food and decent affordable housing, all of which can lead to a more fulfilling, productive and healthy life. I believe that this approach can lead to reduced overall costs for healthcare, by resulting in reduced rates of crime, addiction and incarceration.
It is very important to try to reduce the stigma associated with social assistance and change the current climate that may lead some to work 'under the table', which puts our most vulnerable citizens into potentially dangerous situations.
Providing opportunities for those on social assistance to transition into training and employment must be a pillar of our social assistance program. Our system needs to focus on helping people find work, paid or otherwise, that values their capabilities and assists them in their quest for long-term financial security.
It's time for Ontario to implement a system that put a positive focus on the individual by providing the necessary tools for success. This could be job training for one individual, life-skills for another, or ESL for a newcomer.
The point is that these service(s) should be tailored to meet the requirements of the individual which would lead to a more positive and rewarding experience for the recipient and a reduction in the numbers of those re-applying for social assistance. This would result in savings for all Ontario taxpayers.
Poverty costs us all and the cost should not be measured by tangibles alone. In a province like Ontario where we have a standard of living that is among the highest in the world, is it not our duty to provide decent opportunities for our most vulnerable citizens?
I'll close with a quote by Hubert H. Humphrey;
"...the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped. "