All Ontarians should have the opportunity to realize their full potential. Building on the existing strong foundation of public services, Ontario is improving the supports necessary to lift people out of poverty and help them live a meaningful life to the benefit of Ontario’s economy and society.
Every person in Ontario should have access to adequate and affordable housing. When people have a stable place to call home, they are healthier and better positioned to work and contribute to their community and the economy.
Since 2003, the government has committed over $4 billion to affordable housing. This includes initiatives such as the Investment in Affordable Housing Program, which supports low-income households to access new affordable housing, receive down-payment assistance to purchase an affordable home, and repair and modify their homes, as well as dedicated funding assistance for the housing needs of off-reserve Indigenous households.
Ontario’s Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy (LTAHS), launched in 2010, sets out a roadmap for addressing Ontario’s housing needs. In keeping with a commitment made under the Poverty Reduction Strategy, the government is updating the LTAHS to continue the transformation of Ontario’s housing and homelessness system, with a focus on flexible and portable benefits that respond to individuals’ changing housing needs.
The updated LTAHS will also incorporate findings and recommendations from the Expert Advisory Panel’s report on homelessness, “A Place to Call Home.” In October 2015, in response to the panel’s report, the government committed to a number of immediate and long-term actions, including setting a target to end chronic homelessness in Ontario in 10 years.
As part of the update of LTAHS, the government is announcing that it will:
Through Budget Talks, the government heard that Ontarians were interested in creating a portable housing subsidy that would be a cost-effective way to help address the province’s affordable housing challenge. This Budget sets out a pilot program to test this initiative.
In the 2016 Budget, the government will invest a total of $178 million over three years to provide housing subsidies and benefits to additional households, including support for the construction of up to 1,500 new supportive housing units over the long term. This funding will help accelerate the goal to end chronic homelessness, and it will include:
While these investments and measures are very important, the Province recognizes that it cannot address Ontario’s housing needs alone. As such, the government looks forward to working with its federal counterpart to fund critical affordable housing infrastructure moving forward.
Vulnerable Ontarians need support to help ensure their financial stability and well-being and to fully participate in their communities.
Since 2004, the government has been committed to transforming Ontario’s developmental services system with the goal of supporting people to live as independently as possible in inclusive communities across Ontario.
In the 2014 Budget, the government committed to investing $810 million in the community and developmental services system over three years. This investment will help people to be fully included in the fabric of communities and live as independently as possible.
Significant progress has already been made towards achieving these goals through this new investment. For example, since August 2014, the government has:
Looking ahead, the Province remains committed to addressing growth in demand. The government will also be approving projects in 2016–17 from a second call for proposals for the Employment and Modernization Fund and the Housing Task Force.
Ontario is committed to providing comprehensive resources and support for children and youth with special and complex needs.
With this in mind, the Province is continuing to move ahead with its Special Needs Strategy to help children and youth receive timely and effective services at home, at school, in the community and as they transition to adulthood.
Under the Special Needs Strategy, Ontario has made progress in three key areas:
Moving forward, the government is investing $17.8 million over the next three years to support:
The government is investing $333 million over five years to redesign and consolidate autism services in Ontario so that more children and youth receive critical interventions sooner and achieve improved outcomes through services that are better matched to their needs. Towards this end, the government will:
In March 2015, Ontario released “It’s Never Okay: An Action Plan to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment,” which outlined the government’s approach to combat sexual violence and harassment and improve support for survivors. At that time, the Province further committed to work with Indigenous partners to develop a separate specific strategy on the issue of violence against Indigenous women, which was released in February 2016.
“It’s Never Okay” outlines concrete steps to help change attitudes, provide more supports for survivors, and make workplaces and campuses safer and more responsive to complaints about sexual violence and harassment. Steps taken to date include:
The government is making changes to the Ontario Drug Benefit Program to raise the income threshold for low-income seniors, allowing a greater number of seniors to qualify for reduced fees, resulting in lower costs for medications. Co-payments and deductibles will be adjusted for other seniors. Other changes to Ontario’s Public Drug Programs are highlighted in this chapter and in Chapter II, Section B: Transforming Government and Managing Costs.
The Province’s social assistance programs provide supports for Ontarians in need of help.
As Ontario’s economy grows, the government remains committed to leaving no one behind. Maintaining an effective social safety net is one part of the government’s broader efforts to reduce poverty and ensure inclusion in communities and the economy.
In 2016, the government will build on its previous investments in social assistance by:
These rate increases will take effect in September 2016 for ODSP and in October 2016 for Ontario Works. Municipalities will not be required to share the cost of the Ontario Works rate increase until January 2017.
Ontario will also take steps to help increase the incomes of single-parent families who receive both social assistance and child support payments. Currently, families receiving child support have their social assistance benefits reduced by the full amount of child support they receive. This means that families receiving social assistance are no better off when they receive child support, and the parent responsible for making child support payments may feel little incentive to do so.
Over the next year, the government will introduce changes to social assistance rules so that families receiving social assistance who receive child support payments can benefit from more of this income.
Ontario will continue to work with people with lived experience and delivery partners to modernize the delivery of social assistance, better integrate services and reduce unnecessary intrusion into clients’ lives.
For example, the Province will:
In the 2015 Budget, Ontario introduced a consultation on social assistance rate restructuring. Through ongoing discussions, there emerged a clear consensus on the need to move policy considerations beyond social assistance rates to include aspects of the broader income security system.
As a result, this year, the government will continue to engage with delivery partners, clients and sector advocates to chart the path to comprehensive reform that effectively reduces poverty, supports people in their efforts to participate in the economy, and provides human services in a way that makes sense to the people who need them. This process will look across government and at the broader income security landscape to ensure that various existing and future programs work together to help Ontarians. The government will also engage with First Nation, Inuit and Metis communities to ensure that the path forward recognizes unique challenges on- and off-reserve and helps all Ontarians live a better life.
One area of research that will inform the path to comprehensive reform will be the evaluation of a Basic Income pilot. The pilot project will test a growing view at home and abroad that a basic income could build on the success of minimum wage policies and increases in child benefits by providing more consistent and predictable support in the context of today’s dynamic labour market. The pilot would also test whether a basic income would provide a more efficient way of delivering income support, strengthen the attachment to the labour force, and achieve savings in other areas, such as health care and housing supports. The government will work with communities, researchers and other stakeholders in 2016 to determine how best to design and implement a Basic Income pilot.
Through Budget Talks, Ontarians increasingly called on government to respond to issues surrounding precarious employment. Ontario is taking a number of steps in this Budget to address these concerns.
The modern labour market has experienced an increase in non-standard employment, some of which is considered “precarious.” This includes temporary workers, part-time workers who want full-time work and low-wage workers who juggle multiple jobs. Between 1997 and 2015, non-standard employment grew at an average annual rate of 2.3 per cent, nearly double the rate of standard employment.
While non-standard employment in the right circumstances can provide people with greater flexibility, it can also mean lower and unpredictable earnings and limited access to employer-sponsored health benefits, and can put strain on workers and their families.
Ontario is taking steps to ensure fairness in the labour market and more secure wages to help people maximize their potential.
Ontario is moving to ensure that labour and employment laws reflect the realities of the modern workplace to provide security to workers, while also providing businesses the support they need.
In 2015, the government initiated the Changing Workplaces Review and appointed two Special Advisers to lead the consultations on Ontario’s labour and employment laws, including the Labour Relations Act, 1995, and the Employment Standards Act, 2000.
The Special Advisers are now considering input from the public consultations and commissioned research. It is expected that an interim report will be released in early 2016. The final report and recommendations are expected to be released in summer 2016.
The Gender Wage Gap Strategy builds on progress made by the government to strengthen women’s economic opportunities and address barriers preventing women’s full participation in the labour force.
To support the development of the strategy, the government has established a Gender Wage Gap Steering Committee to begin effectively addressing the many factors that contribute to Ontario’s gender wage gap. The committee, which was appointed in April 2015, is concluding its regional public consultations, stakeholder meetings and online survey, and is anticipated to make recommendations in May 2016 that will help shape the implementation of the Province’s Gender Wage Gap Strategy. The broad consultation approach will support recommended actions for business, government, labour and all Ontarians to address the impacts of the gender wage gap on women at work, in their families and in their communities.
Ontario provides support for low‐ to moderate‐income families through the Ontario Child Benefit (OCB). This benefit, along with other provincial and federal tax and benefit programs, enhances the incomes of low‐ to moderate-income families, helps reduce child poverty and provides a more stable income base for those who may experience uncertain earnings. The OCB, which supports about one million children in over 500,000 families, helped recipients weather the effects of the recent economic downturn. Through indexing, the government is also ensuring that the OCB helps protect families from increases in the cost of living.
The government has also helped low-income workers and families by raising the minimum wage by 64 per cent since 2003. Most recently, in October 2015, it was raised to $11.25 per hour to adjust to inflation.
Enhancements to the OCB, federal children’s benefits and increases in the minimum wage have significantly increased the total incomes of working families with children.
As shown in Chart 1.19, a single parent with two children, ages 9 and 10, working full time at minimum wage experienced a total income of $36,230 by the end of 2015, which represents an 86 per cent increase compared to 2003. This family’s total income was higher than the 2015 Poverty Reduction Strategy Low-Income Measure (PRS LIM).
The Healthy Smiles Ontario program enables more children and youth aged 17 and under from low-income families to receive free dental care. It also ensures that children continue to receive dental care when their families transition from social assistance. The government has improved access to children’s dental services by integrating a number of publicly funded dental programs and creating a one-window application process.
Economic empowerment takes different forms for different people. For example, Ontarians with limited resources need better tools to achieve financial stability; youth and people with disabilities need better training and access to employment. The government is committed to improving the tools and opportunities necessary to support the economic and social inclusion of all Ontarians.
Financial empowerment helps low-income individuals and families improve their credit scores, increase savings and develop long-term financial management plans.
The government is already engaged in programs that support these important goals. For example, financial literacy is integrated in the Ontario curriculum for students in Grades 4 to 12, so they have the knowledge and skills to take responsibility for managing their personal financial well-being with confidence and competence. In addition, the Province funds the Financial Empowerment and Problem Solving (FEPS) program, a pilot project offered through three community agencies. The program provides low-income people with individualized counselling and hands-on help to those in financial crisis to obtain banking services, apply for benefits such as Canada Learning Bonds to save for their children’s education, manage debt and enable participants to move from crisis to longer-term financial planning.
The Province is taking further steps to increase support for financial empowerment initiatives.
The government will invest up to $1 million annually over five years to partner with Prosper Canada to provide a range of financial empowerment tools and services to more communities across Ontario. The initiative will be evaluated to determine the effectiveness of the tools and services on enhancing the financial stability and empowerment of participants.
Through Budget Talks, the government heard from Ontarians a desire for increased financial education opportunities for youth.
The government will also provide up to $650,000 in matching funding to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce to support Funny Money, an innovative program for high school students that complements the approach to financial literacy education in the school curriculum. Funny Money uses humour to educate youth about money management, credit, debt and savings to empower students with the knowledge they need to make good financial choices.
The Province has taken a number of steps to better support people with disabilities by helping them connect to the labour market and engaging and supporting employers.
One of these steps includes the creation of the Partnership Council on Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities, to work with and encourage employers in hiring people with disabilities.
Over the next year, the government will develop a provincial employment strategy for people with disabilities that will:
This strategy will build on the Province’s significant progress towards its objective of an accessible Ontario by 2025. In support of The Path to 2025: Ontario’s Accessibility Action Plan, and as part of ongoing efforts to make it easier for people with disabilities to participate in their workplaces and communities, the Province will introduce amendments to 11 statutes, targeting areas that represent barriers to accessibility. These amendments modernize procedures related to service, timelines and notice requirements, and include amendments to:
As well, Ontario’s Accessible Employment Standard requires businesses with 50 or more employees to make employment practices accessible to meet the needs of employees and job applicants with disabilities, as of January 1, 2016.
Ensuring that all Ontarians have the opportunity to overcome barriers to social and economic inclusion contributes to the strength of Ontario’s communities.
The Local Poverty Reduction Fund is a $50 million, six-year program designed to evaluate community-driven interventions that prevent or lift people out of poverty. From the 2015 Call for Proposals, Ontario is now supporting 41 projects in over 20 communities across the province to improve the lives of people living in poverty and build evidence about programs that work.
Projects Financed through the Local Poverty Reduction Fund:
The next call for proposals for the Local Poverty Reduction Fund will be launched in spring 2016. Over the course of 2016 and 2017, a total of $10 million will be targeted for projects related to homelessness.
The government recognizes and values diversity in all Ontarians and Ontario communities, and is committed to actively promoting and pursuing racial equity in provincial policy development, implementation and evaluation. To this end, the Province is moving forward with a plan to address racism in all forms, including individual, systemic and cultural, and to advance equality for all Ontarians regardless of race, ethnicity, creed or cultural background.
This plan will include the creation of a new Directorate that will work with key partners such as business and community organizations, educational institutions and the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
Through this plan, the Directorate will:
Ontario recently passed legislation to formally recognize February as Black History Month on an annual basis. This legislation recognizes the significant contributions Black Canadians have made to the development and betterment of Ontario throughout its long history.
The government will also introduce mandatory Indigenous cultural competency and anti-racism training for all employees across the Ontario Public Service.
Ontario is promoting integration by eliminating barriers and implementing change to reflect the province’s diverse communities. The government plans to build on its inclusive approach by proposing legislative amendments to enable people from traditional cultures who have a single naming practice to have that name reflected in vital events, such as birth certificates and change of name certifications.
Ontario is also committed to providing settlement and integration supports targeted for newcomers and refugees, while ensuring the broader pursuit of racial equity in provincial policy.
Ontario’s efforts towards integration also include new support for the Muslim Resource Centre for Social Support and Integration (MRCSSI) to expand the organization’s work to help clients overcome challenges that affect their family safety. The MRCSSI is a not-for-profit organization whose goal is to help families and individuals overcome the challenge of pre- and post-migration stressors, cultural differences, poverty and loss of social status. Annual funding of $200,000 will allow the MRCSSI to provide more efficient services and build on its Culturally Integrative Family Safety Response Model. The funding will also support MRCSSI to collaborate with other agencies to provide culturally integrated individual intervention, case coordination, staff training and community capacity building.
Helping newcomers integrate successfully into communities and workplaces helps support Ontario’s economic prosperity. The government is committing additional funding of $2 million in 2016–17 to ensure the continuation of important coordination efforts that provide support to welcome and settle refugees in Ontario. Since December 2015, Ontario has welcomed more than 8,000 Syrian refugees, and anticipates up to another 2,000 by the end of February.
This will bring the government’s total commitment to $12.5 million for international relief efforts, direct supports for refugees, as well as for organizations and groups that are privately sponsoring refugees.
In November 2015, the government announced the appointment of a dedicated Executive Lead to ensure seamless, coordinated and appropriate support for the refugees who arrive in Ontario. This coincided with the establishment of a Ministers’ Ad Hoc Committee on Refugees to support the provincial commitment to help settle thousands of Syrian refugees. The committee is co-chaired by the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and International Trade and the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care.
The committee is tasked with overseeing and coordinating a cross-government response to prepare for incoming refugees and helping them settle and integrate once they arrive. It is working closely with the federal government to determine how Ontario can best support a national plan for refugee settlement. Work to date has included providing incoming refugees with health services and emergency medical assistance, and collaborating with the Canadian Red Cross to ensure that additional emergency social services are available as needed.
It is critical that the government move forward on a number of fronts to improve economic opportunities and support sustainable opportunities for Indigenous peoples in Ontario.
In November 2014, the government announced an investment of over $10 million in the Aboriginal Healing and Wellness Strategy (AHWS) to help reduce family violence and violence against Indigenous women, and improve Indigenous health, healing and wellness.
The government will invest in the AHWS annually to continue to support over 450 Indigenous health and healing projects, including:
Ontario is providing $2 million to 10 Indigenous organizations to engage with their communities and make recommendations on unique mental health and addictions issues facing Indigenous peoples across the province. A dedicated Indigenous engagement process, launched with First Nation, Métis and urban Indigenous partners, will continue to inform the Province’s 10-year Mental Health and Addictions Strategy.
Following the release of “It’s Never Okay: An Action Plan to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment,” the Province further committed to work with Indigenous partners to develop a separate specific strategy on the issue of violence against Indigenous women.
Ontario is committed to a Long-Term Strategy to End Violence against Indigenous Women, promoting wellness and family supports to address the impacts of violence on Indigenous families. The strategy will include an investment of $100 million over three years to support a number of initiatives such as:
In recognizing the increased likelihood of Indigenous women victimized through the human trafficking trade, Ontario is also moving forward with the development of a strategy to stop human trafficking, which will include supports targeted for Indigenous and non-Indigenous women.
Ontario is making it a priority to act on the Calls to Action released by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada in June 2015 by working in partnership with First Nation, Inuit and Métis peoples to acknowledge and teach the history and legacy of residential schools, take action to close gaps in outcomes, and build culturally sensitive and community-based services. That is why the government is working with First Nation, Métis and Inuit partners in revising the curriculum to include greater requirements for students to learn about Indigenous perspectives, cultures, histories and contributions, including treaties and the residential school experience. As part of a broader awareness campaign, the Province is also supporting two public service announcements: one will tell the truth about Canada’s residential schools, and one will advocate a deeper understanding of treaties.
The government will continue to engage Indigenous partners on policies and programs that respond to the report’s recommendations. Ontario will continue to take steps, in partnership with Indigenous communities, to ensure that Indigenous voices are heard within government, including in policy- and decision-making.
The bar chart shows the change in total annualized income for a single parent with two children ages nine and 10, working full-time at minimum wage between 2003 and 2015. In 2003, the total annualized income was $19,468. In 2015, the total annualized income for that family type stood at $36,230, or 86 per cent higher than in 2003.