Mobilizing to Save Community Start Up - A Big Victory, but a Long Fight Ahead!
Late last week the Ontario government announced that it would restore $42 million in funding that it had intended to cut as it part of the elimination of the Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB)(read on provincial web site: http://news.ontario.ca/mcss/en/2012/12/enhancing-housing-and-homelessnes...). This is the direct result of a powerful and determined community mobilization, supported by key labour allies across the province. The Liberals may think that $42 million will appease us and slow down the movement we have built, but they could not be more wrong. This partial victory has shown us what communities can achieve and it will propel us forward as we continue the fight to fully restore the CSUMB and Raise the Rates by 55%.
How we put $42 million back in the hands of poor people
Forcing a partial but significant retreat on the CSUMB is of huge importance in the fight against austerity in Ontario. In communities across province, people have built sustained organizing through town halls and meetings, delegations and actions at MPP offices, mass mobilizations and day-to-day casework of getting people access to CSUMB. This culminated in a week of action that saw dozens of challenges to the Liberals organized from Windsor to Kitchener to Ottawa to Sault Ste Marie. (See the report on the Week of Action here: http://www.ocap.ca/node/1040). Alongside work in poor communities, OCAP has for some time been working with CUPE Ontario on a Raise the Rates Campaign to challenge huge cuts to social assistance. The fight to save CSUMB has made important links between labour and poor people’s movements in this province.
The momentum of this campaign is beyond inspiring – it is the foundation of a movement with its sights set on winning. We are proud to be working with a wide array of community-based organizations, First Nations communities including the North Shore Tribal Council, as well as new union allies: the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) Ontario Region, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) and the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL).
Is the CSUMB saved?
The Liberals are still eliminating the CSUMB at the beginning of 2013
and replacing it with the municipally delivered Community Homelessness
Prevention Initiative (CHPI). The CHPI was to have operated with a funding reduction of some $60 million but the opposition from
communities on this issue has forced them, at the last minute, to announce that $42 million of this will be restored for 2013. The funding restoration is only for one year at this point.
The CHPI will be a patchwork of local programs, downloaded to
municipalities. Some local governments have nothing in place to meet
people's needs once the CSUMB is gone. Other municipalities will offer assistance, but under much stricter eligibility criteria and in some cases only to those on Ontario Works but not ODSP.
In Toronto, the intention is to deny help to those leaving jails and other institutions if they have been there less than six months.
There is presently no proper appeal system in place under the new
arrangements. (We are gathering more detailed information of region-to-region and where/how CSUMB will be available: please check back with OCAP soon at: www.ocap.ca or 416-925-6939).
The Fight Continues
We're going to have work across Ontario to challenge municipalities as
they implement the CHPI. We'll have to organize people to apply for
benefits and back them up with advocacy and action when they are
turned down. We have to work to improve and equalize the local rules
and, when injustices occur, we have to take people in large numbers to
the local Liberal MPPs and demand they deal with the mess they have
created. At the same time, we can't allow the infusion of funds just
announced to be for one year only and we have to fight for the
restoration of a standardized provincial CSUMB.
Above all, we have to remember that the fight to restore the CSUMB is
only a step on the way. Social assistance rates have lost nearly 60%
of their spending power since the days of the Mike Harris Tories. The
raising of the rates to levels that allow people to eat a healthy diet
and afford decent housing is the next goal we have to set for those
who want to challenge poverty in Ontario.
On January 25 and 26, the Liberals will hold a Leadership Convention
at Maple Leaf Gardens. The Ontario Federation of Labour and the
Ontario Common Front are rallying to march on that gathering and we
intend to mobilize poor communities to be part of that united movement
against austerity (See January event postings here:
http://update.ocap.ca/node/1042). We will be there to demand a full
reversal of the cuts to CSUMB and the Special Diet and a raise in the
rates of OW/ODSP by 55%. Together this movement is saying 'stop the
war on the poor, make the rich pay'. Let this be a message loud and
clear to those in power: we don't intend to slow down.