Who decides how much is written on the cheque to a recipient of social assistance each month?
A group of anti-poverty advocates want the question to be stripped of its inherent politics and given to a non-partisan, third-party commission to decide.
The campaign from Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction is called Fix the Gap. The group wants to see the rates for social assistance based on evidence of how much it costs to live in Ontario's cities, like rents, food and utilities.
Hamilton East-Stoney Creek MPP Paul Miller introduced a bill to establish that commission in April. It passed its second reading – unanimously, the group notes – and was heading to be heard again for its final vote this fall.
But then Premier Kathleen Wynne prorogued the legislature so her Liberal government can deliver a throne speech Monday.
Now PC and NDP leaders have to try to convince the Liberals to re-table any of their parties' private member's bills, including Miller's Bill 185.
Living on less
The campaign estimates that in today's dollars, people who receive Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Benefits live on less than 60 per cent of what recipients would have received in 1996.
Food banks say the majority of people who visit for food are receiving government assistance – unable to purchase enough groceries with their assistance cheques.
Hamilton has about 12,000 people on Ontario Works, according to a presentation earlier this year from Joe-Anne Priel, the city's general manager of community services.
Tom Cooper, director of the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, said the bill is "the first opportunity in a generation to restore dignity and fix a broken system."
A previous bill from MPP Ted McMeekin called for such an evidence-based commission in 2005, but that bill died on the floor after a second reading because a provincial election was called.