The Mississauga Food Bank’s Stance on the Federal Government Speech from the Throne
On September 23, 2020, the federal government unveiled the Speech from the Throne to launch the new session of Parliament.
As stated in the Throne speech, the last six months have laid bare fundamental gaps in the social safety nets of communities around the world. The pandemic has been hard on everyone, but especially those who were already struggling. This is especially the case for racialized Canadians and Indigenous people who are confronted by systemic barriers that need to be eliminated, alongside hunger.
There were a number of commitments made during the Throne speech that impact the food bank system and its users:
The government has indicated a firm commitment to develop a national, affordable early learning and childcare system, which includes subsidizing before and after school program costs – this will ensure families aren’t having to choose between food and paying for childcare, inevitably supporting the “she-cession”. The Mississauga Food Bank (TMFB) is happy with this movement after many years of advocating for a solution, and urges the timely and adequate investment of the subsequent rollout plan.
The Throne speech acknowledges the financial implications of COVID-19 exceeding the 2008 financial crisis. With unemployment rates in the double digits and underemployment high, the need for steady income is crucial to rebuild our economy. TMFB is pleased with the plan to create over a million jobs, the extension of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, and creation of the Transitional Canada Recovery Benefit as a centralized system for employment benefits, however more needs to be done. What COVID-19 has shown us is that individuals require a baseline income such as the $2,000/month provided by CERB to afford the necessities of life. As over 87% of our clients receive less than this amount, drastic change such as a Universal Basic Income is required to shake the system and lift those struggling out of poverty.
TMFB is pleased with the $1 billion investment for people experiencing homelessness and the commitment to eliminating chronic homelessness in Canada. The government’s commitment to spending $1.2 million on purchasing hotels, apartments, and other buildings to create 3,000 housing units in the next six months is a great start, however this will not make a significant enough dent in the number of households living with unaffordable housing. In Peel alone, nearly 15,000 families are on the 5-12 year waiting list for subsidized housing. A housing strategy that includes a substantial increase in truly affordable rental units is necessary to make change in this area.
Support for people with disabilities
COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Canadians with disabilities and highlighted numerous long-standing challenges. With 14% of The Mississauga Food Bank’s clients citing the Ontario Disability Support Program as their main source of income, we are pleased with the commitment to bring forward a Disability Inclusion Plan modelled after the Income Supplement for Seniors.
Facilitating access to tax benefits
Many of those living in low income do not file their tax returns annually, thus missing out on significant tax credits or benefit programs. TMFB is pleased with the Government’s commitment to introduce a free, autonomic filing system for simple returns to ensure people are getting the money they need to ensure an adequate standard of living for their households.
We know that this pandemic is the most serious public health crisis that Canada has ever faced. Health and access to health benefits are more important than ever, and we are pleased that the government has voiced a commitment to moving towards pharmacare, We were hoping for more concrete steps and a commitment to a national program. We will continue to advocate for universal medical benefits for all Canadians.
While we are pleased with the commitments that have been made, there is still work to be done to advocate for low-income households across our city. To lift the 100,000+ Mississauga residents living in poverty into financial security, we would like to see further investment in creating Universal Basic Income, drastically increasing investment into housing including a rental unit strategy, and the swift adoption of universal pharma/health care benefits.
We must take bold action to ensure together as a community, we get through this pandemic and invest in building back a stronger nation. The Mississauga Food Bank has been feeding families since 1986, and we will continue to do so as long as the need is present – while advocating for greater systemic change to improve the lives of our neighbours.
Photo credit: Justin Tang/CP