Response to Toronto Star editorial

Re: Welfare Reform: Breaking the cycle of poverty, Editorial, Dec. 4

In her announcement of the social assistance review, Social Services Minister Madeleine Meilleur unfortunately refers to reform that will “empower low-income Ontarians, including social assistance recipients, to break out of the cycle of poverty,” which the Star picked up as the title of its lead editorial.

The notion of a “cycle of poverty” suggests poverty that is transmitted from generation to generation and implies something inherently deficient in poor people rather than placing a focus on basic living conditions, which are the root causes of inequality and poverty in our society.

It is misleading to suggest that intergenerational poverty is the primary source of poverty in Ontario and Canada. Research evidence is clear that, compared to the United States and even the United Kingdom, the rate of poverty passed from one generation to the next in Canada is very low.

The structural conditions that produce high rates of poverty are:

  • Income support programs that provide woefully inadequate benefits for those unable to work.
  • Wage levels that keep people in poverty and the lack of good jobs.
  • The lack of affordable housing and other social supports such as child care.

If governments would address these conditions with investments and action and not just long-term studies and plans, they could take credit for acting to end poverty rather than trying to explain it away in intergenerational terms.

Peter Clutterbuck, Social Planning Network of Ontario