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CANDIDATES Q&A: How do we solve homelessness?

Candidates outline ways the province can help reduce poverty and end homelessness

Over the next few days, CambridgeToday will continue its series of articles in which candidates from the Kitchener South-Hespeler and Cambridge constituencies explain how they will tackle key issues if they are successful in the upcoming election.

We asked each candidate to provide answers to 10 questions which will then be shared with our readers, one at a time, in the days leading up to the election.

At Cambridge, there are five candidates, including incumbent Belinda Karahalios.

In Kitchener South-Hespeler, which has no incumbent, there are six candidates.

Candidates whose answers do not appear below did not respond to our request.

Here is our eighth question to candidates:

Homelessness and reliance on community organizations such as food banks have increased during the pandemic, although the issues are not new. How would you address these issues if elected?

Brian Riddell – CP – Cambridge

Rebuilding Ontario’s economy, creating well-paying jobs through skills training and investing in key infrastructure, and raising the minimum wage.

Carla Johnson – Green – Cambridge

The many costs of living have risen faster than most of our systems have kept up. The Green Party of Ontario has called loud and clear to double the rates for the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).

The GPO will do the following:

Establish a basic income and end poverty

• Phase in a basic income, with the first step being to double ODSP and Ontario Works rates and reduce aggressive clawbacks.

• Eliminate unnecessary paperwork, reporting requirements and other barriers typically faced by those in need of financial support.

• Maintain all existing additional supports that are available with current income assistance programs.

• Include meaningful consultation with people who have lived with poverty and existing social assistance programs in the design of all programs and services aimed at client-centred approaches to poverty reduction.

• Report disaggregated data annually on the proportion of the population experiencing chronic homelessness, unmet health needs, food insecurity, lack of literacy and low paid work.

• Ban payday loans that benefit people in financial difficulty as a violation of anti-racketeering laws, and work with credit unions to develop a low-cost, small loan alternative to help people get out of debt.

Marjorie Knight – NDP – Cambridge

Everyone in Ontario deserves dignity and the chance to live their best life. To do this, we must strive to lift all members of our community out of poverty. This means investing in services in our community that help people in times of need and spending more money to support them.

It is shameful that in a province as wealthy as Ontario, so many people in our community live in poverty.

As an MPP, I will champion more funding and innovative solutions to ensure that everyone in our community has what they need to lead a good life. This includes more funding for community organizations that help people in need and more investment in more affordable housing. I will work to support local farmers and food entrepreneurs to help them become more profitable. This, in turn, will make affordable, healthy, fresh food more accessible to families in our community.

An Ontario New Democrat government will fix social assistance and establish a system that will lift people out of poverty no later than the end of our first term. We will increase OW and ODSP rates and invest in supports that will lift every recipient out of poverty.

We commit to immediately raising OW and ODSP rates by 20% and legislating that the increases are, at a minimum, indexed to inflation, and then working to overhaul the broken welfare system in the US. Ontario so it works to help Ontarians.

Belinda Karahalios – New Blue – Cambridge

Thanks to the Ford PC government, Ontario has had the most longest lockdowns of any jurisdiction in North America. It did nothing to stop COVID-19, but it did result in the loss of their businesses and jobs and most Ontarians had less disposable income to give to charitable causes and support those in need. .

We need to grow an economy that is not dependent on government funding. And we must ensure that government spending is focused on the vulnerable in society and not wasted on government programs driven by political ideology or based on whether or not you have a connection to Queen’s Park.

The Ford PC government has found $500 million to lend to the Ontario Lottery Gaming Commission and hundreds of millions more to distribute to corporations to create industries that rely entirely on government subsidies rather than spending on those in need.

Surekha Shenoy – Liberal – Cambridge

I volunteer at the Trinity Community Table in Cambridge. I have observed the challenges faced by homeless people in my community. If elected, I would support Liberal policies to support the homeless.

We will provide municipalities and housing support providers with $100 million annually to promote a “housing first” approach to ending chronic homelessness that will quickly move people into independent, permanent housing with supports complete.

We will fund new beds in emergency shelters and significantly improve the condition of existing shelters so that there are safe and respectable options for those in need. We will also renovate older shelters into long-term residences and supportive housing units as people are effectively moved into stable housing.

Finally, we will relaunch the homeless census that the Ford Conservatives abandoned to better understand people’s housing needs and issues. We have a plan for economic dignity that will replace the minimum wage with a regional living wage starting at $16.

For working people and their families looking for help to achieve economic dignity, the choice is clear: the Liberal plan to raise their wages and make life more affordable, or the Conservative Ford record to make life harder and less secure.

David Weber – Green – Kitchener-South-Hespeler

We need a universal basic income to reduce extreme poverty.

Until politicians do what is necessary to fix the system that allows the very rich to prosper and the most vulnerable to become richer, we all need to step up and help organizations like food banks.

Recognizing the hardship people are going through, I will donate 10% of my MP salary to the Cambridge Food Bank.

Joanne Weston – NDP – Kitchener South-Hespeler

The pandemic has shown us how people live on the edge of housing instability. As we walk through our community, we see more and more homeless people. Everyone deserves a good, stable place to call home, somewhere affordable.

The current government recently rewrote the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe to encourage more expensive sprawl-driven development on prime farmland, while discouraging more efficient “missing middle” development, affordable and sustainable within existing communities. The Auditor General also found that the Ford government “has no plan to reduce or prevent homelessness”.

Tenants shouldn’t have to live in fear that the landlord will raise the rent or use government loopholes to evict tenants in order to raise the rent of next tenants. Part of the NDP’s plan is to restore rent controls so landlords can’t raise prices between tenants and to regulate short-term rentals so they don’t drive up market prices.

The NDP’s housing platform, Homes You Can Afford, is a comprehensive plan that tackles the housing crisis from multiple angles. We will get to work to end homelessness and provide more people with safe and stable housing options. We will build 100,000 new affordable homes and extend the life of 260,000 existing homes. We will build 60,000 supportive housing units.

We will restore the goal of ending chronic homelessness within 10 years. We will also work with municipal service managers to adequately fund housing and homelessness prevention programs.