Toronto City Budget Cuts Harmful To Health

The 2017 City of Toronto budget will be finalized in February and HPAP members are concerned about the negative health impacts of the proposed budget cuts.

Drs. Shaurya Taran and Naheed Dosani’s Toronto Star editorial highlights the disproportionate impact of city budget cuts on those who are most vulnerable.

On Thursday January 10, several HPAP members attended a budget committee meeting and provided written submissions with their concerns.

Deputation – Dr. Michaela Beder

“Particularly worrisome is the budget’s proposed $10M service cuts, which include cuts of $1.8M to Shelter, Support and Housing, including more than $1M in staffing cuts. As a doctor working in the shelters, it is clear to me that they are packed to capacity, and there is a dire need for a significant increase in funding for both TCHC housing and shelter beds. In addition, the $30,000 proposed budget cut to shut down emergency cooling stations around the city is shortsighted and will undoubtedly have detrimental effects on the most vulnerable members of our city – marginally housed young children and the elderly – who have no alternative during heat alerts. These cooling centers provide a lifesaving service to many of Toronto’s homeless and under-housed.”

Deputation – Dr. Samantha Green

“Supporting housing means supporting a healthy city. Research from Toronto has proven that access to housing leads to improved health, particularly for folks with mental illness and addiction. Providing accessible recreation and community services leads to improved physical and mental health for all our citizens. Moreover, Toronto’s reputation as a welcoming, world class city depends on our support for our most vulnerable.”

Make your voice heard by joining one of the Councillor Budget Town Halls!

Press Release: Basic Income Pilot

Health Providers Cautiously Optimistic About Basic Income Pilot, Worry Consultations Will Delay Immediate Action on Poverty Reduction

TORONTO – Health Providers Against Poverty (HPAP) is optimistic about several recommendations put forth by Ontario’s special advisor on basic income, Hugh Segal, last month, but remains concerned that the consultations and planning for this pilot will delay action on poverty reduction.

There are around 900,000 people, according to 2015 data, reliant on Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program to meet their basic needs, who are living well below the poverty line. Single individuals receiving social assistance have incomes of roughly 45 percent of the Low Income Measure – a measure of poverty calculated by Statistics Canada.

There is extensive evidence that poverty negatively impacts health and is associated with premature mortality. The province must take urgent action, including raising social assistance rates and legislating a living minimum wage. This should be accompanied by tangible steps towards addressing gaps in other social determinants of health, such as affordable housing, transportation, and childcare.

“Our current social assistance system traps people in poverty and compromises their health. Social assistance rates need to increase significantly while we await alternate solutions. Lack of immediate action is costly to our patients lives and to the health care system,” said Katie Dorman, a family physician in Toronto.

“There are also people living close to the poverty line, while working full time and earning minimum wage. Many workers are precariously employed, do not have access to paid sick leave, and lack health benefits such as drug coverage. The province needs to seriously consider implementing a living wage”, added Samantha Green, a family physician in Toronto.

The discussion paper by Segal proposed a non-taxable no-strings attached income supplement for a group of participants age 18 to 65 years of age, set around $1320 with an additional $500 for people with disabilities. This is a welcome improvement from current income support programs, but still perpetuates the cycle of poverty, since the base amount is only 75 percent of the Low Income Measure. HPAP feels strongly that for the province to make any significant strides towards poverty reduction, the basic income would have to be set above the poverty line.

Health care providers were relieved to hear that Segal specified that no individual should be made worse off during or after the pilot. “It is important that a basic income pilot does not come at the expense of dismantling existing social programs,” said Lucy Barker, psychiatry resident in Toronto.

“We also hope the government will take seriously, Segal’s recommendation to create a Basic Income Pilot Advisory Council that includes First Nations peoples, individuals with lived experiences of poverty, representatives from community organizations, and the health sector,” said Barker, speaking on behalf of HPAP.

Press Release Dec 11 2016

Joint Statement: Let’s Break the Cycle

The Ontario government has embarked on yet another consultation cycle on income security reform, which is delaying real action to reduce poverty.

Social assistance rates in Ontario continue to be inadequate, causing food and housing insecurity, and ultimately leading to poor health.

Research is clear that lower income and food and housing insecurity are associated with earlier mortality.

HPAP has joined several groups in calling for immediate increases to social assistance in Ontario. Please consider signing on.

This statement was also published today in The Toronto Star!

Upcoming Events: Decent Work

The Decent Work and Health Network emerged out of a coalition between HPAP and the Fight for $15 and Fairness. In the past year, members have worked tirelessly to influence Ontario’s Changing Workplaces Review by calling for paid sick days, the elimination of sick notes, and decent work for all.

Our experiences in health care and a growing body of research have demonstrated that precarious work is detrimental to health. To be healthy, people in Ontario need safe working conditions, decent hours, paid sick days, and a living wage.

Please join us for the following events!

Rally For Decent Work
Oct 1, 2016 at 1 PM – Queen’s Park 
RSVP here

Precarious Work and Health Panel
Oct 5, 2016 at 12:20 PM – 209 Victoria St, Room 136
RSVP by emailing
Speakers: Deena Ladd, Dan Zuberi, Axelle Janczur
Moderator: Dr. Andrew Pinto

Op-Ed: Poverty Impacts Health in Rural Ontario

The erosion of social assistance rates, rise in precarious employment, increasing costs of living, colonization, and systemic racism all contribute to poverty in Ontario. This has a significant and detrimental impact on health, particularly in parts of the province where there is inequitable access to health care.

HPAP member and family physician, Katie Dorman, writes about this in her recent editorial in The Toronto Star.