News / Ottawa

Activists highlight poverty as election issue at City Hall

Anti-poverty activists unfurled several homemade quilts at City Hall Monday to signify the “eroding safety net” that is plaguing people who rely on Ontario disability support program and who live below the poverty line.

The campaign originated in Toronto during the previous provincial election when residents would describe which socio-economic issues they face on posters affixed to the quilt.

Ottawa residents who made the quilts here say they want to put issues such as social assistance, homelessness, and transit costs at the forefront of the upcoming municipal election.

Toni Todd, a visual artist, said her ODSP cheque recently increased by one per cent, but it’s not enough to pay for her community bus pass or her grocery bill at the end of the month.

“The cheque goes up $6, my bus pass goes up five (dollars), but then other things cost more,” she said. “It’s just so hard to keep up. I want to have nice, new clothes, not hand-me-downs or seconds.”

Todd also decried ODSP clawbacks on half of her income she receives from her art sales after $200.

“If they let us keep a little more money, we could probably dig our way out of ODSP,” said Todd.

Mayor Jim Watson told the crowd he wants to build on his work done so far in helping to eradicate homelessness by working with all levels of government to increase the number of social housing units across the city.

But, he said the federal government needs a consistent, national strategy to fight homelessness.

“We can’t expect Ottawa property taxpayers to pay for these kinds of social services all on their own," said Watson. "Social service costs should really be the senior levels of government, not ours."

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