The province will be increasing social assistance food rates early in the New Year.

The biggest increases will come for single individuals. Single individuals will see their monthly assured income food rates increase from $233 per month to $342 per month, an increase of 47 per cent. A couple with one child under the age of 12 will see benefits increase from $570 per month to $777, an increase of 36 per cent. A couple with two children under the age of 12 will see benefits increase from $644 to $885 per month, an increase of 37 per cent.

POOF (Protecting ODSP OW Funding), a Toronto-based advocacy group fighting for sufficient ODSP and Ontario Works (OW) payments … plans to protest outside Premier Doug Ford’s home in Etobicoke, on Christmas Day, carolling and holding signs with facts and slogans outlining the financial struggles they face being dependent on ODSP and OW assistance.

The national statistics office is looking at changes to the federally adopted poverty line which, if approved, could increase the number of Canadians regarded as living below the low-income threshold.

The last time the made-in-Canada measure was updated was in 2008; poverty rates increased by 2.2 per cent because the financial cut-off used to define low-income was raised.

Experts suggest that a plan by Statistics Canada to recalculate the threshold by changing the “market basket measure” early next year could lead to a similar bump in poverty rates.

In my 30 years of working as a nurse in acute care hospitals and the community, I thought I understood poverty because people who live in poverty experience a disproportionately high number of chronic diseases and lower overall health status resulting in higher use of the health-care system.

That said, it wasn’t until I spent a year with the Cape Breton Community Housing Association as part of the Housing First Team that I really understood just how devastating the poverty situation in Cape Breton Regional Municipality really is for the people who are living it every day.

What are the costs of poverty in Saskatchewan? What are the benefits of addressing these costs? What policies and practices can we put into place to address these issues?

When we think about interventions that we enact to alleviate poverty, it is all too often common practice to frame them as “all cost and no benefit.” When we started talking about the cost of poverty a few years ago, one of the main things that we wanted to bring to the floor was that poverty is extremely expensive not only the poor, but also our community as a whole. Dealing with poverty, then, could actually generate a return and create a lot of benefits.

Even Premier Doug Ford’s fiscally conservative nephew, Councillor Michael Ford, wants the province to reconsider its decision to cut $1 billion in social services by limiting eligibility for the Ontario Disability Support Program.

In a unanimous vote Wednesday, Toronto city council approved a motion by Beaches-area Councillor Brad Bradford urging the Ford government to reverse the cut and scrap a proposal to change the definition of disability for ODSP.

The motion also calls on the province to raise benefits and include people receiving social assistance in any review of the program.