A Status Quo Budget Won’t Cut It

YWCA Toronto
Oral Presentation to Ontario’s Minister of Finance about Budget 2023
January 26, 2023

Thank you for the opportunity to present this morning. My name is Jasmine Ramze Rezaee. I’m the Director of Advocacy and Communications at YWCA Toronto.

YWCA Toronto is a multi-service nonprofit. We’re celebrating our 150th anniversary this year. We serve approximately 13,000 people annually across the City of Toronto – primarily women and their families – through our 820 permanent housing units, our four shelters, many employment and training programs, as well as children and youth programs.

Many of our community members are survivors of violence, households impacted by poverty, disability and mental health issues, newcomers to Canada, and women on social assistance looking to enter the labour market.

We’re also connected to a provincial and national movement. The YWCA Ontario Coalition, which is primarily an advocacy body, represents the interests of 10 Member Associations across the province.

Several programs at YWCA Toronto – including our VAW services, supportive housing and employment programs – are funded by the Province. We’re grateful for this partnership. As a frontline agency, we have an important perspective to share on what’s happening in our communities and in our workforce that we urge you to consider as you make decisions about Budget 2023.

What we’re seeing on the frontlines is that poverty, gender-based violence, mental health crises and general hardship have deepened. There are not enough VAW shelter beds or affordable, supportive housing units to meet demand. The pandemic and rising inflation has made life more difficult for our participants – and for us to deliver essential services.

Our staff are burnt out and have not received a wage increase in several years. These are the folks who have worked full time throughout the pandemic to support essential services. Funding for our sector has not kept up with inflation, and Bill 124 prevents us from raising wages.

We’re finding that the level of investment by all orders of government, including the Province, is not meeting the level of need. We believe this is causing greater harm and, in the long run, will generate greater costs for the government.

We need better funded mental health and addiction services, VAW services, and income security measures. In the last budget, there was an increase of 5% to ODSP rates – that is too low to address the hardship experienced by people living with disabilities. And, OW rates remain inadequate. We have women trapped in our shelter system because there simply is nowhere affordable to go. The waitlist for subsidized housing in Toronto is on average seven years or longer, and OW rates do not cover the cost of market rent.

We are also deeply concerned that Bill 23 will stall the creation of affordable housing by reducing developer fees. Municipalities need more sources of revenue to meet our housing needs, not fewer.

In Budget 2023, we are looking for bold investments to address poverty and support women. Specifically, we are asking you to fund community services at least at the rate of inflation, infuse an additional $60 million for VAW shelters and transitional housing, and to repeal Bill 124. We also urge you to improve OW and ODSP rates considerably and amend Bill 23 to centre the housing needs of those who call Ontario home.

In short, we shouldn’t wait for the situation to get worse before taking action. A status quo budget that prioritizes highways at the expense of people who face marginalization simply won’t cut it.

Thank you for your time.


Jasmine Ramze Rezaee is the Director of Advocacy and Communications at YWCA Toronto.

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