Vestry Motion for 2023: It's Time to Raise the Rates!
This year’s Social Justice Vestry Motion addresses the issue of abysmally low social assistance rates in Ontario.
To live on social assistance in Ontario is to live in increasingly deep poverty. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, single people on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) were 40% below the poverty line, while those receiving Ontario Works (OW) were more than 60% below the poverty line. As inflation has soared, this gap has only widened. In September 2022, the current provincial government followed through on a campaign to raise ODSP rates by 5% and plans to index those rates to inflation. While this is a welcome step after a four-year rate freeze, it still leaves ODSP recipients in deep poverty. Meanwhile, recipients of OW continue to receive the same rates they received in 2018, with no indexing to inflation. A single person on OW receives a mere $733 per month – hardly enough to afford housing, much less other basic needs.
It is hardly surprising that homelessness is increasing everywhere in our Diocese, while food banks are reporting a huge spike in the numbers of people relying on their services. Our parishes on the front lines can attest to this increasing need. (See our Poverty Reduction page for the latest reports on social assistance rates, food insecurity and child and family poverty in Ontario.)
In July 2022, an open letter signed by more than 250 community organizations, faith groups and service providers called on the provincial government to double social assistance rates and index them to inflation. This year’s vestry motion offers our parishes to add our voice to this growing call for income support levels that allow people on social assistance to meet their most basic needs.
To fail to respond to the needs of the poor in our midst is to be like the rich man in Luke 16, who enjoyed the good things of life while ignoring Lazarus at his gate. We are called instead to recognize in our neighbour the face of Christ, and to work together to ensure all have enough.
This motion was approved by the College of Bishops on November 9, 2022 and presented to the Regional Deans on November 30, 2022.
Tips for presenting and following up on the motion
- Circulate the motion and backgrounder before the vestry meeting
- Identify parishioners who are ready to speak to the motion both before and at vestry.
- Consider exploring the subject in advance through an information session, like a “lunch and learn” after a Sunday service.
- Write a letter to the Minister responsible, copying your MPP (you can find their contact information here.) This template letter can be adapted to be sent from individuals or a parish.
Why do we present the vestry motion?
Throughout the history of this Diocese, bishops and church leaders have spoken out on issues affecting our society. Our bishops regularly communicate with government through letters and meetings, and they’re invited to comment on budgets and new legislation. Canadian law recognizes these communications as aspects of the Church’s charitable purpose.
For more than a decade, the Social Justice and Advocacy Committee has drafted annual vestry motions on concerns our Diocese is connected with. These motions are non-partisan, and the College of Bishops approves their final wording before commending them to parishes for consideration.
When parishes support social justice vestry motions, it strengthens the bishops’ voices in their advocacy with government. The motions also inform Anglicans about diocesan social justice concerns. Each year the committee prepares a brief “backgrounder” on the issue at hand, which can be used as a bulletin insert.
Some parishes shy away from presenting a social justice motion at vestry, seeking to avoid conflict. This may be understandable in some contexts. No parish is required to present the motion, and any parish can change its wording if this is the will of its vestry.
But the Church can’t be insulated from issues that affect the world God loves. Learning about and speaking out on these matters – even learning to disagree well together – is part of the witness we bear to Christ, who makes all things new.