rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

CUPE Ontario calls on McGuinty Liberals to raise social assistance rates, minimum wage

Please chip in to support rabble's election 2019 coverage. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Patti Encinas has a dream that one day she'll finally land a full time job. She dreams of being able to afford a proper pair of prescription eyeglasses or going to the dentist on a regular basis. A few years ago, she "splurged" and went to see a dentist for a routine examination. But she hasn't been back since.

For almost 11 years, Encinas has worked part time in a hospital with no benefits. She loves her job, the people she works with and takes pride in the work she does.

"(But) some days it's really hard to bite my tongue when I hear remarks about how nice it must be to have all that extra time off," she said at Thursday's rally at Queen's Park.

Working part time gives her ample time to sit at the kitchen table in front of all her bills, figuring out how she's going to pay them. "Shaving a little more here and a little more there all in hopes of meeting the minimum payments."

By the time she's finished, there won't be anything left for a rainy day. In spite of it all, she's thankful that her part-time job keeps her "one nostril above water." She'll never forget what it was like living on social assistance.

No amount of juggling bill payments could make ends meet. She still drinks her coffee black, a habit stemming back to her days on welfare when she had to make the powdered milk she got from the food bank stretch as far as possible.

There just wasn't enough milk to put in coffee and cereal.

"So next time you're standing in line at the grocery store frustrated at the long lineup, think about the simple purchase of milk as a coveted luxury," she said. "(But) they'll be no long lineups two weeks down the road."

That's when social assistance recipients and the underemployed will have run out of money. And while they're lining up at the food bank, politicians will be meeting in five star restaurants devising new ways to implement austerity programs that will make life harder for those already struggling.

"Make no mistake, they're coming after your job next," said Encinas. "Take time in that grocery line to think about who you're going to vote for in the upcoming (provincial) election."

Members of CUPE Ontario took a break from their convention on Thursday to send a message to the McGuinty Liberals about the growing poverty in their communities, the vital role played by public services and the importance of good jobs.

"For far too long politicians have ignored the issues that matter," said Candace Rennick, Secretary/Treasurer, CUPE Ontario. "These are issues that we will have at the top of our minds come election day in October."

Along with community allies, activists, workers, students and other Torontonians, they marched from the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel to Queen's Park.

CUPE called on the government to raise social assistance rates, restore the Special Diet Allowance and set a minimum wage that people can live on. They also want an increase in funding for public housing, childcare and post-secondary education in order to keep these services affordable and accessible.

The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) has partnered with CUPE Ontario for several years as they fight for increases to welfare, disability and minimum wage rates. OCAP believes that this is one crucial way to improve the health of poor people.  

The union representing more than 200,000 workers in the province also urged the premier to strengthen employment standards, safety provisions, sick pay and restore anti-scab laws and card certification.

The Workers' Action Centre in Toronto works with non-unionized people who call their office daily about unpaid wages and unsafe working conditions. Most secure employment through temporary agencies that foster precarious work in companies around the city.

"We are not going to take this any more," said Sonia Singh, an organizer with the Workers' Action Centre.

Two weeks ago, Singh was inside the provincial legislature with two workers who stood up to talk about thousands of dollars owed to them from a painting company.

"This is a company who has broken the law time and time again, a company that hires workers knowing fully that they are not going to pay that worker."

Singh said companies do this with the knowledge that they can ignore orders from the Ministry of Labour without suffering the consequences.

"Wage theft pushes workers into poverty," said Beixi Liu, an intern-organizer with the Workers' Action Centre. "We need the laws to be enforced."

Click here to see more photos from the rally and march.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.