Ontario Minimum Wage Rises

Today, Ontario's minimum wage rises to $10.25 per hour - the third and final rise in the past three years.

It was an assertive community based campaign coupled with the by-election loss in York-South Weston (one of Ontario's poorest ridings) that eventually saw the McGuinty government to reverse its long standing opposition to minimum wage increases. Toronto ACORN members were a critical component of this campaign, packing into Town hall meetings, collecting petition signatures and building community support in working family neighbourhoods across Toronto.

Minimum wages remain one of the most important anti-poverty tools available to governments because of there "trickle-up" impact on wages of other low wage workers.  By raising the wage floor we are able to elevate more workers out of poverty - and not just minimum wage workers - but workers earning near the minimum wage.

Unfortunately, Ontario has no more new minimum wage increases planned, leaving open the possibility of these gains being lost to inflation and cost of living increases in years to come.  Ontario ACORN is calling for the Province to lay out a plan for future raises to bring the minimum wage above the poverty line and to peg the minimum wage to inflation.

Toronto ACORN worked closely with the Toronto District Labour Council as well as a number of other groups to help win this important campaign.

Tenants, allies join forces for tenant protection fee

On March 20th, Toronto ACORN held a forum with community leaders from across the city to renew our commitment to winning a proactive system of apartment inspection in the city.  ACORN members described to the 100+ person audience the long history of our housing campaigns in Toronto and the progress we’ve made up to this point.

At the municipal level, 7 City Councillors attended the event and all signed on to support the levying of a tenant protection fee on large landlords to fund a proactive inspection regime.  Further, they committed to support a motion coming before Council on March 31st that aims to ensure tenant input into any new apartment inspection system.

Unlike previous housing forums held by ACORN, this event included representatives from the Provincial government in support of enhancing provincial support for tenants.

Toronto ACORN is pursuing a meeting with the Minister of Housing, Jim Bradley to discuss our recommendation for provincial enhancements of the laws regulating apartment standards and new tools the municipalities could use to ensure fair housing for tenants.

Livable Housing Forum

March 1st, 2010 - Toronto ACORN is leading the city wide campaign to fix rental housing.


Last year the city launched a new inspection regime as a result of a multi-year campaign by Toronto ACORN, tenant groups and our allies on city council.  While this program has seen some results – it’s also further exposed the extent of the problem.

Toronto tenants continue to be forced to endure bed bugs, mold, poor maintenance and other abuses, largely at the hands of a handful of large corporate landlords.

As a next step in Toronto ACORN’s campaign to see the city expand and improve the existing program we are holding a City Wide Forum to rally tenants and announce new supporters of the campaign.

WHAT: Livable Housing Forum
WHEN: Saturday, March 20th, Noon

WHERE:  Main Square Community Centre (245 Main St. just south of Danforth ave.)


Statement Regarding ACORN USA

Earlier today ACORN USA announced that they would cease operating as of April 1st, 2010. We wanted to take this opportunity to assure our members, allies, and supporters that their announcement will have no impact on ACORN Canada's operations

ACORN Canada will continue to operate as normal; serving our membership, advancing our campaigns and providing services just as we have for the last 5 years.

Recent months and years have seen a coordinated political strategy aimed at defunding ACORN USA’s nearly 40 year history of organizing poor and working families for a social and economic justice. We remain proud of our shared tradition and are saddened by the news.

Some of the highlights of ACORN USA's recent history include:

  • Ballot initiatives that raised the minimum wage in 4 states in 2004
  • Passage of 11 living wage ordinances, and minimum wage increases in Illinois, Massachusetts,
    Florida, New York, and the City of San Francisco.
  • Legislation limiting predatory lending in Massachusetts, New Mexico, California, New York and
    New Jersey, and improvements in federal regulations.
  • Agreements negotiated with some of the nation’s largest subprime lenders, including Household
    Finance, Wells Fargo Financial, and CitiFinancial, to change abusive practices and provide direct
    financial assistance to borrowers trapped in harmful loans.
  • Fee reductions on high-cost tax Refund Anticipation Loans sold by H&R Block, the biggest
    commercial tax preparation company in the country.

To put the attacks against ACORN USA in context we recommend the following resources:

ACORN’s real crime: empowering the poor

ACORN’s back in the news and the news gets it wrong

Video: Rachel Maddow: The truth about the lies about ACORN

ACORN Wins: A 10 year monetary impact report


Sun: Inspectors to probe city's 5,000 rental buildings

City building inspectors are boldly going where they’ve never gone before in the battle against slum landlords.

“We’re actually going to get our own staff to go out there effectively with a checklist and do every single (rental) building in the city and kind of rate them,” Jim Hart, the executive director of Municipal Licensing and Standards, said.

“It’s a big job but we’re going to do it. We’ve barely started it but it’s going to get going in the next couple of months.”

Hart said no one has attempted to catalogue the rental stock in the city before because the job was seen as too big.

Undaunted, he’s determined to send out about 100 inspectors to give nearly 5,000 buildings a once-over, so his 12-member audit team can better focus its efforts on the buildings most in need of improvements.

News Leader: What constitutes a fair wage?

There’s an old saying that if you pay peanuts, you’re going to attract monkeys, but Gordon Campbell clearly doesn’t see things that way.

There are currently no plans to increase the $8-an-hour minimum wage his government introduced back in 2001, the same year he implemented the Dickensian “First Job/Entry Level” minimum wage policy of $6 per hour for new employees with less than 500 total hours of previous work experience.

Most would agree the province’s minimum wage is not even close to being a living wage as it is pretty much impossible to live on $16,000, the net annual income for someone working a 40-hour week.

To some extent, the onus is falling on municipalities to pick up the slack.

Burnaby city council has implemented a policy that all city contractors have to pay their construction workers a union-equivalent “Fair Wage” while New Westminster is considering becoming the first municipality in Canada to adopt a “Living Wage” bylaw that would pay all municipal workers hourly wages substantially higher than the bare provincial minimum.

The Province: Protesters demand improved child care for poor

B.C.'s child care subsidy program is not working for the working poor of Surrey, says community group B.C. ACORN.

Sara Salaway, a Surrey mom who heads B.C. ACORN's child care committee, led a protest Tuesday outside the Surrey office of the Ministry of Children and Families.

"The working poor looking for child care, it's a difficult task," Salaway, a mother-of-two, told The Province.

She said child care costs are typically $700 to $900 a month and the government subsidy -- which ranges from $200 up to $750 per month -- is not available for families earning more than $38,000.

"If they make more than [the threshold] they don't quality for any kind of help," she said.

Salaway also said it's hard for families to find out information about the subsidy program, and wants to make it easier to obtain. "It's word of mouth," she said. "You need to know the services are out there."

Next month, B.C. ACORN intends to ask the City of Surrey to open a municipal-run childcare centre, which would be run as a pilot program by the municipality, in a partnership with the community.

EMC: Ease taxing times at Vanier's free tax clinic

In terms of filing your taxes, that is.

For the second year in a row, the Vanier-based activist group ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) will be hosting a free tax clinic through the tax season. The office fully opened up at ACORN HQ at 81 Montréal Road, Unit F, on Tuesday, March 2, and runs until Saturday, May 15. Tax filing day is Friday, April 30.

While Acorn offered a satellite tax filing office in Hintonburg in the west end last year, the operations have been centralized in Vanier for this year.

"It's better to have it concentrated in one location. All of our information is here," said Centretown resident Matthew Bullock is the group's tax site coordinator, during the media launch for the program on the morning of Friday, February 19.

Citizen: Free clinic aims to take pain out of income tax season

A bicycle, new clothes, a trip to the museum -- these are some of the things Andrea Thomas can buy for her children with her income tax refund.

And thanks to a free clinic for low-income earners, the Ottawa mother of three gets to keep even more of her cash.

For a second year, the Ottawa Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) is offering to complete and file basic income tax claims for free.

Organizers say the service helps give people autonomy over their financial affairs and lets them contribute to society, but saves them the costly fees storefront tax-filing services levy. The going rate for such a service is around $80.

The clinic also ensures people get all the benefits they deserve, from GST rebates to credits for taking the bus and paying rent.

Last year, ACORN helped more than 600 people file their income taxes.

"It's a great program because it caters to all walks of life," said Matthew Bullock, the tax clinic co-ordinator.

Households earning less than $30,000 per year -- be they recent immigrants, seniors, students, single-parent families or people on income assistance and disability -- are the priority, he added.

Orleans EMC: City to study living wage policy,

City council decided last week to proceed with a study into the proposed living wage policy. The policy would raise the wage of city contract employees from minimum wage to $13.50 an hour. The proposal came through the work of ACORN, a community based association that advocates for the rights of disadvantaged citizens across the country.

While the provincial minimum wage will jump from $9.50 to $10.25 an hour at the end of March, a "living wage," would assist the city's working poor. For many, the association has said, it would mean removing tough decisions like whether to pay for accommodation, food or other basic needs.

The policy was separated from the city's overall poverty reduction strategy, which was also approved by councillors last week. Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans introduced the motion to divide the items when some councillors expressed concern over the wage policy.

In introducing division, Coun. Diane Deans explained that proponents of the living wage policy were, "not seeking a council decision today on a living wage," but merely wanted city staff to go off and study the issue and report back in a timely manner.

Centre Town News: City poverty reduction debate to continue

After two hours of debate, city council approved a motion today to have another debate over the city’s poverty reduction strategy within the next six months.

The motion directs city staff to gather information about the city’s $3.5-million strategy to meet the province’s goal of reducing child poverty by 25 per cent.

Council unanimously approved the strategy but vigorously debated two components that will actually cost the city money.

Fourteen councilors voted in favour and seven voted against debating the implementation of a living wage for city employees and contract workers.

The living wage would require all city workers to be paid at least $13.50 an hour, 30 per cent more than the provincially mandated minimum wage.

News Leader: ACORN hosting living wage forum

The B.C. Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) is hosting a living wage forum in New Westminster on Tuesday, Feb. 9, at 6:30 p.m. The event is at 350 Columbia St., and is designed to show the benefits of passing Canada’s first living wage bylaw. New West city council has already directed staff to research a living wage bylaw, a first in the province. Speakers include Coun. Jaimie McEvoy and Seth Klein, director of the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives in B.C.

Ottawa Living Wage Bylaw Clears Latest Hurdle

Over the past few months thousands of Canadians have taken action to support Ottawa ACORN members working to win Canada's first living wage bylaw.

These actions have taken different forms; some supporters have sent letters and emails to city council, others have made donations, and others still have braved cold weather to attend rallies and committee meetings.

Today this campaign cleared its latest hurdle when the Community Protective Services Committee of the City of Ottawa passed the draft Poverty Reduction Plan (including a Living Wage provision as a component of the plan).

Ottawa ACORN members have been taking to the streets and lobbying their local councilors in support of the bylaw and have plans to continue their efforts through the municipal election until it comes to a final vote.

Up next, the draft poverty reduction plan will be voted on by full council on February 10th.

2009 year in review

2009 saw ACORN Canada achieve important milestones in organizational growth as well as progress on key campaigns.   ACORN Canada continued to be a leading voice for working families across the country while solidifying its position the largest national community organizing network.

Nationally, ACORN Canada passed the 30,000 mark in membership this year – meaning 30,000 + low and moderate income families across the country have now joined the organization and committed to building a national organization to defend and advance their interests. 

Raising Wages – ACORN Canada is now the driving force behind 2 campaigns attempting to establish the first Living Wage Bylaw.  In New Westminster BC as well as in Ottawa members are organizing vibrant campaigns to raise wages for working families.  

Quality Housing – In Toronto, ACORN’s multi year campaign to win landlord licensing has yielded major victories in the past year.  The City, for the first time since amalgamating, is now deploying a proactive inspection program that is leading to increased apartment repairs across the city.

Early Living Wage Campaign Win

BC ACORN members are celebrating this week after a vote on New Westminster City Council in support of investigating a Living Wage Bylaw for the municipality.  The vote, held on Nov 30th at New Westminster City Hall, instructs City staff to investigate the costs, benefits and viability of a Living Wage Bylaw by February 2010. 

Led by Councilor Jamie McEvoy, New Westminster has joined the ranks of Canadian municipalities looking at enacting Living Wage Bylaws – and may be even the furthest along.  BC ACORN members along with allies plan on working with City staff to ensure the report they submit back to council appreciates the full benefit of a Living Wage Bylaw.

If New Westminster were to pass a Living Wage Bylaw, it would be the first Canadian municipality to do so after over 100 American municipalities.  ACORN members will be holding events over to coming months in support of the campaign and their vision of a fair and equitable BC for all.

CPJ: City of Ottawa Proposes Poverty Reduction Strategy

The same principle is behind both recommendations, in that they allow people on low income to still live in dignity. The committee explained that the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) – a member of the Dignity for All campaign steering committee – has proposed a Living Wage Policy that would ensure that “any individual working full time would earn enough to meet their basic needs and be able to build some saving for the future.”

Full article:

Sun: Council Budget gets down to nitty grittty

Ottawa councillors will begin hearing from the public Monday before they begin their final debates on the 2010 budget.

A full week has been set aside for the deliberations. The city has scheduled two full days of public delegations, starting Monday with the chairs of various advisory committees. Other delegations listed Monday include Ottawa ACORN, Ottawa Taxpayers Advocacy Group, Ottawa Council of Women, John Howard Society of Ottawa and several other community associations.

The audit, budget and finance committee has recommended a tax increase of 3.9%. Mayor Larry O'Brien, who chairs the committee, has encouraged councillors to find cuts if they want to reinstate funding in any other area.

All eyes are focused on the transit budget. Councillors are faced with proposed route reductions and the deferral of other transit programs.

Centre Town News: Poverty reduction plan sent to City Council

On Thursday, the Community and Protective Services Committee approved Ottawa’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, an extensive report prepared by the Poverty Reduction Strategy Steering Committee.

This report recommends 16 initiatives that aim to reduce the poverty of Ottawa’s population. Among the recommendations are increased investments in social housing and increased diversity in the city’s workforce. Within the report, the Poverty Reduction Strategy Steering Committee also proposes to start an analysis of the options for a living wage policy at the City of Ottawa.

Especially this part of the Poverty Reduction Strategy seems to have the interest of Ottawa’s citizens. At Thursday’s committee meeting, several citizens showed up in the City Hall to support the idea of a living wage.

La Droit: La Ville d'Ottawa pigera dans son bas de laine pour réduire la pauvreté

Après des mois de consultations, la Ville d'Ottawa élabore sa toute première Stratégie de réduction de la pauvreté, mais elle devra piger dans son bas de laine pour la mettre en oeuvre.

Un comité municipal a adopté, hier, la stratégie qui compte 16 recommandations pour améliorer les conditions de vie des personnes moins bien nanties.

L'une d'elles explore l'idée que la Ville adopte une politique sur le « salaire minimum vital » pour les employés qui travaillent à contrat avec la municipalité. Ces derniers verraient ainsi le taux horaire de leur salaire passer à 13,25 $, plutôt que le salaire minimum ontarien qui se situe à 9,50 $.

Selon les données de la Ville, mettre en place cette politique coûterait environ 1,45 million $ annuellement. L'idée reçoit l'appui des membres d'ACORN, un regroupement contre la pauvreté. Ces derniers sont venus en grand nombre prendre la parole devant le comité.

Pour Elois Proulx, un membre d'ACORN, il s'agit d'une question de justice sociale. « En bas de 13,25 $ de l'heure, les gens doivent se sacrifier pour payer leur loyer, leur nourriture et ils n'ont pas d'argent pour les imprévus », fait-il valoir.

Sun: Wounded man won't tell police

The building is no stranger to trouble.

In June 2008, a 31-year-old man was shot in the buttocks during an argument on the ninth floor of the building.

And in 1992, the 14th floor was the scene of a knifing homicide that left postal worker Richard William Stevens, 43, dead.

"Tenants don't feel safe. There's no security," said Tatiana Jaunzems, field director for Toronto ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now).

"Many people are stuck there simply because they have no place to go."

Full Articles:

Citizen: Committee Approves Anti-Poverty Strategy

The city is also pushing forward with research on a "living wage" policy, which would increase the minimum pay for anyone doing city work, whether they're staffers or contractors, to around $13.50. The policy is backed by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN).

Everald Roberly, a cleaner and single father who's a member of ACORN, said he makes $9.75 an hour working full-time and is facing eviction from his apartment because he can't afford it.

"Here's living proof right here," he said.

Full article at:

Sun: City Committee Eyes Poverty Reduction Plan

The recommendations include expanding the application program for disability support, increasing access to recreation services for low-income families, investigating the possibility of a “living wage” policy, hiring more immigrants at the city and advocating for more provincial assistance.

Sixteen delegations signed up to address councillors at the meeting. Many people in the packed audience represented the community activist group ACORN, which is calling on the city to develop a living wage policy. The group says Ottawa’s living wage is $13.50 an hour and anyone doing contract work for the city should be paid that rate.

It’s the amount of pay that advocates say keeps workers out of poverty.

Full article at:


Sun: ACORN Calls for 'Living Wage'

A poverty advocacy group has added its voice to calls to raise the minimum wage for city workers to $13.50 an hour.

“We want the city to create a policy that ensures when the city awards contracts, that within that framework, they’re asking those contractors to pay the living wage for the region,” Ottawa ACORN member Nadia Willard said Thursday as the organization released a poverty report at City Hall.

Earlier this year, Bay Coun. Alex Cullen asked colleagues on the community and protective services committee to support the creation of a living wage policy. The committee referred the issue to the poverty reduction strategy group, which will present its report to the committee in January.

Full article:

Citizen: Living Wage Policy to be discussed in January

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), which is pushing for a policy that would increase the minimum pay for a city worker to around $13.50, provided an update Thursday on its campaign. Nadia Willard, a member of the group's Ottawa chapter, said the city "should take a lead role in ensuring that our workers get paid appropriately."

If councillors approve the "living wage" idea, Ottawa would be the first municipality in Canada to have one.

Full article:

CBC: Boost Non-Union Wages

Poverty activists are calling on the city of Ottawa to increase wages for its non-unionized contract workers.

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) released a study Thursday that says workers like janitors, groundskeepers and cleaners don't make enough money to pay their bills.

Nadia Willard, a retired nurse who works with the anti-poverty group, said she thinks the existing minimum wage of $9.50 an hour creates a dependency on publicly funded services like subsidized housing and food bank.

Full Article: