News

Inside Toronto: Downtown rally calls for affordable housing

July 13th, 2010 by Justin Skinner - Inside Toronto

Concerned over the lack of a national housing strategy, a group of local activists gathered in Toronto's financial core on Thursday, July 8.

A small group of housing advocates from the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, Canada (ACORN Canada) took their pleas to the streets, urging the Harper government to support Bill C-304, tabled by Vancouver East MP Libby Davies.

The bill calls for more funding for safe, affordable housing to help combat homelessness across the country.

Edward Lantz, chair of ACORN's St. James Town chapter, said they opted to lobby at the corner of King and Bay streets because it would be the best place to reach Conservative supporters.

"We don't have a Conservative MP in Toronto, but the majority of the support for the Conservative government comes from down here," he said.

Lantz noted both the Liberals and New Democrats have supported the idea of a national housing strategy. The Conservatives' refusal to support such a strategy, however, has left Canada as the only G8 country without one.

He said the recent G20 Summit showed where the Harper government's priorities lie.

"The current Harper government spent $1.5 billion on the G20," he said. "That could provide 16,000 new (affordable housing) units in the City of Toronto."

With waiting lists for affordable housing at an all-time high - the wait is currently at least 10 years - too many Canadians are forced to spend 30 per cent or more of their monthly income on rent, he said, adding that does not even take into account the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who are homeless, or those living in overcrowded spaces or substandard housing.

"We want landlords to be held accountable and we need rent controls," Lantz said. "The average rent in Toronto for a one-bedroom apartment is $800 to $900, and when you get most people making $13 or $14 and hour, prices have escalated too much."

Fellow ACORN member Carmen Respondek said the need for housing was critical. She echoed Lantz's sentiments that the money spent on G20 security should have gone toward housing instead.

"I was shocked when I heard about the fake lake," she said. "Who needs a fake lake when we don't have affordable housing?"

Globe and Mail: Councillors move to get renters to the polls

July 16th, 2010 by Kelly Grant - Globe and Mail

For council speaker Sandra Bussin, the scale of tenant disenfranchisement in Toronto hit home at Hanson House, a seniors complex near Coxwell Avenue and Hanson Street.

The entire building was accidentally dropped from the rolls a few elections back, she said.

The situation wasn’t much better at the Alexandra Park public-housing complex in Councillor Adam Vaughan’s downtown ward in 2006.

“When the polls opened three hours late on election day,” he said, “there were four names on the list.”

Toronto City Council and local election officials are determined not to leave renters out of the 2010 election. But they face an uphill battle adding tenants to a voters list riddled with errors and omissions.

“Right now, the likelihood that a tenant is on the list is virtually zero,” said Ms. Bussin, councillor for Ward 32 Beaches-East York.

Council voted last week to direct the city manager’s office to launch an aggressive outreach campaign in apartments and condos.

Achieving that proved difficult – the city clerk’s office, which oversees municipal elections, presented an outside legal opinion that concluded council couldn’t tell the clerk what to do on an election matter.

After hours of passionate debate, council found a loophole and asked the city manager’s office to build on the efforts of the clerk’s office, which is already working with tenant groups and the Toronto Community Housing Corporation to pump voter turnout beyond a dismal 38.9 per cent in 2003 and 39.3 per cent in 2006.

“What the clerk’s department said was for us to advocate on behalf of tenants is for politicians to interfere with the electoral process and that that would put the entire election in jeopardy,” Mr. Vaughan said. “If someone wants to overturn the results of the election because we made an extra effort to enumerate tenants, we think there’s not a judge in the country that would buy that.”

Renters have tumbled through gaps in the system since 1999, when Queen’s Park farmed enumeration out to the newly created Municipal Property Assessment Corporation and killed the old-fashioned, door-to-door voter registration drive.

Mistakes plague MPAC’s preliminary voters lists across the province, but the problem is especially acute in Toronto, where half of all residents rent and many don’t speak enough English to fill out the paperwork properly.

Whereas owners are added to the voters’ list when they buy a home or business, renters have to rely on the owner of their building to send their names to MPAC.

Assuming that list is correct, MPAC mails an occupancy form to the tenant. Owners receive the same form when they buy. Fifty per cent of homeowners return the form; only 20 per cent of tenants do, said Janet Andrews, Toronto’s manger of elections and registry services.

Like all eligible voters, tenants can still cast a ballot by presenting valid identification and proof of address at a polling place – assuming they can find the correct station.

That’s why ACORN, the controversial activist group, is pushing for Toronto to put polling stations in every building with more than 100 units. “It’s more convenient for people to go into their lobbies,” said Edward Lantz, an ACORN board member and chair of the St. Jamestown chapter, one of seven in Toronto. “We don’t want anybody to get left behind.”

Ms. Andrews called that idea cost-prohibitive in a city with 5,000 residential buildings five storeys or taller. Extra polling stations cost about $8,500 a pop: $8,000 for a new vote-tabulating machine and a minimum of $500 for staff.

Using census data and poll-by-poll counts, Ryerson University professor Myer Siemiatycki found that the percentage of tenants had no impact on voter turnout in 2003 and a slightly positive effect on turnout in 2006. In other words, places with a high concentration of renters actually boasted a voter turnout slightly higher than the average in the last election.

“Until very recently, one of the stock assumptions in the municipal arena was tenants vote at a much lower rate than homeowners,” he said. “The data over the last couple of elections shows that’s a myth. Tenants do vote and they need to be enumerated.”

New Westminster Record: First in the nation

April 30th, 2010 by Theresa Mcmanus - New Westminster's The Record

The City of New Westminster is taking action to become the first Canadian municipality to adopt a living wage policy.


A living wage is often defined as being the minimum hourly wage that's necessary for a family of four, with two parents working full-time, to pay for food, shelter and other daily needs. City council voted unanimously to establish a living wage policy.

"I am very pleased," said Coun. Jaimie McEvoy, who encouraged council to adopt a living wage policy.

McEvoy said the policy would apply not just to unionized city employees but to people who work at city properties on a contract basis. This includes people working in security at the library and the cafeteria at city hall.

While the city doesn't yet know exactly how many people the policy will affect, McEvoy said it won't bankrupt the city.

"We still have work to do to clearly identify those who are involved and the potential costs," he said. "The finality of the details still needs to be worked on. We have made a decision in principle that this is our principle and our goal.

"At this point, we don't know for sure how many people it will affect," he said.

McEvoy said New Westminster is a small city of 66,000 people so the policy has to be something that's manageable and is something that people can understand.

Le Droit: Le logement abordable au coeur de la campagne électorale

June 16th, 2010 by François Pierre Dufault - Le Driot

Le regroupement des organismes communautaires pour la justice sociale à Ottawa enjoint les candidats aux élections municipales du 25 octobre prochain à s'engager à créer davantage de logements abordables.

C'est le message que l'Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) entend marteler tout au long de la campagne électorale. Le groupe demande la construction d'au moins 1000 nouvelles unités de logement abordable par année, seulement pour répondre à la demande.

« Les listes d'attente pour du logement abordable ne cessent de s'allonger », de constater Éloi Proulx, un membre fondateur de l'ACORN.

Selon les plus récents chiffres de l'Alliance pour mettre un terme à l'itinérance (AMTI), quelque 10 000 familles vivent dans l'attente d'un logement subventionné par la Ville d'Ottawa.

Jusqu'à présent, seul le conseiller municipal et candidat à la mairie, Alex Cullen, s'est formellement engagé à créer plus de logements abordables.

« Je veux y consacrer la moitié des 23 millions $ que le gouvernement de l'Ontario versera à la Ville d'Ottawa pour ses programmes sociaux. Ça ne va pas régler le problème, mais ça va donner un sérieux coup de pouce », a déclaré M. Cullen au Droit.

 

Centretown News: Reduce Poverty Now: ACORN

June 16th, 2010 by Ryan Lux - Centretown News Online

Anti-poverty demonstrators gathered outside of city hall at the human rights memorial to unveil its platform for the upcoming municipal election Tuesday morning.

The group, called ACORN, is demanding that the city’s next council adopt a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy that would include a living wage for city employees, including employees that work for companies contracted by the city.

Almost sixty people turned up to support the platform and picketed along Elgin Street to demand the city take poverty reduction seriously.

One ACORN member, who has been with the group for four year, Nadia Willard said that the reason the group is raising poverty issues in the campaign is because for the first time in years the city can afford to do something about it.

The provincial government has agreed to resume responsibility for a host of social services that it downloaded to municipalities during the Mike Harris government.

This decision will free up almost $18 million of municipal money.

“We want this money to stay in the social domain, it would be wrong just to add it to the capital budget,” said Willard.

She emphasized the importance of the city adopting a living wage, despite the fact that most of the city’s minimum wage earners don’t work for the city.

“The city needs to take a leadership role, we need to lead by example and make decisions based on what we would want for ourselves and neighbours,” said Willard.

She said that there needs to be a change on council because in her opinion personal agendas often trump the collective good. She cited the recent increase in bus fares as an example of the current council’s disregard of the city’s poorest residents.

Inside Toronto: ACORN members call for more apartment polling stations

July 15th, 2010 by Mike Adler - Inside Toronto

For those who find it hard to walk or hard to care, two or three blocks to a polling station is one more reason not to vote.

The City of Toronto can change that by putting a poll in every building with 100 apartments or more this fall, the advocacy group ACORN told municipal election officials Thursday, July 15.

Edward Lantz, a St. Jamestown tenant, handed a letter with that request to staff at the city's election services office and asked for a meeting with City Clerk Ulli Watkis, responsible for poll placement.

Municipal election turnout is low, particularly for tenants, read Lantz. "In the name of democracy, we hope you take this request seriously."

Outside in Nathan Phillips Square, red-shirted members of ACORN - Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now - said tenants with disabilities, seniors and busy single mothers can find even a short walk to a polling station too long.

"There's handicapped people who can't get around and they don't want to go all the way to a school to vote," said Marion Callow, a Weston woman. "There's people that are scared to get around."

ACORN member Mary Blakelock of Scarborough uses a cane and has called candidates for a lift on election day, but said not everyone knows they can do that.

Bonita Pietrangelo, the city's director of elections, said having a poll in every large apartment building would be impossible for this October, given the number of vote tabulators the city has.

The city must have polling stations in retirement homes with 50 or more occupied beds and in institutions for the disabled or chronically ill with 20 beds or more, she said this week.

But for the first time, the city must also ensure all its voting locations are accessible to the disabled, so Pietrangelo said her department is reviewing each one before the election.

Tenants in the demonstration said they will work on removing other barriers to participation, which include, some said, widespread apathy toward politicians who never seem to listen.

If votes from tenants are scarce, "that's because they haven't been heard for a long time," said Lucy Fukushima of Riverdale.

The Tyee: New West enacts Canada's first living wage law

April 27th, 2010 by Monte Paulsen - The Tyee Blog

New Westminster has become the first city in Canada to pass a "living wage" bylaw, effectively raising the minimum wage paid by the municipality.

"New Westminster has taken a stand for working families today by setting this powerful precedent,” said Dave Tate of BC ACORN, one of 40 organizations that lobbied for the bylaw.

Living wage bylaws set a wage "floor" above the minimum wage for workers who work directly for the city, for firms that receive contracts from the city, and firms that receive economic development money from the city.

"Once the policy is implemented, all direct and indirect workers (contract workers, etc.) performing work on City premises will earn a wage no lower than $16.74," Tate said in an email.

BC ACORN presented a petition with 1,200 signatures in support of the bylaw. The New Westminster campaign was just one of many underway across the country. A similar bylaw was recently rejected by the City of Calgary.

"This gives working people hope that the tide of stagnant wages is receding in Canada," Tate said.

Original article at: http://thetyee.ca/Blogs/TheHook/Labour-Industry/2010/04/28/New-West-enac...

 

Le Droit: Manif pour plus de logements abordables

April 23rd, 2010 by François Pierre Dufault - Le Droit

Une association qui défend les locataires de logements abordables à Ottawa déplore le fait qu'encore trop de ménages sont dans l'attente d'un chez-eux.

Hier, des membres de l'Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) ont manifesté devant un complexe de logements abordables à l'angle du chemin Richmond et de l'avenue Croydon, dans l'ouest de la ville.

Ils ont voulu signaler aux gouvernements l'urgence de bâtir de nouveaux logements à prix modique et de rénover ceux qui sont déjà construits.

« Il n'y a pas assez de logements abordables et la situation ne s'améliore pas. Elle s'aggrave. On donne des logements abordables en priorité aux sans-abri qui devraient plutôt se trouver dans des maisons d'accompagnement et il ne reste plus assez de logements pour ceux qui vivent au salaire minimum », a dénoncé Diane Rochon, une membre d'ACORN à Ottawa.

ACORN propose également la création de fonds en fiducie où les locataires de logements abordables pourraient déposer leur montant de leur loyer, sans craindre d'être expulsés, dans le but de forcer les propriétaires à rénover leur logis.

À l'heure actuelle, plus de 10 000 familles sont dans l'attente d'un logement abordable à Ottawa.

Original article at: http://www.cyberpresse.ca/le-droit/actualites/ottawa-est-ontarien/201004...

 

Ottawa Citizen: Advocacy group pushes for city to adopt living wage policy

June 6th, 2010 by Neco Cockburn - Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA-An advocacy group for low- and moderate-income families is calling on municipal candidates to support a “living wage” policy, as well as increased affordable housing, stronger tenant protection and geared-to-income transit fares.

Members of Ottawa ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) on Tuesday released a list of issues they want hopefuls to support during the election campaign, including a “living wage” policy that would increase the minimum pay for anyone doing city work, whether they’re staffers or contractors, to $13.50 an hour.

“For most people who are the working poor, what it does is it gives them hope,” ACORN member Nadia Willard said.

Without a living wage, “you are constantly jeopardizing your health or trying to pay bills and make ends meet,” Willard said.

City staff are researching such a policy, which was supported by a few municipal candidates who were among about 50 people at the ACORN event outside City Hall.

Greg Ross, a candidate in Bay ward, said the City of Ottawa’s adoption of a “living wage” policy could pressure other employers, including the federal government, to do the same.

Willard and other ACORN members said the city should reinvest into a poverty reduction strategy and social programs the money that is to be saved by uploading some social services programs to the province.

Housing is another priority, the group says, citing the Alliance to End Homelessness’s call for the city to increase the number of affordable housing units by 1,000 each year.

Improving conditions for tenants is also important, since many low-income families face problems such as insect and rodent infestations, broken-down elevators, and lack of heat, ACORN says.

Ottawa EMC: Residents rally for housing strategy

July 15th, 2010 by Katie Stewart - OttawaEMC

EMC News- Ottawa residents rallied with ACORN last week to bring awareness and gain support of Bill C-304, which calls for a national housing strategy.

If passed, the bill would require the federal government to bring all levels of government together to enact a plan to increase safe and affordable housing across Canada.

"We need to build affordable housing in Canada. We're the only G8 country without a national housing strategy," said Ottawa ACORN member Sheila Searles, who is also an active tenant leader in her building on Russell Rd. that is owned by Ottawa Community Housing Corporation.

Even though Canada is one of the richest countries in the world, in Ottawa alone, there are over 10,000 people on a waiting list for affordable housing. People can wait close to eight years for a unit to become available and in Ontario, the wait lists have increased by 9.6% in the last year.

"Housing is fundamental. Without stable housing, your education and job are jeopardized, It's essential," said Shannon Lee Mannion, community leader for affordable housing in Centretown. "Affordable housing helps stabilize people. It's a life raft."

Currently, the bill has gained the support from the Liberal, NDP, and Bloc Quebecois parties. When the bill passed its second reading in Parliament in September 2009, all MP's from these parties voted in support of Bill C-304. However, the Conservative government has yet to come on board and support the bill. Only one MP from the party voted in favour of the bill. There are 137 Conservative members of Parliament.

"They don't care because they don't have to care," said Ms. Mannion.

The demonstration of about 30 people on July 8 took place on Carling Avenue in front of the office of Conservative MP John Baird in an attempt to gain support of the bill. Mr. Baird voted against Bill C-304.

"We want John Baird and the Conservative government to give at least some consideration to this bill. This is important. It's a national crisis," said Ms. Mannion.

Andrea Thomas who is a tenant leader on her block in the east end said that the Conservatives who voted against the bill should try living in affordable housing to see how it feels for people who depend it.

"We need more housing and we need to gain the support from the Conservative government," said Ms. Thomas.

When the ACORN group approached Mr. Baird's office to present him with an information sheet, they were refused entry and were eventually ignored.

Mr. Baird's office would not provide a comment to The EMC.

"It you pay tax dollars, you deserve to talk to your MP. It's appalling," said Kat Fortin, supporter of Bill C-304.

Tahir Nazari, who voted for Mr. Baird in the last election, said he would not be voting for him again.

"We should get a response. I am living in Ottawa housing and we are facing problems. No one is helping," he said.

Presently, Ontarians are still waiting for a provincial strategy for affordable housing.

kstewart@theemc.ca

Ottawa EMC: ACORN demands landlord accountability

March 4st, 2010 by Phil Ambroziak - Ottawa EMC

With the municipal election looming, some city residents want councillors and council hopefuls to be mindful of an issue that, for many people, hits close to home.

On Friday, April 23, members of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) organized a demonstration at the corner of Croydon Ave. and Richmond Rd. in an effort to have their message heard – a demand for better standards for tenants.

“We’re trying to make city council aware of the many housing units throughout the city that are in disrepair,” remarked Kat Fortin, an Ottawa ACORN board member.

Ms. Fortin explained there were three major issues her organization was looking to draw attention to during the demonstration – the first being landlord licencing.

For the full story, please see the May 6 edition of the EMC.

Ottawa Metro: Affordable housing plan needed: ACORN

July 9th, 2010 by Steve Collins - Ottawa Metro

About two dozen people gathered outside cabinet minister John Baird’s constituency office to call for a national affordable housing strategy.

Members of the local chapter of the Association for Community Reforms Now (ACORN) came out in support of Bill C-304, a private members’ bill introduced by NDP MP Libby Davies.

“We’re one of the richest countries in the world, and every other (G-8) country has a national housing strategy. Shame on Canada for not having a national housing strategy,” ACORN board member Kathleen Fortin said. “There’s 10,000 people here in Ottawa on the waiting list for housing.”

After the rally, the group attempted to meet with Baird. Office staff refused to open the door, so demonstrators taped a sign to the office door and slipped an information sheet under it.

$100 million in repairs for tenants

$100,000,000.00 in repairs by landlords and inspectors sent to all 5,000+ of the city's high-rise buildings.

That's what 6 years of tenant organizing by Toronto ACORN and countless hours of dedicated members have earned.

The City brought in an enhanced apartment inspection program developed after pressure from Toronto ACORN and tenant groups late last year and now estimate it has resulted in $100 millions in repairs by landlords.  Further, Municipal Licensing and Standards is now sending inspectors to all 5,000+ highrises across Toronto to perform basic audits to find and target the worst buildings for increased inspections.

The program falls short of the comprehensive system of landlord licensing that Toronto ACORN has long campaigned.  Toronto ACORN members have fought for a system with hard financial penalties on negligent  landlords who refuse to maintain their buildings up the legal code.  Toronto ACORN members have held community actions, rallied at city hall, given deputations, and held city wide housing forums to build public support and awareness of the Toronto’s deteriorating housing stock and the need for reform.

ACORN members remain proud of this tremendous progress that has been made and remain committed to working with the City to expand and improve the enhanced inspection program.

Child Care in Crisis!

 

ACORN members are concerned that the BC government has made deep cuts to child care and a service badly needed by families in our community. Studies show spending on child care programs and early learning is an investment that returns $2 for every $1 invested.  We are calling on the BC government to commit to adequate funding for a community-controlled, universal and quality child care system.

  • ACORN members are calling for the following issues be addressed:The income threshold for an average family of four is increased to accommodate the current realities of “working-poor” parents. This will allow more deserving parents to access the child care subsidy, and will prevent working parents from being cut off subsidy after a small rise to their incomes.
  • Access to child care subsidy services must be more readily available to the general public. Many parents are unaware of the subsidy and do not know where to go to get help.
  • The application process to apply for subsidy be simplified.

ACORN members and working mother of two is exasperated about the cut backs to services regarding child care subsides at the ministrys’ office: “Five to six years ago, you could walk into a social assistance office if you were low income and talk to a worker about subsidy eligibility and applications. These days, the services have been cut or farmed out to limited non-profit offices in the lower mainland."


Reception 2010

Support Working Families Fighting for a Livable Housing, Living Wages and Fair EI.

This is your chance to come out and celebrate 6 years of ACORN's organizing for justice, meet ACORN leaders, and learn about ACORN's victories.

We have had many important accomplishments in the last year:

  • Improved enforcement of Tenant standards;
  • Thousands of dollars invested by private landlords in apartment maintenance in Toronto and Ottawa;
  • Living Wage Campaigns Launched in Ottawa and Metro Vancouver.

We need your support to continue our organizing and leadership development efforts in low and moderate income communities.

When: May 13th, 2010 6:00-8:30

Where: 25 Cecil St., Toronto

About: The event will feature speakers, campaign highlights, awards, hors d'oeuvres and a cash bar.

For ticket info click here: http://2010reception.eventbrite.com/

Our sponsors

New Westminster to Make History?

On Monday April 26th, the City of New Westminster has a chance to make history by voting to establish Canada's first living wage bylaw. 

Living wage bylaws work by setting a wage floor above the minimum wage for workers who work directly for the city, for firms that receive contracts from the city, and firms that receive economic development money from the city.  Over 100 other North American jurisdictions have adopts similar measures, and most recently the City of Calgary considered the adoption of a similar bylaw but it ultimately failed. 

City staff recently released a report to Councillors detailing a series of options for the implementation of living wage bylaw and a vote is expected to happen on Monday.  We are encouraging Councillors to the support the most progressive of the options put forward by staff.

More to come...

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

http://www.alternet.org/story/145371/acorn%27s_real_crime:_empowering_the_poor?page=entire

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

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-dreier/acorn-is-back-in-the-news_b_438478.html

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

http://www.videosift.com/video/Maddow-The-Truth-About-the-Lies-About-Acorn

ACORN Wins: A 10 year monetary impact report

http://www.acorn.org/fileadmin/Reports/ACORN_Wins_Report.pdf

 

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.

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.

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