The questions below are from a debate in Davenport, a city in Ontario Canada. Although the subject matter is not appropriate for your debates, the format of the questions themselves will be useful to you. Notice the level of detail. These questions are designed to force candidates to respond to them with more than a "yes" or "no." Your questions should be equally detailed.
SAMPLE QUESTIONS FOR CANDIDATES:
1. General Poverty:
What do you think living in poverty means in Davenport? What do you see as the main factors that contribute to poverty?
2. Employment: Good Jobs and Minimum Wage:
There have been massive job losses in manufacturing in this province and the bulk of jobs that are created are low-paying service industry jobs with little job security or benefits that keep people in poverty.
In recent months, MPPs voted themselves a 25% pay increase. This increase is more than a full-time worker earning minimum wage makes in an entire year. Minimum wage has fallen so low in Ontario, that a job is no longer a ticket out of poverty. Almost 25% of workers in Ontario are paid less than $10 an hour leaving many workers at least $6,000 below the poverty line. The current government plans to wait until 2010 to raise the minimum wage to $10. If elected will you fight to immediately raise the minimum wage to $10 and index it to inflation? What is your vision for creating good jobs in this community?
3. Affordable Housing:
There is clearly a housing crisis in this city. The definition of affordable housing means spending less than 30% of your income on shelter. By this definition, over 100,000 households in Toronto cannot afford rent of more than $500! The average cost of a bachelor apartment in Toronto is more than $700. The high cost of rent means families are living in cramped quarters, in unhealthy and unsafe spaces, and have nothing left over for food or other necessities. There are 70,000 people on the waiting list for social housing in this city. What will you do to address the housing crisis in this city and in this community?
4. Social Assistance: Income Security, Food Access, and the Rationale for Setting the Rates
Quite simply, people on social assistance can't afford to pay the rent and eat. In real terms, people on social assistance have lost 40% of their income since 1996. Not surprisingly, food bank use has increased by 80% in Toronto over this same period.
What is the rational for the way current social assistance rates are set? For example, how do you expect a single person to rent an apartment in this city for $342? The Medical Officer of Health for Toronto thinks poverty among social assistance recipients is such a critical health issue in this city that he has called on the government to immediately add a Nutrition Allowance to social assistance programs based on the cost of eating healthy food. Minimally, such an allowance would require the government to restore social assistance rates to pre-1996 levels. What is your commitment to people on social assistance in this community? What will you do to ensure that social assistance rates reflect the actual cost of living in this city in 2007?
5. Affordable Childcare:
The lack of affordable childcare spaces in Toronto is a barrier for many families. Low-income parents – particularly single parents – are often forced to choose social assistance over paid work so that they can care for their children. What will you do to ensure that every child in Ontario is guaranteed an early learning and care program?
6. Poverty Reduction Strategy:
Clearly, there is a great deal of work that needs to be done to address the serious issue of poverty in this province and in this community. Nothing short of a comprehensive anti-poverty strategy will sufficiently solve this problem. Will your government launch the poverty reduction strategy being called for by a broad coalition of community groups, including The Stop Community Food Centre that sets goals and timelines to eliminate poverty beginning with a commitment to reduce poverty in Ontario by 25% in 5 years time?
7. Funding for Toronto:
Downloading of provincial services has been disastrous to the City of Toronto. Low-income families have taken the brunt of these cuts. It is poor people who suffer the most when libraries and community centres are closed, when TTC routes are cut and fares increased, when user fees put Parks and Recreation programs out of reach for children.
There is now word that ODSP recipients will lose the $100 city-funded transportation benefit they receive to get to their volunteer jobs. This is vital income for people with disabilities that allow them the chance to participate in the community. Will you commit to restoring funding to pay for Toronto’s vital services and fight for people with disabilities to keep their volunteer benefit?
8. The Ontario Child Benefit:
At its full implementation, the new Ontario Child Benefit does not replace the full amount of money lost through the claw back of the National Child Benefit Supplement to children whose parent rely on social assistance for support. Why does this province continue to take away these needed resources from the very poorest children that the National Child Tax Benefit was designed to help? If elected will you fully and immediately end this unfair practice and will your party commit to speeding up the implementation of the Ontario Child Benefit?