April 15, 2008

Activism: poverty in Ontario plan urgently needed

As an impoverished person living in Ontario, obviously this is very very close to the bone.

I went to the disabilities debate during the election debates, and I do not believe for one second that the Ontario Liberals (much like the dems in the US, ugh) intend to do one little bitty thing to end poverty here nor do much to give us access to quality medical once we hit bottom

Call me cynical - but I know what I know, I see what I see, I hear what I hear.

No one has made one change in the Canadian Disabilities Act since 1994 - they are always GOING to do it.

I wish some of these "policymakers" had to walk in my shoes for about a month and see how it FEELS. I have mostly been impoverished since I got here in 1994!! And unless something radical happens, I expect I don't have a lot of time left. And I am sick to death of being isolated becuz I can't get into a residence with handicapped facilities! I am sick of being forced (for over a year) to live with molds and bad carpetting with aggravate my chemical sensitivities for over a year!! When you read the second article, realize that I know precisely how Michael Meeks FEELS.

Sometimes I feel so bad when I go out, I cry the entire time .. totally emotionally destablized, even on Good Days .. Do you supposed ANYONE around me "gets it".. No, they DON'T. And financially and emotionally things grow worse by the day ..

Such BULLSHIT by the Liberals! It is INFURIATING!! Truly !! They have lied like the BuZhistas for a looooooooooong time now. Still deciding which cronies to hand out the contracts to is what it is.

I despise politics and politicians.


Great. They post the info on government websites, but many cannot afford computers, don't know how to use them, and can't get to libraries! Seriously.

Times are dire in Ontario, the truth be known and it's going to take many of us to bring our NEEDS to their serious attention.



Activists push poverty plan

MPP Deb Matthews is in charge of creating a poverty strategy.
Apr 14, 2008 04:30 AM

Staff Reporters

Hundreds of activists will gather today to present the McGuinty government with a plan to cut poverty in Ontario by 25 per cent over five years.

The action plan is the work of an ever-increasing coalition – with members as varied as the City of Toronto, teachers' federations, nurses, Ryerson University and health-care and immigrant groups. It calls itself the 25-in-5 Network for Poverty Reduction.

Its strategy, to be unveiled at a Queen's Park forum today, calls on Ontario to "poverty proof" the minimum wage; enhance social benefits for children and those unable to work; and beef up supports such as child care and affordable housing.

But the most important message the gathering of more than 500 anti-poverty activists from across the province wants to send the government is that progress on poverty reduction is possible. Others have proved it.

"The U.K. has reduced poverty by nearly 25 per cent in the past five years," the plan says.

"Quebec as well as Newfoundland and Labrador both have ambitious plans to tackle poverty. It's Ontario's turn," it says.

"We need to get on with action," says the group's spokesperson, Jennefer Laidley of the Income Security Advocacy Centre.

While Laidley gives the Liberals credit for steps they have taken so far, she says one of the group's big concerns is that the province's flagging economy will stall further progress.

The group will present its proposals to Children and Youth Services Minister Deb Matthews, who chairs the cabinet committee drafting the provincial strategy on poverty reduction, promised by the Liberals by year-end.

The plan, by the network representing more than 100 individuals and groups, sets out three broad areas of attack:

  • Sustaining employment, including a minimum wage that lifts full-time workers out of poverty; updated employment standards; drug and dental coverage for low-income workers and an enriched federal income tax benefit for workers.
  • Liveable incomes to make it easier to get off welfare and easier for the disabled to access provincial disability supports; an end to the clawback of the national child benefit; expanded federal employment insurance coverage and an enriched federal child benefit.
  • Supportive communities that ensure low-income people have access to affordable housing, child care and public transit; a strong public education system; and community programs that help people connect with their neighbours.

"So far the government has been great in terms of announcing its intention to put together a poverty reduction strategy and they've given us all the right signals," said Laidley. "But we need to know the next steps."

The Liberals have already introduced some measures to ease poverty, including a $135 million dental program for the working poor, an additional $35 million for student nutrition and $100 million to fix aging social housing.

But they have not announced public consultations or sketched out a general direction for their larger strategy. Nor have they suggested any specific goals they hope their plan will achieve.

With a battered manufacturing sector and a slowing economy, the group is concerned it will be fiscally difficult for the province to commit to an aggressive plan with meaningful targets.

"Economic conditions have been used for a long time as an excuse for not doing anything about poverty and if we continue to simply base our priorities on what the economic conditions are ... we're never going to do anything," Laidley said. "I don't think the economic conditions are as important as having a long-term plan."

So far, the government appears to agree. "Some have argued, especially given the struggling nature of the global economy, that now is not the time for us to lend a helping hand to our low-income families. We reject that argument," McGuinty told reporters last month.

In a recent interview, Matthews said she will release a consultation document later this spring and launch a website with links to national and international research on poverty reduction so that the public can see the same information the government considering.

"What I know for sure is that every community is different in terms of their capacity to address poverty," said Matthews, who has spent several months meeting informally with groups across the province.

"There are a lot of really good ideas that some communities are (working on) and that others could learn from," she added.

Laidley said activists are anxious to hear the consultation plans but don't want them to drag on.

Still, she said, people living in poverty must be heard on "what is a new and really revolutionary approach to dealing with poverty in this province."

Ontario wary of '25-in-5' poverty plan


Cabinet minister Deb Matthews talks with anti-poverty activist Dip Habib, of the East Scarborough Storefront, at a forum at Queen's Park, April 14, 2008.

Apr 15, 2008 04:30 AM
Laurie Monsebraaten
Staff Reporter

Ontario can't say it will cut poverty by 25 per cent in five years until it has defined the problem, says the chair of a cabinet committee drafting the Liberals' promised anti-poverty strategy.

"I'm happy to have an ambitious goal on a significant reduction in poverty," Children and Youth Minister Deb Matthews told reporters after attending a forum of about 500 anti-poverty activists at Queen's Park yesterday.

"But 25 per cent of what?" she asked. "How are we going to measure our progress? How are we going to measure poverty? This is one of our big challenges."

The activists, part of a growing coalition with members as varied as the City of Toronto, teachers' federations, Ryerson University, health-care and immigrant groups, want the Liberals to follow countries such as the U.K. that have reduced poverty by almost 25 per cent in the past five years. They call themselves the 25-in-5 Network for Poverty Reduction.

Canada doesn't have an official poverty line, Matthews said. However, the number most often cited is Statistics Canada's low-income cut-off, which for a single person in Toronto in 2006 was $17,570 after taxes. For a family of four it was $33,221. (The before-tax amounts were $21,202 for a single person and $39,399 for a family of four.)

But income alone doesn't tell the whole story, Matthews said.

For example, many children in low-income households struggle in school and never reach their potential, she said. "How do we get at measuring that kind of progress?" she asked. "It's way more than just an income measure."

Matthews said the government is considering several different indicators to measure the complexity of poverty and is looking at what other countries use.

She said she will be seeking public input when formal consultations on the plan begin later this spring.

"We were elected on a number of planks in our platform. One was not to raise taxes. And one was not to run a deficit. So we have to live within that reality," Matthews told reporters. "But I'm very, very confident we're going to be able to do a lot of very good things within that reality," she said.

"I can assure you we are very, very serious about developing a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy," Matthews said. "We can't afford poverty. It's in our economic best interests to really address poverty."

The gathering, which included about 50 people living in poverty, urged Matthews and her government to make bold changes to improve the lives of some 1.3 million Ontarians living below Statistics Canada's low-income cut-offs.

One of those was Michael Meeks, a 50-year-old former Toronto business manager whose battle with cancer in 1993 left him unable to work. But it wasn't the cancer or mental illness that broke his spirit, he told the forum. It was poverty.

Unable to afford TTC fare for anything but doctors' appointments or shopping, Meeks became increasingly lonely and isolated.

"The last time I went to a movie theatre was to see The Lion King," he said. "This is how I started to disappear as a person."

Matthews, who seemed moved by the stories of Meeks and others who spoke, said one of the government's goals is to change the way it provides services and income support to ensure people are helped and not further marginalized.

"We need to turn government on its ear. We need to develop person-centred strategies ... build on the strengths of people, not on their pathologies," she said.

Although the group is excited by the Liberals' commitment to tackling poverty with a comprehensive, long-term strategy by year's end, members realize there is still an appetite in Ontario for tax cuts and less government.

"There are many who adhere to the view that if you're poor it's your own fault and, as a result, government has no business, no legitimate role to play ameliorating, reducing or eradicating poverty," said Nick Saul of the Stop Community Food Centre. And there are many competing interests at the cabinet table, he told the group.

But the 25-in-5 network hopes the province will run with its demands to "poverty proof" the minimum wage; enhance social benefits for children and those unable to work; and beef up supports such as child care and affordable housing.

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