The Cambridge Strategy for Poverty Reduction Roundtable was set up recently to look at what can be done locally to address poverty. Struck up by the City of Cambridge, the Roundtable is made up of local politicians from the municipal, regional, provincial and federal levels and other community stakeholders. It is convened and chaired by the Social Planning Council of Cambridge and North Dumfries.

At its second meeting on Friday, April 25, the Roundtable invited Peter Clutterbuck of the SPNO to present the Policy Framework on Poverty Reduction. Copies of the 25 in 5 Declaration were distributed and the Roundtable was encouraged to endorse it.

The three priorities for poverty reduction were well-received and an interesting discussion ensued covering the following points:

  • The pros and cons of phasing in the minimum wage over several years rather than immediately raising it now to the equivalent of $10 in 2007 dollars. One person felt that it had not been raised in so many years prior to the current government that a lot of catching up was needed. Another felt that staging the increases made it more saleable to the business community. All thought that indexing the minimum wage was a good idea.
  • It is important to talk about single parents rather than just single women with children since some fathers are in low income situations and raising kids on their own as well. It was acknowledged, however, that the great majority of single parents are moms.
  • There was a debate about “facilitating” the formation of unions in the service sector to turn bad jobs into good jobs. This might alienate the business community’s support for poverty reduction. Perhaps there are other ways to ensure employment standards are enforced. Still, some felt unskilled workers in particular lack a voice to improve their working conditions.
  • Like many other communities, Cambridge has a dire need for affordable housing and this is seen as a major contributor to poverty. It may be that it should be considered a priority for the Roundtable’s consideration.

Following the presentation, the Roundtable discussed how to prepare to make its input to the provincial consultations on poverty reduction.