On Monday June 16th, approximately 70 individuals participated in the Minister’s consultation session in Thunder Bay. The participants included advocates from grassroots organizations, representatives and directors from social service agencies, and many individuals living in poverty. Minister Deb Matthews presided and was accompanied by local MPP’s Bill Mauro and Michael Gravelle, as well as staff from their offices.
The consultation process was structured around six pre-determined questions set by the Cabinet Committee on Poverty Reduction. The participants were broken into groups of eight and were asked to address each of the questions. After discussion and brainstorming around each issue, the group moderator summarized the discussion for the larger group and Minister Matthews. After each question, there was some time for questions or additional points from participants. All participants were encouraged to leave their notes for each question and to add additional information by visiting the website.
The main priorities; sustaining employment, liveable incomes, and strong community supports, were reiterated throughout the session by various individuals. The moderators spoke very clearly and passionately about what the group felt was needed to reduce poverty in Ontario. A particular point that resonated with the entire group and was repeated often was the need to put more money into the hands of individuals through an increase in social assistance and a raise to the minimum wage. Another point that was raised often was the need for funding for community programs beyond short term project funding and the need for the government to understand and coordinate their services across ministries (e.g. coordination between social services and education)
Minister Matthews took the time to comment on many of the points raised and was quite engaged in the consultation process. She portrays a sincere interest in reducing poverty; one only hopes that the government that she represents shares this sincerity.