About 80 people attended the MPPs meeting held by the NDP at the Native Friendship Centre in Toronto, as well as MPPs Cheri DiNovo, Michael Prue, Paul Miller, and Rosario Marchese. The majority of attendees were community members, with a few people from community organizations present as well.
The event was very welcoming and accessible with the provision of TTC tickets and child care for those who needed these aids. Food was provided by Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers Association including take-home bags.
The meeting was organized so that the discussion was broken down into small groups, and then reported back to the larger group. Groups of four or five identified what they thought the three or four most important issues were related to poverty in Ontario. These ideas were written down and reported back to the larger group, each item was placed on the wall in various categories.
Once this exercise was finished the group’s concerns were narrowed down into main themes so that all issues were touched upon. Another round of break-out groups addressed some of the issues and possible solutions.
Main points included:
- Income/ Minimum wage, livable income
- Access to affordable housing
- ODSP/OW rates
- Education/ training
- Adequate support for people with disabilities
- Healthcare/ Nutrition
- Government accountability and public participation
- Alternative economic models
- Human rights as a framework for poverty reduction
- A poverty reduction strategy that includes everyone, not just children
- The effects of poverty on racialized groups; immigrants, refugees, aboriginal people
- Jobs/ employment training
- Community building, support
- Child poverty
- Barriers that prevent people from breaking the cycle of poverty.
Overall, many issues were covered and people were quite well informed and motivated. The format allowed for a lot of broader issues and suggestions to be discussed, which were noted as lacking in the Government consultations. The session did, however, lack in personal stories and experiences of poverty. People expressed that they wanted the chance to do this as well.
Micheal Prue mentioned that at the end of the NDP meetings, they will be publishing a report on the state of poverty in Ontario. Both the facilitator and MPPs expressed a strong interest in hearing what the audience had to say, and there was space for a lot of participation. They collected all notes from the exercises as well.
Cheri DiNovo mentioned the 25-in-5 Declaration, and some of its objectives. There was also a petition present, which several people mentioned. Many of the 25-in-5 priorities were brought up in the discussion. During the closing comments, all MPPs mentioned the need to continue pressuring the Government after the consultation process was over. There was concern that the little that the Government may do as a result of the consultations will not be enough and lead to further inaction.