On Wednesday June, 18, Cabinet Committee Chair Deborah Matthews held the 13th of 14 Minister’s Consultations in Toronto. The meeting was held in York-South Weston, the second poorest riding in the province. Local MPP Laura Albanese attended, along with staff members from the Premier’s office and MPP’s Mario Sergio and Laurel Broten’s office. Approximately 60 members of Toronto’s activist and service provision organizations (including those run by and for people living in poverty) who received invitations attended. A handful of other community members who wished to be involved were invited to participate in the meeting.
There were 2 roundtable sessions of 9 tables working through one or two of the government’s questions followed by plenary sessions in which the moderator from each table reported the results of the discussion to the room.
The 25 in 5 declaration principles were endorsed by many and highlighted frequently as an example of looking towards structural changes through policy to raise people out of poverty rather than focusing on specific programs. Better integration across ministries and recognition of community run services that are already working well, but could be more effective with government leadership and funding, were thought to be central to this.
There was also a near consensus in the room that the poverty reduction strategy must address all of those living in poverty as opposed to the focus on children first. The need for continuing to involve the community during this process was stressed, specifically through the creation of an arms-length advisory group to monitor and report on the government’s progress on the strategy. Success would be contingent on moving people out of poverty in ALL sub-populations, rather than simply reducing the poverty rate according to one central measure.
The room was energetic with many innovative ideas flowing, however the theme of focusing on the fundamental mechanisms that should be part of a government led and funded policy was central to the discussion.