Over 50 agency representatives and residents in North Etobicoke came together on Thursday, July 31, for a very lively and animated discussion on poverty. The consultation took place at the YMCA’s Rexdale Youth Resource Centre on Albion Road. The two and a half hour session was hosted by MPP Dr. Shafiq Qaadri (Etobicoke North), who provided opening remarks, thanking participants for taking time to come out and share their thoughts and views on the issue. He introduced MPP Bas Balkisoon (Scarborough-Rouge River), a member of the Cabinet Committee on Poverty Reduction, who listened in on the subsequent discussions and provided closing comments.

The consultation was supported by NERP (North Etobicoke Revitalization Partnership), whose staff helped to get word out to the community about the event, and the Community Social Planning Council of Toronto, which helped with arrangements as well. The consultation was moderated by Winston Tinglin, Director of Community Engagement at the Social Planning Council.

Participants stressed the need for action, as against continuing talk. As they saw it, government needs to take a focused approach, with sustained investments over time, getting to root causes and overall, ensuring that poverty is tackled in systemic ways. They were very interested in knowing what the follow-up to the consultation would entail and wanted assurance that their ideas and suggestions would be used and reflected in the province’s poverty strategy. They also expressed an expectation that community stakeholders will be consulted once a draft strategy is developed and that allowance will be made for further refinement and revamping, based on the community’s feedback.

The two discussion groups covered a wide range of issues, flowing out of the questions posed in the poverty consultation workbook. Participants cited education, affordable housing, jobs that pay a living wage, adequate child and family supports and accessible health services as key ingredients for eliminating poverty. They also noted that more could be done to integrate newcomers and provide opportunities for them to make a good start. They generally agreed that part of the solution is to make better use of existing resources – for example, through better co-ordination of services and programs and reduced duplication. However, they were also emphatic that this is only a beginning – that new investments must be made by government if any significant progress is to be achieved in reducing poverty.