More than 40 members of the health and social services community attended two sessions in York Region for presentations and discussions of the Blueprint for Poverty Reduction on Tuesday, December 9. The afternoon meeting was held at the York Region Children’s Aid Society in Newmarket and the second was held at Richmond Hill United Church in Richmond Hill. The meetings were sponsored and organized by the Social Planning Council of York Region with the logistical and administrative support of the United Way of York Region.
Discussion at the two meetings covered the following areas:
- The distinctions made among poverty alleviation, poverty prevention and poverty reduction in the Blueprint presentation were appreciated.
- There was agreement that it is important to make public investments in the next three years in order to achieve the 25% reduction target in five years.
- The breadth and complexity of the Blueprint calls for an organized strategy to engage the public in discussion and understanding.
- It will be important that anti-poverty leaders in the community have a document that clearly articulates the case for poverty reduction and especially counters the right wing “truisms” about how the economy works that we often encounter when advancing our objectives.
- To do effective community development work on poverty reduction using the Blueprint, we need good resource material and tools that communicate effectively with the public.
- We need to be clear on how poverty reduction can be part of the solution when it comes to economic recovery. There needs to be recognition that all governments must spend in order to stimulate economic recovery and poverty reduction must be part of that spending.
- The Blueprint is an excellent presentation that defines the issues well but really should advocate more strongly for the eradication of poverty and does not go far enough in some of its policy proposals. For example, why not pursue raising the OCB to $2,000 as in Quebec? Quebec public supports collective investment in families as important, so that we would have to develop a similar political culture in Ontario to support the OCB at that level.
- What about poverty beyond income. Racialized communities experience disproportionately higher levels of poverty and don’t have access to resources. The discussion indicated that some measures are universal and apply to all while some others target the particular issues of populations disproportionately affected by poverty. For example, all would benefit from a more adequate minimum wage and card certification but some special labour market programs may need to be put in place to deal with differential access of certain populations to employment. Fundamentally poverty is a structural and class issue that is intensified for certain populations that are historically disadvantaged.
- Blueprint includes Employment Equity Office but needs to more strongly identify targets for poverty reduction in certain populations. Employment equity frameworks must be complementary to a good jobs strategy not a substitute for a goods jobs strategy.
- Will there be an influx of labour into Ontario if we raise our minimum wage while other provinces do not. There is no evidence that minimum wage affects migration patterns across the provinces. The decision to move from one province to another is not generally made on the basis of marginally different minimum wage levels.
- A substantial downturn in the economy will affect revenue levels and hence debt service charges but still within a manageable range (e.g. may raise them from 10.3 cents to 12 cents on each revenue dollar).
Interest was expressed in working locally and regionally on further development of the poverty reduction plan and in coordinating work in York Region with other communities across Ontario.