More than 40 members of the community came to the Simcoe County Council Chambers on Thursday afternoon, December 11 for a presentation of the Blueprint by Marvyn Novick and Peter Clutterbuck.

Participants included Garfield Dunlop, PC MPP for North Simcoe, Simcoe County Warden Tony Geurgis, Terry Talon, General manager of Simcoe County Social Services, and a representative of Conservative MP Helena Geurgis’ office. Local media covering the event were Rogers Cable TV and the Barrie Examiner.

Seija Suutari of the United Way of Greater Simcoe opened the meeting and asked Tony Geurgis, Warden of Simcoe County to offer some opening thoughts on the importance of the poverty reduction issue.

The following points were raised in discussion following the presentation:

  • Simcoe County has a lot of agriculture and poverty in farming communities takes its own particular shape. The Blueprint seems to address these needs to some degree but the main poverty reduction strategy in rural areas seems to be for people to move out of rural communities. It was acknowledged that, although the Blueprint has been presented in several rural communities, it would benefit from more input and understanding of the particular conditions of poverty in farming life in Ontario.
  • One problem that lawyers and community legal clinics in the area have encountered since the OCB has been introduced is that parents, mostly moms, who have their children apprehended, the only have the single rate of OW to live on, which makes it extremely difficult for them to stabilize their lives and have a fair chance to get their children back. Splitting off basic needs support into the OCB for children, therefore can contribute to family breakdown. This is the kind of issue that needs to be part of the social assistance review. Implementing social assistance requires a calibration that reflects the spirit of things rather than a mechanistic, rigid application of rules and regulations. For example, child support payments are deducted dollar for dollar from social assistance benefits in Ontario but in the UK child support will now be disregarded in determining income eligibility.
  • What can we do in Simcoe County to help make that 25% reduction? What will to move this forward? How do we organize locally? One way is to get resolutions passed to support the declaration through the County Government and other local institutions such school boards and boards of health. As well, forming a local poverty reduction leadership group and focusing on a specific issue to tackle is recommended. The 25 in 5 coalition through the SPNO is prepared to provide some facilitative and strategic planning support to a Simcoe County leadership group if it comes together.

Terry Talon, General Manager of Simcoe County Social Services closed the meeting, stating that the County was prepared to help with local research and to facilitate how we learn what is now going on poverty reduction across the province. Seija Suutari said that the United Way will follow up in the New Year on the interest in pulling together a local leadership group and to stay connected to the 25 in 5 coalition.