About 30 people came out to the HJA Brown Education Centre in Mississauga on Friday morning, December 12 to a presentation of the Blueprint by Marvyn Novick and Peter Clutterbuck. This was the 27th presentation and discussion of the Blueprint since the tour started on November 12, not counting two pre-tests done in Renfrew County in the last week of October.

The event in Peel was sponsored jointly by the United Way of Peel Region and the Regional Municipality of Peel, both of which provide leadership to the Peel Poverty Reduction Committee. Adaoma Patterson, Policy Analyst with the Region of Peel welcomed the participants and introduced Peter and Marvyn.

Participants raised the following points in discussion:

  • A discussion of how the Blueprint positions poverty reduction as a strategy for social inclusion in that it promotes common living standards that reduces the social distance among people within the population.
  • Building affordable housing is only part of the equation for poverty reduction. We also need to deal with the affordability issue in terms of the gap between incomes and average market rents (i.e. increase the Rent-Geared-to-Income units available to low income people). This is what the housing benefit would attempt to address.
  • There was a discussion of the injustice and harm caused by deducting child support payments from a mother’s OW basic needs allowance. Some fathers even go “underground” to avoid paying child support because they know it would worsens the financial situation of the mother and children if child support is paid. It was noted that in the UK a “maintenance disregard” has just been implemented which totally discounts any child support payments as additional income, thus enabling mothers to get additional support from former partners without any effect on the level of their pubic income support.
  • Restructuring social assistance must also deal with changing the work culture and ensuring appropriate training and support to workers in the system. Increasing the discretion that workers have to assist OW recipients would enable them to be more responsive and creative in supporting their clients.
  • There was an inquiry about some of the economic authorities advancing the economic and fiscal imperatives outlined in the Blueprint. There are Canadian economists working in this area such as Hugh Mackenzie of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. A major American authority is the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., which the Obama administration is drawing on.
  • There was a discussion of how to generate public goodwill towards low income people, since there is such a negative image now and also a cynicism about the effectiveness of government action and the use of tax dollars to fight poverty. How we frame the issue is very important, pointing out the social and economic benefits to the whole community of effective action on poverty reduction.
  • There was reference to the Government’s interest in the role of social enterprise and social innovation in the Minister’s Report. The Peel Poverty Action Group is investigating social enterprise approaches that may help cash poor people get ahead.
  • There was a discussion of the importance of getting low income people involved in the poverty reduction fight and supporting them to participate in the political and democratic process. Again, the Peel Poverty Action Group has worked to support low income people in Peel to get out to vote in elections.

Following discussion, Adaoma Patterson stated that the Blueprint will be brought forward to the Regional Council of Peel in the New Year.

Janet Menard, Executive Director of Transition and Integration in Human Services Department of Peel Region also thanked Marvyn for the presentation and indicated the Peel Poverty Reduction Group’s intent to pursue the issue in Peel and to remain connected to the work of the 25 in 5 coalition.