Submission to the Ontario Legislative Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs

Submitted by

Renfrew County Child Poverty Action Network (CPAN)

December 19, 2008

On Behalf of Renfrew County Child Poverty Action Network (CPAN) we would like to thank you for giving us the opportunity to appear before you today. We would also like to commend the Ontario provincial government for The Ontario Poverty Reduction Strategy that was announced December 4, 2008. CPAN is a key member of 25 in 5, Campaign 2000, and the National Anti-Poverty Organization (NAPO), and we have welcomed and will fully support this government in your commitment to reduce child poverty in Ontario by 25% in 5 years.

The only difference between good economic times and bad economic times is that in bad times there are more people without, and more who worry about how to get through the next day. If there was ever a time for visionary and creative leadership, it is now. This needs to come from all levels of government as well as from the private sector.

It is clear that the issue of poverty, and in particular child poverty, presents itself as both a problem as well as an opportunity for government. In tough times we tend to reduce our support to those who are vulnerable… the very time we need to increase them. In fact, by concentrating on the poor there is a greater impact on economic development.

  • Poverty has significant costs for government. The federal and Ontario government are losing at least $10.4 billion to $13.1 billion a year due to poverty, a loss equal to between 10.8 to 16.6 percent of the provincial budget
  • Poverty has a cost for every household in Ontario. In real terms, poverty costs every household in the province from $2,299 to $2,895 every year.
  • The remedial costs of poverty related to health care and crime are substantial. In Ontario, poverty-induced costs related to health care have an annual public cost of $2.9 billion. The national added cost to health care budgets is much greater, at $7.6 billion per year.
  • An investment in child care has a significant return for low-income populations. Many studies have shown a very high rate of return for investments in targeted child care for low-income populations, ranging from $4 to $16 for every dollar invested.
  • The annual cost of child or intergenerational poverty is very high. If child poverty were eliminated, the extra income tax revenues nationally would be between $3.1 billion and $3.8 billion, while for Ontario, the additional (federal and provincial) taxes would amount to $1.3 billion to $1.6 billion. The total economic cost (private and social) of child poverty Ontario is $4.6 to 5.9 billion annually

(The Cost of Poverty, 2008)

Working collectively, all levels of government need to focus on a number of things to ensure that we, not just survive in an economic turmoil, but implement progressive policies which will not only address those in need, but will, in fact, be a core ingredient in the revival of the “good times”.
What needs to happen?

  1. Endorse and implement “25 in 5” with a clear schedule, adequate funding, and defined milestones.
  2. Create 100,000 new geared-to-income houses each year for the next 5 years. This will not only provide necessary homes for those in need, but will also be a stimulus towards economic recovery.
  3. Ensure that all Ontarians have access to adequate health care benefits; including access to prescription medication and preventative dental care. No family should ever have to make the choice between providing medicine or food, especially in this Province.
  4. To work with the Federal and Provincial governments to create a maximum limit of 10 points over the prime rate. This will eliminate those companies that prey on the poor, who have the highest interest rates to pay and are least likely to ever get out of debt.
  5. To create an emergency assistance plan which will prevent homeowners from loosing their homes as we move through this recession
  6. 6. To ensure that any policies or funding strategies developed are flexible enough take into consideration both rural and urban realities and to meet the needs of any local community.
  7. To ensure that any funding assistance considers not only large industrial companies like the auto companies, but also rural-centric businesses such as forestry, farming and tourism.

No time has been better to deal with the issue of child poverty than now. In a recent poll conducted between September 24 and October 21, 2008 Environics Research conducted a national poll of 2,023 Canadians for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. In a report representing the responses provided by Ontarians;

  • Even as the province heads into a possible economic recession, the majority of Ontarians (81%) say a recession is more important than ever for governments to make helping poor Canadians a priority.
  • In fact, 89% of Ontarians say it’s time for strong political leadership to reduce the number of poor people in Canada; only 10% disagree.
  • 87% of Ontarians support raising the minimum wage so that full-time work lifts people above the poverty line;
  • And in this era of increased job insecurity, there is practically unanimous support (97%) for their governments to invest in jobs and skills training for people in between jobs.
  • A strong majority (89%) of Ontarians agrees Canada should try to distinguish itself in the world as a country where no one lives in poverty. They are looking to their governments to be less timid, to take bold leadership and distinguish Canada as a leader in poverty reduction across the globe. Only 10% disagree.

(Ontarians Waiting for Leadership on Poverty Reduction, 2008)

In July 2008 we held 4 community forums to discuss the Poverty Reduction Strategy for Ontario. Three of the four forums were attended exclusively by low income families, who we considered the real expert consultants.

We were able to collect a great deal of insight, and to made recommendations to the Honourable Deb Matthews, Chair of the Cabinet Committee on Poverty Reduction. One of the highlights of our report was a selection of quotes from children aged 4 to 17 who were in attendance. One of the questions which we asked was ” If you could be the Prime Minister of Canada, what would you do to make all families happy?” Examples of answers are as follows;

  • “Every family would have a home”
  • “Buy them toys and things for play”
  • Supplies and money for school
  • Buy food and clothing
  • Buy birthday presents for everyone
  • “Shelter and warmness and clothes”
  • Donate money to kids so they can go to school
  • Give people more money
  • Build houses for poor people
  • Make jobs easier
  • Give children who don’t have a home one
  • Everyone has health insurance
  • Give money to kids so they can play sports
  • Money for medicine

(Renfrew County Child Poverty Action Network’s submission to the Poverty Reduction Cabinet Committee, July 2008)

Presented by:
Greg Lubimiv and Lyn Smith, on behalf of Renfrew County Child Poverty Action Network (CPAN)

Renfrew County Child Poverty Action Network
c/o Phoenix Centre for Children and Families
130 Pembroke Street West
Pembroke, ON, K8A 5M8
Tel: 613-735-2374 x 250