April 11, 2014

A Chocolate-Making Extravaganza

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt.” ― Charles M. Schulz

In February, a local woman who often makes fancy chocolates for gifts and various events, offered to come in and teach the women & children involved with Circles how to make chocolates. Folks say that diamonds are a girl's best friend, but if the number of attendees that evening is any indication, I would say the same is true about chocolate! This was a very well-attended event! We had such a blast together learning the chocolate-molding ropes. Women walked away from this event with some new ideas on how to make inexpensive and delicious gifts for others, as well as with some scrumptious samples that they themselves had made! 

March 27, 2014

Taxes and the Common Good

Thursday, April 3, 2014, the Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coaltion (ISARC) has Dr. Alex Himmelfarb speaking about Taxes and the Common Good.

Alex is the Director of the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs. He is also a former Clerk of the Privy Council.

Alex has also co-edited Tax is Not a Four Letter Word.

To register for the forum contact

March 6, 2014

The Failure of Corporate Tax Cuts

I am reading the Great Revenue Robbery -- put out by Canadians for Tax Fairness and published by Between the Lines.

I picked up the book months ago when Dennis Howlett was in town on a book tour. I'm slowly making my way through the book. Alot of interesting stuff.

Jim Stanford's chapter on the failure of corporate tax cuts is a particular eye opener. Since the late 1980s, federal and provincial governments have steadily cut the corporate tax rate.

The economic rationale behind cutting corporate tax rates is that businesses will invest more if they can keep more of their profits.

Turns out it hasn't really worked.
Since the investment spending has declined, but business cash flow has increased.

February 13, 2014

Gifts of Warmth for Circle of Friends

Making Slippers
Packing Blankets
Women in Thessalon, the community where I was raised up along the north shore of Lake Huron,  collaborated to make enough slippers and blankets for all of the women and children involved with the Circle of Friends program. We packaged up all of the homemade gifts, and along with Tim Hortons gift cards donated by a co-worker with MCC, we were able to give all participants Christmas gifts on behalf of Circle of Friends. Watching the ladies and their children open these wrapped gifts was absolutely delightful. These individuals were even more encouraged and grateful when they learned that women up North came together to make sure that they received something warm and beautiful for Christmas!               


January 22, 2014

The importance of speaking up

The community got a win at Waterloo Regional Council's budget meeting last week (January 15, 2014).

Council voted to invest an additional $1 million in the discretionary benefits program. And it is a credit both the Councillors and to the many community people who came out to speak in favour of putting money into that program.

Discretionary benefits are provided to people receiving social assistance to help with things like food emergencies, finding housing, getting dentures or orthotics. It also covers the cost of burial. Those are just some of the things discretionary benefits are used for.

One of the things I have learned over the years is that for our Governments at the local, provincial and federal levels to fulfill their responsibilities well, they need to receive input from community groups and individuals about community needs and the impact public policies are having.

During the Region of Waterloo's budget input sessions dozens of individuals and groups came out and spoke up about the importance of discretionary benefits and urged Councillors to boost funding. They came from the local foodbanks and Out of the Cold programs, churches and Social Planning Councils. They included people who were helped by discretionary benefits. These are folks who work everyday to help people in need get by and hopefully be able to get ahead.

Wayne Porty, a Pastor from Waterloo Mennonite Brethren Church spoke. Wayne administers the Barnabas Fund at Waterloo MB Church. He explains "Over and above their regular tithes, the people of our congregation have given $70,000+ annually, to extend mercy in the form of financial & emotional support to people in crisis in Waterloo Region.  Our congregation is passionate about coming alongside those who struggle - we care about them, because Jesus cares about them even more."

Here is a bit of what Wayne shared with Council.

The majority of Barnabas’ $70,000 budget goes toward direct assistance to people in financial crisis...bridging the financial gap for people who have no way to resolve their situation, on a case by case basis.  We take the time to hear people in their time of need, to assist them in making a plan, and to journey alongside them as they work toward financial stability.  It's not a loan or a thoughtless handout.  95% of people who we assist are not part of our congregation, and there is no expectation that they will become so. It is an extension of love & mercy.

So this is the context I'm working from - the majority of the people I come into contact with have already made attempts to access support from the Region, and they have either been denied or it is simply not enough.  Although we have been able to fill in some of the gaps for the 300+ families we are actively connected with, as the gaps have grown wider – which we’ve especially seen in the past year - we are less able to fill them.  We are stretched to our max, and we simply cannot keep up.  I'm here today to offer a very frank challenge to you for 2014 - to not only match the generous contribution that you made in 2013, but to consider doing even more.
 I have personally seen the impact of the province's cuts to discretionary funding.  I have seen how it has hamstrung the ability of Ontario Works and Disability staff to assist in logical ways to legitimate needs.  Their hands are tied.  I can see their frustration and disillusionment as they cannot do what they know needs to be done in order to get their clients on the right track.  This is a mirror-image of the helplessness & hopelessness the clients themselves experience.  

Kudos to both Regional Council and staff and to the people of Waterloo Region who spoke up for the needs of people struggling to get by in our community.

Now we need the Provincial and Federal Governments to do their part. It has been cutbacks in benefits and services at those levels of Government that have led to the rise of foodbanks and Out of the Cold programs.

January 20, 2014

A New Name

If you are a regular follower of this blog, you will have noticed a change in its name.

With the beginning of a new year, this blog adds some new authors and a slightly broadened scope.

Since starting the Advocacy for a Poverty Free Ontario blog nearly four years ago, the focus has been on advocacy work around poverty issues. The advocacy work of MCC Ontario stems out of the work we do day-to-day alongside people experiencing poverty and homelessness.

From time to time this blog has included guest posts from my MCCO colleagues. Now, they will become regular contributors to the renamed blog: MCCO Walking with People in Poverty. Here is who they are:

Katie McDougall coordinates MCC Ontario's Circle of Friends program in Kitchener.  

Aylish Chantler serves as MCC Ontario Street Pastor with the Lazarus Rising program in Toronto.

Pete Olsen coordinates MCCO's TOOLS program -- Toronto Ontario Opportunity for Learning and Service. Pete has his own TOOLS blog. You can link to his blog from this one.

And, of course, I will continue blogging about advocating for a poverty free Ontario. Stay tuned.

December 5, 2013

Ontario Needs a Bold New Poverty Reduction Strategy

December 4, 2013 marked the 5th anniversary of Ontario's Poverty Reduction Strategy.

To mark the occasion, I co-authored an article with Sarah Blackstock of the YWCA Toronto. The article appeared on-line in the Star.

In it we assess what has worked in the first PRS and where we need to go in the next Strategy, which is due now -- or at least before the end of March.

The first strategy, limited though it was, marked an historic step for Ontario. Never before had the Province set a target to reduce poverty. And though the target was not reached in the first five years, there was progress in reducing child poverty. That was despite the deep recession Ontario was plunged into just as the first strategy was released.

Time for Bold Action on Poverty Reduction
Now it is time to renew the strategy and set a target to go farther toward eradicating poverty in Ontario.

I have often heard politicians of all stripes tell me that they don't hear about poverty from their constituents. Here is an opportunity for you to let your MPP know you want to see bold action on poverty reduction.

Together Ontario has launched an on-line letter for individuals to sign and send to all three party leaders, with a copy to your own MPP. Take a moment to visit Together Ontario and sign the letter.

Many thanks.