May 31, 2011

Talking to candidates

Carol Goar's article on painful lessons for anti-poverty activists got me wondering what was really on the mind of my neighbors during the federal election. So I decided to find out. How? Why not ask the candidates who ran for election what they heard on the doorsteps? After all, they just had a chance to talk

I talked it over with partners in the Poverty Free Waterloo Region Network. We decided to try to talk with candidates in Waterloo Region about what they heard going door-to-door during the campaign.

So far I have had a chance to talk with Stephen Woodworth, the Conservative candidate for Kitchener Centre (who got re-elected), and with Cathy MacLellan who ran for the Green Party in Kitchener-Waterloo. Other members of the group met with Peter Braid, Conservative candidate for K-W (who also got re-elected). Later this week, I'll be meeting with Karen Redman (Liberal, Kitchener Centre) and Peter Thurley (NDP, Kitchener Centre).

One thing Stephen and Cathy both said is that people were not talking about poverty -- at least not in those terms. In coming posts, I'll let you know what people did have to say to the candidates.

May 19, 2011

A Good News Story

Let me share with you a good news story.

On March 23, Waterloo Regional Council voted to add nearly a quarter million dollars a year to the Regional budget for programs to help end persistent homelessness.  The money is to fund programs that Regional staff had identified as very important but that were not originally included in the budget.

It required a Councillor to move a motion to add that money into the budget. That Councillor was Jane Brewer from Cambridge. The motion was seconded by Councillor Jane Mitchell from Waterloo. And it passed unanimously!

Councillor Brewer was actually surprised by the level of support around the table. How did it happen?

May 16, 2011

Insecurity and the politics of fear

Here is another perspective on what lay behind the recent federal election results. This one is from Trish Hennessy of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. In contrast to Carol Goar's limited soundings, the folks at CCPA have done a more systematic series of focus groups to better understand what Canadians are thinking. Economic insecurity looms large for most of us it seems.

This one is worth a read.

May 13, 2011

Painful lessons to anti-poverty groups

After several years of action in Ontario's Poverty Reduction Strategy -- the launching of a strategy in 2008 with targets and timelines; increases to the Ontario Child Benefit; 7 straight years of increases to the minimum wage; and poverty reduction legislation -- I feel like momentum has stalled. It is not just that the sharp recession of 2009-2010 threw many more people out of work and into poverty. The latest provincial budget offered little to build on earlier anti-poverty steps. There is a new long-term affordable housing strategy, but no new funding for affordable housing. The long-anticipated social assistance review is about to get underway, but the 1% increase to social assistance rates in the last budget does not even keep up with inflation. And for the first time since they were elected to office, the McGuinty Government did not raise the minimum wage this year.

Add to these realities a trenchant analysis from Toronto Star columnist, Carol Goar, of the short-comings of anti-poverty groups.