June 27, 2011

Poverty Reduction Does Make a Difference

Here is an opinion editorial I had published the Toronto Star today.

The evidence is in. A lot of people in Canada took a real hit during the recent recession.

Recent figures from Statistics Canada show that poverty became a reality for more people in Canada between 2007 and 2009 .

No surprise there, really. It's hard to imagine poverty falling in the worst global recession in recent history.

But look a little closer and something more interesting appears.

June 24, 2011

MennoHomes Elmira Build

Wednesday (June 22), I was happy to attend the groundbreaking ceremony for the MennoHomes Elmira Build. This project, in Elmira, Ontario, will provide two, new affordable homes for families from the Low German Mennonite community.

When I think about the need for affordable housing, I often think of the needs in Ontario's large urban areas -- Toronto, Hamilton, Kitchener. But the reality is that the need also exists in rural communities. The families that will benefit from this new MennonHomes build are currently living in housing that is too small and in poor condition. The community outreach worker talked about families paying more than $2,000 in winter for heating. These new homes will be big enough, well-built and affordable.

Last November, MennonHomes invited me to speak at their AGM. I talked about the Put Food in the Budget Challenge I had participated in -- eating for a week on a social assistance income. When you have limited income, the cost of housing is one of the things that eats into your food budget the most. So, we talked about how important the work of MennoHomes is and how important it is for our Governments to invest in affordable housing, as well as a healthy food supplement.

It was at the MennonHomes AGM last fall, that I learned about the Elmira build. One of the neat features of this build is the partnership with Elmira District Secondary School. "Under the daily supervision of teacher, Scoot Shantz," the press release explains, " up to 15 trades students will be framing, roofing, shingling, insulating, drywalling and doing general prep work. The students with their teachers will be on site for the semester spanning from September, 2011 to January, 2012."

This project will cost $500,000 in total. MennoHomes is most of the way toward raising the costs of the project. Another $70,000 is needed. If you want to make a contribution click here.

June 21, 2011

Connecting the dots on the economy

Check out this video on the economic woes in the US. It features economist Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labour in the Clinton administration. While the US case is more extreme, Canada's experience in the past few decades has been similar. For more on the story in Canada, visit the Growing Gap Project.

June 17, 2011

Treading Water

"We're not sinking. We're not drowning. We're treading water."

With those words Ken Seiling, chair of Waterloo Regional Council, summed up the fourth annual Waterloo Region Housing Stability Report Card.

June 14, 2011

6 Good Ideas About Jobs

During the recent federal election, voters had jobs on their minds. Here is an interesting resource from folks at the Wellesley Institute to get us talking about jobs and how to generate goods jobs.

June 8, 2011

Talking about jobs

Here is a report back on conversations with candidates. So far we have talked with half a dozen candidates who ran for MP in Waterloo Region. Green, liberal, conservative and NDP.

We asked what they heard from people on the doorstep. One thing they almost all said was that people were not talking about poverty.

The number one thing people were talking about?Jobs. Not being able to find a job. Having lost a decent paying job and finding one that does not let them make ends meet. Worry about whether their kids could find a good job -- or any job. Recent immigrants not being able to find jobs that used their skills or paid a decent wage.

This in a region with one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country.

June 3, 2011

Tackling inequality is everyone's business

The call to tackle inequality is coming from a new quarter -- one of Canada's largest banks.

Raise taxes on the rich and cut taxes for the most overtaxed -- the poor.

Sounds radical. But that is the prescription from one of Canada's top bakers, Toronto-Dominion Bank CEO Ed Clark, and from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).