October 17, 2012

Diary of an Advocacy Associate: A message to Ontario's Party Leaders

Today is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.  What better way to celebrate the goal of a poverty free society than to tell our political leaders (whether they are in session or prorogued for an extended period of time) that we are in support of a strategy to eradicate poverty and reduce inequality in Ontario?

That is just what I did today.  In collaboration with the 25 in 5 network, the advocacy team here at MCCO assisted in composing a letter to our political party leaders reminding them of the urgent need for a new and updated poverty reduction strategy to eradicate poverty and reduce inequality in Ontario. 

Some people may say that inequality is simply an inevitable by-product of a growing economy, BUT there is mounting evidence that income inequality may actually hinder economic growth.   More on that at a later date……

For now, here’s a copy of the letter we’ve endorsed via 25 in 5.  If you’re in support, why not make a copy and send it on to your MPP? (you can look up contact information here).  They don’t have nearly as much on their plates as they thought they would this week.  

October 17, 2012

Dear Premier McGuinty, Mr. Hudak, Ms. Horwath,

On this the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, we are writing to you to remind you of the urgent need to develop a new and updated strategy to eradicate poverty in Ontario.

In 2009, each of your parties voted unanimously for the Poverty Reduction Act. The Act requires Ontario’s Government to update and renew the Poverty Reduction Strategy and set new targets for progress at least every 5 years.  Ontario’s first Poverty Reduction Strategy was launched in 2008. 
We are calling on all Ontario political parties to commit to creating a new and updated strategy to eradicate poverty and reduce inequality in our province. The new strategy needs to engage Ontarians across every community to contribute to a plan that not only addresses child poverty, but adult poverty and growing inequality as well.
Serious action to eradicate poverty leads to results. The first strategy, “Breaking the Cycle” focused on children. Early initiatives – like the significant investment in the Ontario Child Benefit  and continued increases in the minimum wage – helped reduce the number of children living in poverty by over 6% between 2008 and 2010. Government policies were beginning to bear fruit.
But we are deeply concerned that current political realities in Ontario have shifted attention away from continued implementation of the current poverty reduction strategy.
The minimum wage has been frozen for two years and planned increases to the OCB have been deferred. Social Assistance incomes have stagnated, with rate adjustments that fall short of the rise in the cost of living. Significant cuts have been made to emergency supports aimed at keeping people on assistance from becoming homeless. 
Poverty among adults has actually increased. By 2010, 54,000 more adults found themselves living in poverty. And inequality continues to rise. More and more people in communities all across Ontario – many for the first time in their lives – are finding themselves without good paying jobs, unable to make the rent, and relying on food banks and emergency shelters to meet their basic needs. Poverty remains racialized, as members of racialized communities continue to face inequities in the labour market; similar inequities are faced by women and people with disabilities. This at a time when the highest income earners in Ontario continue to enjoy the largest income gains of any group.
Growing inequality and poverty affect us all.  Economic instability results in higher health care costs and more reliance on emergency supports. Income inequality erodes social cohesion and ultimately destabilizes entire communities.

A consensus has emerged across all sectors of Ontario society that eradicating poverty and reducing inequality make social and economic sense.

A new and improved poverty reduction strategy would allow all Ontarians a liveable income, promote high quality employment for all Ontario workers, and build strong and supportive communities. And it would work for all Ontarians, whether they are children or adults, low-income workers or people receiving social assistance benefits, so that we all have access to a higher quality of life.
We believe in an inclusive Ontario, where everyone can develop their talents and contribute to thriving communities. We want a province with a vibrant economy that works for everyone and shared prosperity across economic lines.
That’s why we are calling on you and your party to commit to creating a stronger strategy to eradicate poverty and reduce inequality in Ontario.

For the 25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction,
Mike Creek
Voices From the Street
Greg deGroot-Maggetti
Mennonite Central Committee – Ontario
Jennefer Laidley
Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC)

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