October 15, 2012

Diary of an Advocacy Associate: Talking to the people who can help get things done!

It sure has been a busy few weeks!  Like most of you, I feel like there is not enough time to get done what needs to get done in a day.  Which is why this post is coming a week and a half late…….(please don’t tell my boss).

After the 25in5 and ISARC meetings that I wrote about in earlier posts, the next kind of exciting thing to happen in my work life was the opportunity to meet with the Deputy Minister (DM) of Child and Youth Services located in Toronto. 

Now, I know what you are thinking…..SNORE! But, you are wrong. 

Opportunities to speak with the people who are in charge of actually implementing and evaluating the poverty reduction strategy (PRS) in Ontario don’t come around every day.

In Ontario, and other provinces, the DM is the highest ranking public servant in any given ministry – a meeting with a DM means a meeting with a 'top dog' around the poverty reduction table.  And.... his job does not totally depend on politics (at least not public politics), so we can have different kinds of conversations.  This meeting was kind of a big deal.

For our group, the meeting was both an occasion to share the effects that the poverty reduction strategy has had in our community (and the opportunities for adult poverty reduction that were missed in the current PRS) and a chance to learn what the public servants who work with the PRS everyday see for i's future. 

One of the most important things that we learned is that the PRS is now going to include youth as well as children – HURRAY!  What an excellent first step to the inclusion of all people in poverty eradication. 

This step builds on Ontario's youth action plan, based on which aims to help young people find jobs and succeed and to keep Ontario's streets free of guns, gangs and drugs.  

Another big step made in the PRS is the addition of a representative for youth initiatives and programs on the results table - a group of cabinet ministers and community experts convened to guide and monitor the implementation of the PRS. 

It might just be my optimistic nature, but is it possible that  connecting youth and youth issues directly to the PRS means that our government is recognizing that poverty is something that can be prevented; even as one exits childhood and begins to become an adult?

Perhaps we will now be able to have conversations about the labour market for young people and how more jobs at lower pay or contract jobs with no benefits are not an avenue out of poverty.  And if that is true for youth - is it possible that it is also true for adults?

I realize I am making some leaps here - however, I believe we are moving in a positive direction when it comes to the type of conversations our political leaders (and those who support the work of our governments) are willing to have. 

 Many of us recognize that the labour market has changed, our economy has changed and that we need new strategies to ensure that everyone benefits from the prosperity Ontario has achieved over the last century.  

Meeting with the DM responsible for the poverty reduction strategy recently convinced me that slowly but surely,the advocacy work of hundred of people across the province is making a difference!!

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