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December 4, 2012

Can Ontario Meet its Poverty Reduction Target?

The 25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction released its 4th annual progress report this morning, December 4th, 2012.  The Day marks the 4th anniversary of Ontario's first Poverty Reduction Strategy.

The report clearly lays out the fact that good public policy and strong leadership lead to results.  Even during times of economic hardship and the "great recession", efforts to reduce poverty among children made an important impact.

My colleagues at 25 in 5 report that actions like investing in the Ontario Child Benefit, increasing the minimum wage and rolling out full day junior and senior kindergarten assisted in decreasing the child poverty rate in Ontario by close to 6.6% between 2008 and 2010. (2010 is the most recent information available from Statistics Canada).

This is an excellent start, but the target was to reduce child poverty by 25% by 2013.  Since 2010 and the implementation of this year's austerity budget, efforts to reduce child poverty have stalled.  In a recent article on the front page of the Toronto Star, Greg deGroot-Maggetti asks the question: "Children did not create the deficit, why do we insist on balancing our budget on their backs?"

Furthermore, cuts to important supports for people receiving social assistance and the slow erosion of our social safety net make it more unlikely that the target will be met.  25 in 5 is asking all of our aspiring political leaders what they plan to do to meet the target.  Visit 25in5.ca to find out how you can add your voice.

The most important point in this report is that good policy leads to results.  In the future, these results should be extended not just to children, but to all of Ontario's citizens.

The Poverty Reduction Act requires Ontario's political representatives to renew and update the Poverty Reduction Strategy every 5 years - which means that next one is due in December 2013.  Wouldn't it be great if the strategy included targets to eradicate poverty for adults too - because really, who doesn't deserve to live a life of dignity and respect.

The report asks all political parties to commit to creating a strategy that works for all Ontarians - whether they are children or adults.  Recent research is showing that poverty and income inequality actually undermine economic vitality, exactly the opposite of what was expected decades ago when we started down the path of "economic growth at all costs".

Today, we know better.  We know that economic vitality certainly requires GDP growth, but policies promoting economic growth must be balanced by policy to ensure that the growth we seek benefits everyone; the people who hold the capital, those that provide the labour and people who are not able to participate in the labour market either because of a medical condition or because there are no jobs available.

As we move towards a poverty free Ontario, I encourage you to add your voice to the hundreds of people across the province who support this mission.  The 25 in 5 website lists a few ways you can take action today.  E-mail the liberal leadership candidates, tweet the Opposition leaders and ask them what is their plan to eradicate poverty, reduce inequality and make Ontario's economy work for everyone!

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