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October 9, 2013

Time for a New Poverty Reduction Strategy



The Government of Ontario has been asking people for input into a new provincial Poverty Reduction Strategy.

In December 2008, Ontario became the third province in Canada to implement a Poverty Reduction Strategy. Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador were the first two.

Ontario's first PRS -- Breaking the Cycle -- was influenced by the 25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction, which had called for a provincial strategy with targets, timelines and an action plan for reducing poverty in Ontario.

The 25 in 5 Network called for a strategy to cut poverty by 25% in five years (from 2008 to 2013), by 50% in ten years on the way toward eradicating poverty within twenty years. The call aimed at making sure every Ontario would have enough income to rise above the poverty line -- the Low Income Measure.


The Government of Ontario's strategy focused on reducing child poverty by 25% over five years. The strategy relied heavily on increasing the Ontario Child Benefit as the route to meet its target. Increases to the minimum wage during the first years of the strategy and increased the sales tax and property tax credits in the early years of the first strategy. Launching full-day junior and senior kindergarten was another major initiative.

Another key feature of the strategy was passage of legislation requiring the Provincial Government to review and update the strategy every five years. That is why the Government has been consulting on a new strategy.

Early in the consultation process, MCCO with partners in the 25 in 5 Network issued a paper identifying Five Priorities for Ontario's Next Poverty Reduction Strategy:

1) bold poverty reduction targets, for adults as well as children and for those living in the deepest poverty;
2) a comprehensive action agenda of strong policy measures;
3) a plan to ensure sufficient public revenues to make the required investments;
4) instruments to ensure a high standard of accountability on progress; and,
5) strategic, dedicated investments in every budget.

Today every province and territory except Saskatchewan and British Columbia have poverty reduction strategies. Many municipalities across Ontario have local strategies to reduce poverty.

The federal government has steadfastly resisted calls to develop a federal poverty reduction strategy to work in concert with the provinces and territories.

Ontario's first PRS was launched during the worst of economic times. So it would have been no surprise if child poverty actually rose. But in fact, child poverty declined consistently in each of the first three years of the strategy. It demonstrates that good policy makes a difference. Even during bad economic times, even without federal partnership, the investment Ontario's Government made in the PRS bore good fruit.

Now is the time for Ontario to move forward with a plan to achieve greater progress in creating a Province where everyone can live free from poverty.

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