June 2, 2014

Who has the best plan to lift people out of poverty in Ontario?

May 6, 2009 was a memorable and uplifting day for me. And it happened in the Ontario legislature.

The Ontario legislature is not usually a place associated with uplifting memories. More often it’s a place known for acrimonious debate and other antics.

But on that memorable day, I was sitting in the balcony and watching the vote for third reading of the Poverty Reduction Act.

As the Poverty Advocate for Mennonite Central Committee Ontario and an active member of the 25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction, I had taken a keen interest in this legislation.

The Liberal Government had tabled Bill 152, as it was numbered, earlier in the year. It followed the introduction of Ontario’s first poverty reduction strategy in 2008. And it echoed poverty reduction legislation passed in Quebec a few years before.

I spent many hours in community meetings poring over the draft legislation and crafting recommendations to strengthen it. We met with members of all three parties to talk about the legislation and proposed changes.

On that memorable day in May 2009, I watched as poverty reduction legislation which included many of the recommendations from community groups and also constructive amendments from the Progressive Conservatives and New Democratic Party was debated and voted on.  To my amazement, the Poverty Reduction Act was passed unanimously.

You might be sceptical. After all, voting to reduce poverty is like voting for motherhood and apple pie. Who could be opposed to it?