Hamilton Meeting on Provincial Consultations (April 9, 2008)

The Income Security Working Group and the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton co-sponsored a meeting at Christ Church Cathedral in Hamilton on Tuesday afternoon, April 8 to hear and discuss a policy framework on common priorities and lead policy initiatives proposed for the upcoming provincial consultations on a poverty reduction strategy for Ontario. This was scheduled as one of the regular Speakers’ Series of the Income Security Working Group. Marvyn Novick and Peter Clutterbuck of the SPNO were the guest speakers for this event.

The policy framework highlighting sustaining employment, livable incomes and essential social resources was well-received by the 40 community participants. In discussion, questions and comments referred to the following considerations:

  • Attention to the needs of new immigrants in a poverty reduction strategy because of the many barriers that they encounter in establishing themselves in Canadian communities.
  • Appreciation that the policy framework recognizes the situation of temporary workers currently exploited by bad employers and needing stronger protections of their rights to fair wages and good working conditions.
  • The importance of supporting card certification so that unionization is not so difficult, since collective representation of workers’ voices is the primary way that bad jobs become good jobs. A Good Jobs strategy should be a central part of any poverty reduction initiative.
  • Recognition that we need to more strongly link social justice initiatives for poverty reduction with creating ecologically sustainable communities – we need stronger social justice-environmental alliances.
  • Assurances that poverty reduction provides adequate support for helping people develop their literacy skills.

Those assembled spent some time in small group discussion creating a “starting list” of ideas for ways to have input into the upcoming provincial consultations. All ideas were recorded and a group of about twelve participants agreed to meet in two weeks or so with representatives of the SPRC, the ISWG, and SPNO to develop an action plan for making effective input to the provincial consultations.

Contact: Deirdre Pike, Hamilton SPRC, dpike@sprc.hamilton.on.ca
(905) 522-1148 ext. 302

2 thoughts on “Hamilton Meeting on Provincial Consultations (April 9, 2008)

  1. Marvyn and Peter did an excellent job presenting the framework and the discussion groups had energy about them regarding next steps.

    A working group to carry on with this work of preparing for the Ontario consultations on Poverty Reduction was suggested as a good next step. So,there will be a follow up meeting on EITHER April 24, 12:30 – 2:30, or May 14, 12:30 – 2:30. Please contact me at dpike@sprc.hamilton.on.ca if you’re interested in this working group and indicate your date preference. Thanks!

    The following article appeared in the Hamilton Spectator yesterday in response to our meeting.

    UNITING AGAINST POVERTY
    SUSTAINABLE JOBS, FAIR INCOME, ESSENTIAL SOCIAL SERVICES

    Rachel De Lazzer
    The Hamilton Spectator
    (Apr 9, 2008)
    Matthew Day-Holloway lived his early teens in subsidized housing. “It was strangely stereotypical of the Springer show,” the 26-year-old recalls. He later took minimum-wage jobs that meant he ended up in substandard housing. It’s the kind of life poverty reduction advocates in Hamilton are targeting.

    Day-Holloway was one of about 40 people at Christ’s Church Cathedral yesterday who gathered ahead of a visit by Deb Matthews, chair of Ontario’s cabinet committee on poverty reduction and minister of Children and Youth Services. Matthews will visit communities in May and June to hear their take on how to reduce poverty.

    Municipalities don’t yet know exactly when that will be or what format it will take. But Hamilton wants to be good and ready.

    The city’s Income Security Working Group and Social Planning and Research Council collaborated to host yesterday’s session by the Social Planning Network of Ontario.

    The network is visiting municipalities across the province urging fewer poverty reduction initiatives that have minimal impact and more focus in three key areas — sustainable employment, livable incomes and essential social resources.

    Sustaining employment, said Marvyn Novick, retired Ryerson University professor and a network consultant, means a poverty-proof minimum wage that rises with inflation, among other elements.

    Novick said many people assume raising wages destroys jobs, but Denmark, Finland and Sweden prove that isn’t true. They’ve become models of poverty reduction, while rising to become the strongest economies in the industrialized world, he said.

    “Social development and strong economies are not rivals.”
    Livable incomes mean incomes that don’t reduce people to actions that some may find humiliating. “Food banks destroy dignity,” said Novick.

    Among recommended changes, he urged a child benefit for low-income families of $5,100, which would rise with inflation. That’s up from the current $3,240. Essential social resources include such things as major investments in subsidized child care.

    The session drew representatives from the city, school boards and poverty councils. “I think what we’ve been working on is this full co-ordination of services so we can get everyone working together and not on their own in these little silos where we’re all working like crazy, but there is no co-ordination of service,” said teacher Michelyn Putignano.

    The network hopes to get municipalities on board to pitch the minister a unified voice, rather than multiple diverging views. So far, it’s made six of 12 stops and says most municipalities accept the approach. A followup network meeting in Hamilton is planned for later this month or in May.
    rdelazzer@thespec.com
    905-526-3404

  2. I was at this event, and I would like to thank Peter and Marvyn for their presentation. Beyond the important discussion of the possibilities and pitfalls of this consultation, as well as of what sort of common themes might be developed during the consultations, I think it is fair to say that Marvyn and Peter’s talk motivated all of us there, and provided us (or reminded us) of some important arguments and slogans to use in our work.

    In terms of the consultation, I think it is valuable trying to come up with ways of putting forward demands that are broad and bring different narrower interests together. I also think that working this way may help avoid the fate of the Transitions/Social Assistance Review Committee experience (late 1980s), in that the prime emphasis comes off social assistance (a stigmatized programme difficult to rally people around) and speaks not to the margins (those excluded by the regular workings of the economy) but to the mainstream (the problems of how the economy/labour market and social policies are working to create such large margins).

    If I was to make any suggestions about your strategy, it would be to think a little bit more about PROCESS/INSTITUTIONS in addition to the framework of demands.

    One thing that comes out of the Quebec experience was the importance of
    requiring annual action plans and reports. While timelines and targets play
    some of the same role, the very requirement of annual reports and plans made it much more difficult for the Quebec Liberal government elected in 2003 to make the sort of regressive changes in social assistance that many in that party wanted, and forced them to come up with some policies that could be put into the annual poverty reduction plan. In short, it made it harder for a subsequent government to either walk away, or ignore, the commitments of the previous government. In addition, given the difficulties of organizing
    around poverty and sustaining an anti-poverty movement, the institution of
    reports and plans provides a couple of easy places each year for organizing
    efforts, publicity generation etc.

    You could think about a two-tier architecture here: Getting all-party
    support for a motherhood bill on reducing poverty, including the necessity
    of annual plans and reports (thereby morally locking in subsequent
    governments to dealing with the issue, even if different parties might go
    about it differently); and getting some commitment from the current
    government to pursue the sort of strategies you set out as the means for
    achieving the poverty reduction targets in the bill. We have a little wind in our sails at the moment, but building some longer-lasting doors into the state, where we can regularly come knocking, can provide some momentum for the long-run.

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