A workshop was held May 15th with 30 participants to talk about what they want in a Poverty Reduction Strategy for Ontario. In this rural area, the rising cost of gas and utilities, plus lack of public transportation, is a major concern for low income people.
In discussing what causes poverty people talked about disabilities, mental illness, divorce, accidents on the job and disasters like a home fire which meant they lost everything. There is stigma associated with poverty – “we blame people for being poor. We say it’s their fault-this infuriates me. It can happen to any of us.”
The definition of a poverty line income must ensure that all the basic needs of the individual or family unit are met – adequacy is key. Those on ODSP called for each individual in a family to receive the full benefit, instead of total family benefits being capped when more than 1 person receives disability benefits. People spoke about the need for a higher minimum wage, more affordable child care spaces, more ‘rent geared to income’ housing units, abolition of school fees, increases to social assistance benefits, and better education and training programs.
Follow up to this workshop includes plans for public meetings with local MPPs Bill Murdoch and Carol Mitchell to voice these recommendations. The local contact is Glenda Devlin at the Grey Bruce Community Legal Clinic.