Minister’s Consultation – Thunder Bay (June 16)

On Monday June 16th, approximately 70 individuals participated in the Minister’s consultation session in Thunder Bay. The participants included advocates from grassroots organizations, representatives and directors from social service agencies, and many individuals living in poverty. Minister Deb Matthews presided and was accompanied by local MPP’s Bill Mauro and Michael Gravelle, as well as staff from their offices.

The consultation process was structured around six pre-determined questions set by the Cabinet Committee on Poverty Reduction. The participants were broken into groups of eight and were asked to address each of the questions. After discussion and brainstorming around each issue, the group moderator summarized the discussion for the larger group and Minister Matthews. After each question, there was some time for questions or additional points from participants. All participants were encouraged to leave their notes for each question and to add additional information by visiting the website.

The main priorities; sustaining employment, liveable incomes, and strong community supports, were reiterated throughout the session by various individuals. The moderators spoke very clearly and passionately about what the group felt was needed to reduce poverty in Ontario. A particular point that resonated with the entire group and was repeated often was the need to put more money into the hands of individuals through an increase in social assistance and a raise to the minimum wage. Another point that was raised often was the need for funding for community programs beyond short term project funding and the need for the government to understand and coordinate their services across ministries (e.g. coordination between social services and education)

Minister Matthews took the time to comment on many of the points raised and was quite engaged in the consultation process. She portrays a sincere interest in reducing poverty; one only hopes that the government that she represents shares this sincerity.

One thought on “Minister’s Consultation – Thunder Bay (June 16)

  1. Did anybody including Deb Matthews comment on the huge waste of resources being spent by the legal clinic system and the Social Benefits Tribunal. Of coarse this is no fault of the tribunal itself as long as it has been screaming bloody murder to the appropriate ministries.

    Our research shows that if anyone applying for anything to do with ODSP and is denied, all they have to do is attend a SBT hearing with representation and the tribunal will overturn that denial 80.70% of the time. This means that when government workers make a decision they are wrong 4 out of ever 5 times.

    This is corruption, this is bad faith, this is willful blindness or willful deceit.

    I will now describe a very aggravating factor. If that same person, under the same circumstances, goes without representation, the tribunal will overturn that denial 72.68% of the time.

    This would suggest that the legal clinics are only of value just under 8% of the time regarding wrong decisions that are overturned.

    Allowing this to continue prevents Ontario Works recipients from accessing justice the vast majority of times simply because there is nowhere to go for legal help or information.

    If there is going to be any real attempt at reducing poverty using existing resources this matter would have to be one the top 3 items to be looked at.

    Ron Payne
    Welfare Legal
    Hamilton, Ontario
    E-mail welfarelegal2004@hotmail.com

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