On Wednesday morning, June 18 Marvyn Novick and Peter Clutterbuck of the SPNO presented the Policy Framework on Structural Priorities and Lead Policy Initiatives for Poverty Reduction in Ontario to a gathering in a Committee Room in the Niagara Regional Council building in St. Catharines. About 30 participants attended from community groups, the municipal sector, faith, education and human services. The session was co-sponsored by the Niagara Social Assistance Reform Network and the Advisory Committee to the Community Services Department of Niagara Region.
Those assembled responded very favourably to the priorities and policy initiatives of the framework and offered some constructive proposals for incorporation, such as reference to the needs of persons with addiction and mental health problems and promoting more clearly the need for early learning and child care systems.
Discussion also covered the following issues:
- Minister Deb Matthews’ interest in local programs in her consultations is good but adequate income is key as evident by the high use of food banks at the end of the month when people on social assistance run out of money.
- Improved employment insurance coverage is also important and having a labour market better able to adjust to changing economic conditions.
- It is important to always talk about poverty reduction in the context of eventual poverty eradication as the ultimate goal and the role of a Guaranteed Annual Income should be part of that debate.
- The very high proportion of senior women living in poverty in Niagara is a major concern and should get some attention in a poverty reduction plan.
At the end of the meeting, the need for an ongoing capacity to have community input to the development and implementation of the Government’s poverty reduction plan was expressed. It was suggested that many of the groups present should find a way to continue to work together to maintain a Niagara voice in the process.