The meeting had a good turnout of about 80 people, mostly community members and many people who worked in the community as well. There were sandwiches, fruit and beverages provided by The Stop Community Food Centre.
The evening began with opening comments made by a variety of panel members including; Minister Matthews, Jonah Schein from The Stop Community Food Centre and Davenport West Income Security Council, Mary Milne from the The Stop’s Davenport Community Advocacy Program, Dr. Catherine Oliver, a family doctor working at a clinic in the community, and Rene Adams, from the Income Security Council and also a community member. Local MPP Tony Ruprecht was in attendance but did not sit on the panel.
Once each community member made their opening comments, the large group was broken into smaller groups at their tables, each of which was assigned a topic area. These included; Women and poverty, housing, health and food, ODSP, parenting and childcare, employment and jobs, racism and poverty, education infrastructure and resources, and OW. Each group was asked to answer the question; “To reduce poverty we need…” and write their answers on chart paper. These sheets were then all posted around the room for other groups to look at and add to. Each group also had the chance to write down one question to ask the minister regarding their issue.
Many of the themes that came up during this activity were common to other consultations as well. The Ontario child benefit, raising the minimum wage, concern over clawbacks, lack of affordable housing, and employment were all major issues of concern which people addressed.
In the final part of the evening a member from each table asked the minister the question their group had addressed, this provided a very direct conversation between the minister and community members and resulted in some interesting discussion, as well as much emotion on the side of some community members. Some interesting highlights from this were a discussion surrounding the Ontario child benefit and the recent changes made to the benefits that parents receive, clawbacks regarding OW, the lack of safe and affordable housing, as well as the lack of government mechanisms in setting ODSP rates. The minister also mentioned the highlight on community services and community resource centres that she had noticed throughout the consultations. Overall, this part of the evening allowed the community to tell the minister directly what was and was not working in regards to the governments approach to poverty as how it directly impacted their lives.
On the whole, the meeting was very well organized and facilitated and generated a lot of unusual and meaningful discussion. The Stop’s Davenport West Income Security council will be meeting again on July 16th to continue the discussion, and will be writing a report based on the evening which will be presented to the minister and available to the community as well.