MPP Consultation – Ottawa Centre and Ottawa South (June 26)

The Ottawa Child Poverty Action Group Participation in the The Ontario Poverty Reduction Consultation – Ottawa Centre and Ottawa South June 26; 6:30 to 9 pm

The event was held in held at the Ottawa Technical High School on Albert Street. Yasir Naqvi, MPP for Ottawa Centre was present. The animator was Simone Thibault, Executive Director from the Centre Town Community Health Centre. There were approximately 50 participants from various anti poverty groups, school representatives, and individuals on OW and ODSP. Ottawa CPAG was represented by Ryan Legault-McGill, Jennifer Harju and I. The format involved a workshop approach with the participants being randomly divided among 8 tables.

Our contributions included the following points.

Housing

Shelter is a building block of civilization, so how can many of Ottawa’s residents be in core housing need? 37% of Ottawa renters pay over 30% of their income to rent; the significant majority of this population earn under $32k/annum. For those who seek social housing, the wait time in Ottawa is seven years! For children especially, seven years is a lifetime. Every study on the issue finds that shelter is imperative for individual well-being, why are the housing needs of Ontarians being ignored?

Recommendations

  • Increase the number of rent-geared-to-income housing spaces offered through the Rent Supplement program
  • Explore rent vouchers (Liberal Pink Book II)
  • Better access to social housing

Minimum Wage

Across Ottawa, individuals provide food, clothes and shelter for themselves through gainful employment. Unfortunately, many residents are unable to meet these basic needs for themselves, even working full-time. The impacts of low wages are often magnified when these individuals are members of single parents households, differentially-able, new to Canada, ex-convicts and recovering addicts. The working poor deserve a dignified life.

Recommendations

  • Raise provincial minimum wage
  • Explore option of encouraging cities to set living-wages

Early Learning and Childcare

The Canadian Labour Congress has given Ontario a “D” rating for its record in providing affordable regulated child care. The province blames Ottawa for not providing sufficient funding, but during the last five years, Ontario has received more that $1 billion plus from the federal government for child care. According to Jenny Robinson, executive director of the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care, the Ontario government has created 22,000 new daycare spaces, but none since 2005. CPAG believes that Ontario should follow the example set by Quebec. While Quebec has only 22 per cent of the population but 45 per cent of regulated child-care spaces in Canada.

Recommendations

  • Invest in accessible, affordable and quality child care by implementing the seven dollar a day model developed by Quebec.
  • Ensure that child care workers receive a living wage.

Transportation

By nearly all accounts, public transportation in Ottawa is failing Ottawa’s citizens. Studies have found that OC Transit has below average performance in cost-recovery, cost-effectiveness, on-time performance and user satisfaction. Meanwhile, the per-trip user fees are the highest in the country. Transit planners have oriented the system to move commuters to and from downtown while the needs of low-income users remain an insignificant policy concern. Public transportation is an essential service for Ottawa’s most marginalized populations, and high costs and poor servicing reduce these communities’ capabilities for civil, social and economic engagement and self-care.

Recommendations

  • Provincial support for local public transit and encourage the prioritization of needs of low-income users
  • Public transit assistance for people living in poverty
  • Free public transit passes for students (teachers shouldn’t be buying bus tickets so their low-income students can attend school)

Plans, Timelines and Indicators

Intentions amount for little if they are not coupled with action. Plans, timelines and indicators are essential for guiding and sustaining action and focus. Cities and municipalities that have long-term sustainability and poverty reduction plans perform better on sustainability and poverty indices (eg: Portland, Oregon). Given this, each city, municipality and neighbourhood has unique populations that face different expressions of inequality.

Recommendations

  • Create city and provincial-level indicators with timelines and benchmarks
  • Work with cities to create regional poverty reduction strategies that incorporate the services utilized by low-income residents
  • Provincial strategy should allow for local differences and local initiatives.

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Report from Adje VandeSande, Ottawa Child Poverty Action Group.

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