On August 21, 2008 MPP and Minister for Community Safety and Correctional Services Rick Bartolucci met with a diverse group of over 70 people in the City of Greater Sudbury in an open forum organized by the Social Planning Council of Sudbury in order to receive community input into the Liberal Government’s plans for a poverty reduction strategy. Sudbury was included in the communities visited by Minister Deb Mathews in her cross provincial consultation process; however there were many in the community who wanted further opportunity for input. Minister Bartolucci had not been available when Mathews visited Sudbury and was pleased to make himself available for this session.
Janet Gasparini of the Social Planning Council of Sudbury provided an overview of the provincial and local strategies to reduce poverty and the work that had been done to date. The floor was then opened and individuals were invited to present their views.
The presenters represented a broad and diverse group of community members. The list included an individual living on ODSP, a municipal politician, anti-poverty activists, a college president, front line workers from social service agencies, a political science professor, the local and Canadian Labour Councils, candidates preparing for a federal election and staff from the Sudbury & District Health Unit. The audience members who choose not to speak were equally as diverse and all expressed a great deal of appreciation for the opportunity to meet, speak and learn more.
Ideas and issues expressed included:
- Concerns in regards to the impact of poverty on seniors
- Support for the Liberal plan with encouragement to enhance the skills strategy to include concentration on employability
- The need for a Poverty Reduction Chapter in the Northern Growth Plan
- The impact that not addressing learning disabilities has on lost productivity and poverty
- 1 in 10 students has a learning disability
- 35% of students identified with learning disabilities don’t finish school
- 62% of students identified with learning disabilities were unemployed after graduation
- The federal Liberal party has committed to a 30/50 plan for poverty reduction – 30% reduction in poverty levels with 50% of children out of poverty in 5 years in Canada
- We need to eliminate poverty – not reduce it – We need a 40% increase to OW and ODSP rates now!
- Effective labour market strategies are key to poverty reduction including better wage subsidies and supports, full grants for training, effective unemployment insurance benefits
- Nordic model spends more on labour market policy and programs – has lower unemployment, lower levels of poverty, strong economy
- Must ensure that we have good jobs
- Increases in non-standard work is of concern
- Card certification for unionization must be reinstated
- National child care must be addressed
- Gender gap in wage differential must be addressed
- Improvement to the Employment Standards act to include all workers
- Supports are needed for children in the 8 to 11 year range including after school programs
- Supports for teen mothers are required
- While the government investment in school nutrition programs is good there is still a need for more
- Income is the best predictor of health outcomes – those with the most money have the best health and vice versa – we must address poverty as a social determinant of health
- Babies born to low income families have higher mortality rates
- Must ensure that policies that are enacted are inclusive – i.e. RESP’s for children in CAS care – good policy but excluded all current 7 to 18 year olds in care
- Children must continue to receive support from CAS post 18 years
- Mismatched programs between various levels of government is a huge waste of time
- Contributing takes many forms and should not just be considered making money
- Poverty reduction will take providing access to housing – a full spectrum of housing, increasing ODSP and OW, providing access to education and training, providing access to primary health care
Minister Bartolucci concluded by thanking everyone for coming and indicating how much he appreciated receiving the input. He reiterated that the government had not pre-determined the outcome of the consultation process and that input was very important. He agreed that labour market strategies were key and that those strategies had to be integrated in the education system as well as the workplace. He believed that we had to create a plan that matched what people actually needed and that while the Liberal government had made efforts to reduce poverty there was still more to be done.
The session concluded with thanks to all from the SPCS and a clear invitation to stay engaged. The week of October 13 – 17 will focus on cross provincial activities to support the strategy development and Sudbury will be involved.