Poverty Reduction Highlighted in Question Period, Sept. 24

The NDP used all six of its questions in the House on September 24 to press the Government on its poverty reduction plan. Having just released its own report on eight town hall meetings, the NDP asked about delaying implementation of the plan, action on child poverty, job losses in Ontario, and plans for addressing poverty in the Aboriginal community.

Premier McGuinty reaffirmed his commitment of delivering a plan by year end, although saying “The issue is not whether we do this; the issue is how quickly can we move on this”. The Premier said further, “At the end of this year, we want to put out a plan . . . that properly defines poverty, puts in place specific ways to measure it, puts in place specific targets, and puts in place a specific strategy for us to achieve those targets, together with regular accountability so people will know whether we’re making success or not.”

The Premier concluded that it was “a matter of enlightened self-interest, both for our personal sake and the sake of our economy, that we find more ways, working together, to support families that are struggling in poverty”.

Minister Matthews stated in the House that the Government’s strategy would be “comprehensive” and “fair, balanced, aggressive but doable.”

Full transcript of the questions and answers in the House on poverty reduction.

One thought on “Poverty Reduction Highlighted in Question Period, Sept. 24

  1. Regarding Premier McGinty recently suggesting that the public’s expectations for a comprehensive plan for poverty reduction may have to be tempered as a result of the bleak economic outlook for the province.

    In my opinion the provincial government’s resent poverty reduction consultations, headed by M.P.P. Deb Matthews was all smoke and mirrors, a sham.

    The Liberals have known for some time that there may be a downturn in the economy and have been looking for ways of saving money for some time now.

    The Mike Harris Conservative government did this, years ago when it gutted funding for welfare, education and medical care, and then paid a heavy price for doing so.

    Now, on the welfare front the Liberals are continuing the process, only this time they are doing it without the vast majority of the public’s knowledge.

    How will they do this? I’ll explain. First they had to accomplish two things.

    a) get a lot of good media attention showing what a wonderful job they are doing on poverty reduction.
    They announced a huge new initiative, an across Ontario poverty reduction consultation. They mistakenly let the cat out of the bag right from the beginning, no new money and no one that lives in poverty is invited. That was a bad move (showing there hand) that caused a reasonable amount of bad publicity. People quickly forgot this error and things moved along.

    b) prepare the service providers for an onslaught of people needing help.
    The Liberals had to make the service providers think that they were the ones that were going to lead the charge of helping to eliminate poverty. This way they couldn’t complain that the Liberals weren’t doing enough when things got worse.

    Well things are definitely getting worse for people living on Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). Not because of the alleged economic downturn Premier McGinty is talking about.

    It’s the cuts the Liberals have already made to the benefits of welfare and disabled recipients. These cuts are already being implemented through the Ontario Works offices.
    Behind closed doors and behind every ones back, the Liberals have completely redone the Ontario Works Policy Directives. These are documents that explain what the benefits are and how to apply for them.

    My research, that was done here in Hamilton, shows that the local legal clinics and paralegal community are not aware of these changes and are in fact giving out wrong legal advice to their clients. Why haven’t the legal clinics community stepped up to the plate on this issue?

    Even our local library was not aware of these changes. You would have to be a pretty good researcher to even find a hint of these changes on the Internet.

    Now the vast majority of people living in poverty will have no idea what the benefits that they are entitled to and how to apply for them.

    The provincial Liberals have already started to skim millions of dollars off of Ontario’s poor and disabled without anyone knowing that it is happening.

    The implementation of these policy changes is certainly a clear example of the provincial government acting in bad faith. Especially when you take into consideration the fact that Welfare Legal has requested in writing twice for the government to supply us with a copy of these changes and has been told no.

    Welfare Legal’s evidence is clear.
    We have;
    a) 2 separate documents on Ontario Works letterhead that talks about these secret policy changes.
    b) 2 separate e-mails from our local legal clinics that show they are not aware of these policy changes.
    c) A letter from the province saying the will not give us a copy of this new policies that they are in fact using as we speak.

    Why isn’t someone somewhere doing something about this abuse of proses by the province and the local municipalities that administrate the Ontario Works Program? Many heads should roll over this issue and I cannot believe I am the only one talking about it publicly. It is a complete failure of system that was designed to help not hurt people that live in poverty.

    Welfare Legal is offering $100.00 to the first person that e-mails us a copy of the new Ontario Works Directive #7.4. This offer is only good for seven days after this letter goes public. The sender will have to prove the document is authentic.

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

    Dear Ron,

    It probably goes without saying that you have total agreement from the NDP here at Queen’s Park. I’m writing on Andrea Horwath’s behalf. Thank you for your email, which says exactly what needs to be said. The poverty consultation farce was the lead question that Andrea asked in the Ontario Legislature yesterday. On Wednesday our Poverty Critic, MPP Michael Prue, hosted a press conference on this same topic. In fact, the NDP members have been peppering the McGuinty government with questions about it all week. Below, it the transcript of Ms Horwath’s question. Please know that Andrea and Caucus will be continuing to push on this important matter.

    Sincerely,

    Sheila White
    Executive Assistant to
    Hamilton Centre M.P.P. Andrea Horwath
    Room 112, Main Legislative Building
    Queen’s Park, Toronto ON M7A 1A5

    Tel: (416) 325-2777
    Fax: (416) 325-2770

    http://www.andreahorwath.ca

    POVERTY

    Ms. Andrea Horwath: My question is to the Minister of Children and Youth Services. This government’s long-term poverty plan is getting more long term by the day. First, the Premier says he has to go slow on poverty because of the economy. Now this minister says that the government strategy is not even “about what’s in the budget next March.” During these difficult economic times, how does this minister justify telling Ontarians that there will be no new expenditures for poverty in the upcoming budget and that they should just continue to wait for a plan that may never come?

    Hon. Deborah Matthews: Let me make it really clear that what has been said by the Premier and by myself is that we are on track to deliver a poverty reduction strategy, a long-term, comprehensive poverty reduction strategy for this province by the end of the year. The implementation of the strategy, as we have always said, will be in a manner that is as aggressive as we can do. Despite the attempt of members opposite to pull out certain questions from our consultation document and ignore the others, we are moving aggressively forward on this. I am as committed to this as I have ever been, as are members of my caucus and as is the Premier.

    Ms. Andrea Horwath: As economic downturn pushes more Ontarians into poverty, the government is backtracking on its poverty promises. The backtracking is also very disrespectful to the thousands of Ontarians who took time to participate in their poverty consultations. Yesterday, the minister said the consultations were extraordinary. She’s right. They are extraordinary, because the government won’t even reveal what was said. That’s extraordinary.

    When will this government release a report, not just on its poverty plan, but a report dealing with the consultation and what those participants said during that process? We need to know what the consultation gave you in terms of information from the people who are actually living in poverty in this province. Why won’t you reveal what’s in those reports?

    1100

    Hon. Deborah Matthews: As the member opposite well knows, we have released all of the submissions that were made from organizations through the website. You have those reports, and you know what was said. I was happy to finally get a copy of your report yesterday, which was a list of things you heard-very similar to the things we heard. I wouldn’t describe it as a strategy, but that’s another point. We are not wasting any time. We are not waiting. We are delivering on issues immediately. This past July, the first Ontario benefit cheques started to be delivered to low-income families across the province. The minimum wage has gone from $6.85, when we were elected, to $8.75-it’s on its way to $10.25. We have introduced a low-income dental plan in our last budget, we have doubled the funding for student-

    The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Thank you. Final supplementary.

    Ms. Andrea Horwath: The reality is that this minister still will not reveal what was said in her consultations that she held across the province. She will not say what the government will do; she will not even say when the government will do it. In fact, she won’t even state clearly who the plan is going to help. Sometimes the government says the plan will be comprehensive, and sometimes it’s only going to apply to children. Could the minister at least clarify one thing for Ontarians: Will her government’s plan really be comprehensive and apply to all people living in poverty in Ontario? Or will it only apply to children?

    Hon. Deborah Matthews: The answer to your question is this: We will be delivering a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy for the province of Ontario. It will lay out a road map that, if implemented, over time, will reduce poverty in this province. We have every intention of implementing the strategy. It will speak to all people living in poverty in this province.

    But our highest priority is breaking the cycle of poverty. Our focus to begin will be with children. We know that the most important thing we can do for kids living in poverty is to ensure they get the education they need to be successful in their lives. The evidence is very clear that investments made in young children pay off multiple-fold. We intend to listen to the research, and we will implement the strategy.

    Ms. Andrea Horwath: We don’t need a long, long road map; we need the rubber to hit the road by this government.

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