Poverty Watch Ontario Update (June 2009)

Since Spring, the Social Planning Network of Ontario (SPNO) has been reorganizing itself for action on the next stage of poverty reduction in Ontario.

SPNO remains engaged primarily in four poverty reduction campaigns, which Poverty Watch Ontario will track.

Put Food in the Budget

SPNO is working in partnership with the Association of Local Public Health Agencies (alPHa), the Stop Community Food Centre and local poverty reduction groups and public health departments in communities across Ontario to urge the Ontario Government to introduce a $100/month Healthy Food Supplement added to the Basic Needs Allowance of all Ontario adults on Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Supports Program.

The introduction of the Healthy Food Supplement as a first step toward income adequacy for people on social assistance would be a clear gesture by the Ontario Government that it is committed to serious transformative change in its planned Social Assistance Review.

In this stage of the Put Food in the Budget campaign, SPNO and its provincial and cross-community partners are using Do the Math, the on-line tool developed by The Stop, to build community support and reach MPPs across the province with the urgency of closing the gap between the what social assistance recipients receive in income support and what they need to meet the basic costs of living with health and dignity.

Stable and Affordable Housing

The SPNO is an active contributor to the Housing Network of Ontario (HNO) formed in the early months of 2009 to help communities across Ontario prepare for the Housing Review being rolled out by the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Twelve community consultations will be held in communities across Ontario between June and the end of September (see PWO calendar for the current schedule of consultations). Local MPPs will also be encouraged to hold their own consultations on a long-term affordable housing strategy for Ontario.

SPNO joined with its HNO partners to plan and conduct a strategy meeting on the consultation in Toronto on May 11, attended by 100 housing activists from across the province. An Affordable Housing Declaration was reviewed at that time and has been revised based on feedback at the meeting. The major elements of an Affordable Housing Strategy were also discussed at that time.

As part of HNO, SPNO will provide organizing support to communities for participation in the Minister’s and the MPPs consultations in the housing review.

Developments and updates on the Housing Review and resource materials can be found at www.stableandaffordable.com.

Drive to Work

SPNO is participating in the DRIVE TO WORK (DRV2WRK) labour caravan organized by the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL). Sustaining employment is key not only to poverty reduction but also to poverty prevention.

The DRV2WRK caravan of unemployed workers and labour leaders started on June 8 in Kenora and Oshawa and will cross the province making stops in 50 communities before arriving in Toronto on June 25.

DRV2WRK is a province-wide tour to find out how the recession is really affecting working people. Along the way caravan participants will talk with thousands of Ontarians and listen to what they say on the need to preserve and create good jobs and maintain strong public services for healthy communities. The stories, videos, letters and ideas of unemployed workers and low income people will be gathered over three weeks for delivery to the Premier.

Anti-poverty groups, faith groups and other community supporters are joining with the OFL and affiliated unions on the DRV2WRK Caravan and going on the road to over 50 communities so that people can have their say.

SPNO is promoting participation in the labour caravan among all of the local community partners and poverty reduction groups in its cross-community network. With the support of the OFL, SPNO is working more closely with the local labour leadership in four communities – Sudbury, Windsor, Brampton and Hamilton.

The full tour itinerary and stories collected along the route can be found at www.drivetowork.ca.

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