On Monday June, 16, MPP Laura Albanese (York South–Weston) held two poverty reduction consultation meetings in her riding, one during the afternoon, and another in the evening to accommodate different work schedules. The meetings were open to the public and advertised locally. Approximately 25 people attend the evening session and it was reported that 45 attended earlier in the day. Cabinet Committee members David Orazietti (Sault Ste. Marie) and Lou Rinaldi (Northumberland–Quinte West) attended the evening session.
In her remarks, Ms. Albanese stressed the importance of MPP’s holding their own public consultation meetings, and that they have been encouraged by Minister Matthews to do so. She focused on the importance of community members’ and organizations’ ideas surrounding poverty reduction. However, the context of the province’s slipping economy needed to be taken into account and new monies were not likely to be significant. Therefore, ideas needed to focus on how we can address poverty utilizing existing resources (both monetary and human capital).
Minister Rinaldi discussed the various faces of poverty and that significant differences exist between rural and urban communities. He suggested that polls indicate that only 2 percent of Ontarians believe that poverty reduction should be a priority and thus, it was his job to educate non-urban residents on the significance of the issue. As a committee member he has studied the poverty reduction plans in place in Europe as well as Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador, and has come to the conclusion that a necessary component of the plan must be a measurement tool since we are dealing with taxpayer’s money.
Minister Orazietti stressed the importance of northern Ontario as part of the poverty reduction strategy, and therefore the plan must be comprehensive and diverse in order to address the different facets of poverty (Aboriginal issues, access to health care in northern communities, etc.).
Participants were split up in to tables of 4 or 5 and discussed all 6 of the government’s questions. One volunteer from each table then reported the outcome of the discussions to the plenary. MPP’s actively participated in each of the group discussions, but primarily stuck to asking questions of clarification and listened to the voices at the table.
Issues that were discussed included:
- Raising the threshold for tax exemption
- Implementing universal child care, after school and nutrition programs
- Skills training and recognition of foreign credentials for newcomers
- Raising school standards
- Harm reduction programs for drug and alcohol users
- Coordination of services provided by community organizations as well as Ministries
- The need to focus on all poverty, because child poverty necessarily results from adult poverty
- Devising new methods of poverty measurement redundant, as measures already exist
- Preserving green community spaces
- Recreation centres not in use in private developments should be opened for public use
- Affordable housing
- Mental health services
- Disability and poverty
- Importance of involvement of faith communities for tackling poverty
- Addressing the shrinking middle class
The 25 in 5 declaration was not explicitly mentioned, however many of the components of the declaration were raised. There was consensus in the room that regardless of the specifics of the plan, it needed to be a comprehensive one tackling all obstacles to lifting people out of poverty. There was no agreement from the MPP’s on reporting back to the community during their deliberations, however Ms. Albanese stressed that this was only the beginning of the discussion and the community would continue to be consulted. No specifics of how this would be accomplished were mentioned.
The meeting was attended by a mix of local residents, low income voices, community service providers, advocates, school administrators, and political activists.