Although they had only 2 days notice of this meeting, 65 people attended to give their views to MPP David Orazietti on what should be in the Ontario Poverty Reduction Strategy. MPP Orazietti is the only member from the North on the Ontario Cabinet Committee on Poverty Reduction so local constituents are keen to let him know their views.
The meeting was ‘by invitation’ and included primarily representatives from community service agencies and only 3 people who identified themselves as living in poverty. So unfortunately those people who are most affected by poverty were not given the opportunity to attend. The meeting was only 2 hours long so participants were not able to discuss all 6 questions posed by the government. Clearly there is need for further public meetings and input on the poverty issue with MPP Orazietti.
Key issues highlighted that the Ontario government needs to address as part of its Poverty Reduction Strategy include:
- The need for affordable housing;
- Need to increase the minimum wage so that work lifts people out of poverty;
- For parents to get work or get training Sault Ste Marie needs more funding to expand child care spaces, including subsidized child care;
- Increase the rates for Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Payments so people have adequate incomes and can live with dignity.
- Provide more supports for people on social assistance so those who can work are able to find work and don’t get 50% of their earnings deducted.
- Social assistance supports should ‘enable’ people – not ‘disable’ them. Many on OW in SSte Marie are being told to apply for ODSP in order to reduce the OW rolls. What is needed is increased rates indexed to inflation, more information available about supports available when on OW, and supportive workers that stop poor bashing.
- Transport costs and cost of gas are a barrier in the north to people finding working and living above the poverty line.
- Need better access to health care, doctors, and nutritious food.
Many at the meeting complained about insufficient notice and time to prepare for this important meeting. For example, the Sault Ste Marie Legal Clinic was holding an ‘Ending Poverty” workshop with over 50 low income people registered for June 25. MPP David Orazietti promised that he would hold a separate meeting with that group to hear their concerns directly before July 31 when public consultations wind down.
Report from Jill Hewgill as reported to Jacquie Maund.