About 30 people attended a presentation and discussion of the Blueprint on Tuesday morning, December 2 at Sunderland Town Hall in North Durham Region. Participants included the Mayor of Brock Township, several town councilors, civic officials, faith leaders, health and social service leaders, and residents of North Durham communities.
It was noted at the outset that the SPNO had held its very first meeting on poverty reduction at the Sunderland Town Hall in September 2007 to launch a series of twelve community meetings across the province during the 2007 provincial election campaign. After more than 100 community meetings in communities across Ontario since the fall of 2007, it is gratifying to know that the Premier is about to release the Province’s Poverty Reduction Strategy this week.
Discussion covered the following areas:
- This work is very relevant to public health and municipalities so that participants were encouraged to hear that 25 in 5 had connections with alPHa, OMSSA, ONPHA and other similar organizations.
- Great concern in the region about the state of the economy. Always told that a growing economy would take care of poverty – but latest periods of economic growth did not produce poverty reduction effort. Learning that governments have an active role to play in the economy and distribution of wealth.
- Concern is that economic pie is only so big and that we need to address the inequality that exists – lower the highest incomes rather than just raise the lowest. We should work with the business people who understand the new economy.
- There was no knowledge among those present that the dental care funding that had been announced in March had been used in the Region to actually start working o low income people’s teeth.
- Core funding needs to be provided to strengthen the work of community groups. Reference was made to the Community Opportunities Fund identified in the Blueprint and support expressed for it.
- What about the risk of more people falling into poverty and the need to prevent that happening? Poverty reduction must also be about people hovering around poverty – modest income families and individuals. The labour market component of a poverty reduction strategy is crucial for this group just at the margin and this is why a good jobs strategy is important as part of poverty reduction.
- We should also identify and develop local indicators for our own accountability, such as how many affordable housing units can we create in our local area within a defined period of time – or set local and regional public health indicators that we could tackle.
- Interest was expressed in a follow up meeting to think about a community blueprint for poverty reduction in North Durham. A conversation has been started with the Durham Region Health and Social Services Committee in this regard on what the regional municipality and the community can do together on poverty reduction directly (e.g. transportation, recreation, public health, housing) in addition to what is needed from the province.
The North Durham Social Development Council and Community Development Council of Durham will follow up with groups and individuals who wish to pursue the idea of a community blueprint for poverty reduction at a meeting in January.
More than 45 participants in Durham Region attended a presentation and discussion of the Blueprint at Durham Regional Council headquarters in Whitby on the afternoon of Tuesday, December 2. The meeting was sponsored by the Community Development Council of Durham.
Participants included regional and city councillors, the Chair of Durham Health and Social Services Committee, the Region’s Chief Administrative Officer, and Commissioner of Health and Social Services, local regional social services and public health staff, residents, recent immigrants, staff and volunteers of local community health, social service and community development agencies, and leaders in employment, housing, and food security networks.
The following points were raised in discussion:
- Communities build strong communities – government needs to hear from community about what needs to be done.
- The food supplement is an important and good idea. There should be no concern about controls about how individuals spend any extra money that they receive. Moving toward decency and adequacy is the issues and respecting people as adults who can make their own choices in their own best interests. Food security is a major issue in Durham.
- Durham Region will be putting together a framework over the next few weeks to respond to how the province decides to implement the strategy – how do we develop our own blueprint for Durham Region.
- How will the economy affect us in Durham? Especially with GM closures and job losses. It will change a lot about how we live in Durham and bring higher levels of poverty. We need to focus on labour market and creating good jobs in our community – need to both protect good jobs and to create good jobs.
- Need to find different way of doing business. Agree with Blueprint – on importance of social assistance restructuring. Child care is essential to poverty redcution for single mothers to have real choices in life – should be able to get education with child care support and no penalties.
- There are certain programs that are promoted and funded by government that do more harm to people than help and they need to be made accountable and actually work.
- Sales tax – why not a consideration as part of the Blueprint? Retail sales taxes are actually fairly progressive, especially since food is not taxed plus there is the GST credit. Governments need a variety of sources to raise revenue they need – low income people should be able to contribute to public revenue – big issue in public revenue is the loss of the progressivity in the income tax system.
- Placement agencies and other schools exploit government funding for skills education – public school system is not adequately preparing people with basic functional skills.
- AIDS community – younger ages affected – mental health not factored into the strategy. Agreement that people with mental health problems require improvement in basic living conditions as well as more adequate community supports (reference to the Community Initiatives Fund).
- Concurrent disorder charter exists in Durham Region – concrete look at people with mental health and addictions – poverty very clearly a common condition.
- Queries about the LIM. It is a concept of poverty as social distance – if too far from the basic standard you are being excluded. – allows international comparison – LIM is criticized as not being about poverty but about inequality.
- Nordic countries – healthy economies – how do their health conditions compare? Early population health studies showed that as incomes increased health status improved. Anthony Wilkinson has established that material conditions are important for people’s health and psycho-social status.
- Shortsighted as a society – more compassionate environment would deny people licence to steal when they achieve higher levels of education and professional development. Sometimes there is a sense that “self-made” people, who actually depend on family support and public services for their success, have no sense of collective responsibility. Now discovering that we all must pull together under current difficult conditions in Ontario – affirm greater solidarities.
Starting to think about how to work on a community blueprint for poverty reduction in Durham. Community Development Council of Durham will be convening meeting in January to talk about that locally.