More than 30 people attended the presentation of the Blueprint in Peterborough on the afternoon of Wednesday, December 10. Convened by the Peterborough Social Planning Council, the session was attended by the Chair of the Peterborough Committee for Poverty Reduction, the City Councillor Chair of the Social Services Committee, members of the health, social services and faith communities, low income people and other interested citizens and community volunteers.
Discussion covered the following areas:
- A discussion of the reasons for the choice of the Low Income Measure instead of the Low Income Cut-Off to measure progress on the child poverty target.
- A suggestion that the Blueprint give more emphasis to strategies to create affordable housing, noting that the current Affordable Housing Program does not really create housing for very low income people. We should be pointing out the difference between “affordable housing” and “rent-geared-to-income housing”.
- The social determinants of health should also be more emphasized as a key factor in the Blueprint’s imperatives and create an opportunity to bring more people to the table on poverty reduction such as the LHINs. The LHIN in Peterborough is engaged on the poverty reduction issue.
- We must be sure not to let the federal government off the hook for all of its responsibilities to reduce poverty which should include a clear role in affordable housing as well as improving the NCBS and Employment Insurance.
- Reference was made to the Ontario Auditor’s report showing that the investment of provincial funding in mental health remains heavily weighted toward the institutional rather than the community support sector.
- It will be important for the 25 in 5 coalition to engage other sectors in order to advance the proposals in the Blueprint, but it is also very important to have strong representation and participation directly of low income people.
- The sustaining employment part of the Blueprint needs strengthening. Good, stable jobs are the real key to escaping poverty, which any person living on low income will say.
- The removal of barriers for people on OW or ODSP to earn extra money are essential. People on ODSP are now “taxed” 50% for any effort they make.
- It was noted that changes were occurring even this very day to better protect temporary workers through strengthening the Ontario Employment Standards Act and improving enforcement. Federal labour law should also be reviewed and greater protections introduced.
- There should be greater harmonization of federal and provincial programs related to medical expenses and supports for families with members who are disabled, perhaps a tax credit for medical expenses.
- Participants expressed a strong interest in staying engaged with 25 in 5 and asked for guidance about how to participate in the upcoming work of the coalition to strengthen and build on the Government’s Plan.
In closing the meeting, Stephen Kiley, Chair of the Peterborough Poverty Reduction Committee, the body succeeding the Mayor’s Task Force on Poverty Reduction, briefly responded to the presentation and referred to the recently released Root Causes of Poverty Report. As recently appointed Chair, Mr. Kiley expressed his intention to continue the local work and to reach out for broader engagement of other parts of the community on poverty reduction.