Strengthening Community Linkages On Poverty Reduction In Ontario

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  • This slide speaks to where we are now, in 2009 Measurable progress has been made since the budget of 2009 and the introduction of the poverty reduction legislation… But first – let’s explore the origins of 25 in 5…
  • Pt 2 Building public awareness and solidifying political commitment for a serious poverty reduction plan in Ontario
  • Pt 2 of Declaration and public statements including op-eds, open letters, etc…
  • Liberals made commitment to a plan for families and children centred around the OCB; subsequently won election.
  • April 14 th was significant for a number of reasons Showed that the anti-poverty movement had legs Showed government that they could put their Minister in front of 500 people with lived experience, advocates, and activists and that they would be ready to listen
  • Most agree that Minister Matthews is a fellow traveller – but the question seems to be how do we ensure that the legislation is given life beyond the mandate of the current government Most agree that the legislation is largely symbollic – but symbols are important Bill is at second reading – has been referred to the standing committee on social justice Gov’t has promised that there will be consultations – but they will likely take place in Toronto only as legislature is currently in session 25 in 5 currently completing a clause by clause review and identifying potential amendments which will include: Adding in timelines for review and for publication Ensuring funding for consultations Shaming, naming and blaming mechanisms – ie who can the public hold accountible?
  • Ensure that the government’s existing PRS commitments are fulfilled and plans are implemented in order to achieve its first 25% target for children despite the economic down turn Continue to push the government to make a commitment to a poverty-free Ontario: a dvocate for a plan and the public investments needed to lift all Ontarians out of poverty – not just children

Transcript

  • 1. November 2009
  • 2. Progress made; major challenges ahead...
    • In 2008 / 2009, the 25 in 5 Network played a central role in keeping the spotlight on poverty in Ontario's political agenda
    • From the start, the Network set out to:
      • build a broad umbrella of champions;
      • engage decision makers to achieve change; and
      • set the agenda by proposing:
        • idea of targets;
        • multi-dimensional proposals for policy focus;
        • organizing core constituencies to expand consultations; and
        • framing poverty reduction as good for economy.
    • Measurable progress has been made, but economic slowdown presents serious challenge to sustaining momentum
  • 3. Looking back: Towards 25 in 5
    • Three main driving factors behind the coalition:
      • advocacy efforts in 2006/07 around the National Child Benefit Supplement claw back and Ontario Child Benefit;
      • advocates’ growing interest in international movement for “poverty reduction” and progress in other jurisdictions; and
      • City of Toronto commitment to support community efforts to advocate for a poverty reduction strategy in Ontario.
    • 25 in 5 established August 2007 - founding members challenged all parties to adopt the target in their platforms
    • Loose steering committee structure set up with close to 30 members in regular attendance
  • 4. How we work
    • Network has grown -> more than 560 Toronto-based and provincial organizations with local / regional networks and leadership in communities across the province
    • About 20 partner organizations have taken leadership roles as part of Steering Committee, supporting a province-wide campaign
    • Network supported by Convening Group, Communications Committee, and various action tables and work groups
    • Governance less about top-down, hierarchy and more about how autonomous partners can contribute to a movement in a coordinated fashion
  • 5.
    • Colour of Poverty Campaign
    • CASSA
    • Daily Bread Food Bank
    • Income Security Advocacy Centre
    • Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition/MCC
    • Ontario Association of Food Banks
    • Ontario Coalition for Social Justice
    • Ontario Campaign 2000
    • Ontario Federation of Labour
    • OMSSA
    • Registered Nurses Association of Ontario
    • Social Planning Network of Ontario
    • Stop Community Food Centre
    • St. Christopher House
    • United Way Toronto
    • Voices from the Street
    • Wellesley Institute
    • Workers Action Centre
  • 6. What we set out to achieve...
    • Overall goal:
    • A PRS that would reduce poverty in Ontario by 25% in five years and 50% in ten years through progress in good jobs, strong income security programs, and solid social infrastructure
    • Longer-term Objectives:
    • Measurable and significant poverty reduction in Ontario from provincial policy and investments
    • Ongoing province-wide, cross-community engagement and movement building
    • Public support & recognition that poverty reduction is central to the social and economic health of all Ontarians
  • 7. Approach to Movement Building
    • Encourage people with direct experience to take on leadership positions – “nothing about us without us”
    • Reach out to many sectors (faith, education, health, women, municipal, labour, business) for active support and endorsements
    • Identify community leadership across Ontario; being part of a larger province-wide movement through the cross-community approach
    • Secure media coverage in Toronto and communities across Ontario
    • Avoid common coalition pitfalls:
      • remain loose but focused,
      • respect partners’ autonomy,
      • assume collaboration around specific goals is mutually desirable,
      • encourage diversity of tactics / approaches within the umbrella
  • 8. Where We’ve Been
    • Summer/Fall 2007 – focus on getting commitment from all parties during provincial election campaign
    • Jan 2008 – Initial 25in5 Forum
      • Attended by 250 people from across Ontario
      • Preliminary discussion of “What is PRS?,” principles for poverty reduction, and poverty measures
    • Jan/March 2008 – 25 community meetings
      • Held across province to test / refine the 25 in 5 Founding Declaration (policy framework for PRS)
  • 9. April 14, 2008 Queen’s Park Forum
    • 500 people attended
    • 25 in 5 Founding Declaration released; called for PRS to address 3 priorities: sustaining employment, livable incomes, and strong supportive communities
    • Presentation of Declaration to Minister Matthews - culmination of months of movement building, showing geographic and sectoral breadth and a united front
    • Consolidated motto / model of “nothing about us without us” as an integral part of how 25 in 5 would move forward
    • Coverage showed media was ready to pay attention – front page Star, coverage in Globe, CBC, across province editorials, columns
  • 10. 25 in 5 Founding Declaration: Still the anchor
  • 11. Toward a Provincial Plan
    • April to July 2008: 50 consultation meetings across Ontario
      • Network supplemented government’s official consultations
      • Built bridges with individual MPPs and Ministers on Cabinet Committee - 44 MPPs and thousands of Ontarians participated
      • Released consolidated report on community input at conclusion
    • October 2008: Forum at Queen’s Park - “Countdown to Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy”
      • Attended by over 500 people
      • Released “Five Tests for Success of Ontario’s PRS”:
        • a 25 in 5 target;
        • a way to measure progress;
        • policy specifics;
        • legislation and accountability; and
        • a down payment in the 2009 budget.
  • 12. Towards a Provincial Plan (cont’d)
    • September 2008: face-to-face with beginning of recession
      • Network focus shifts to new narrative to frame PRS:
      • “ we cannot afford not to address poverty: crucial as economic stimulus in short term, crucial as human development strategy for Ontario's long-term prosperity”
      • - op-eds, cost of poverty reports, editorial meetings
    • November 2008: Leadership Forum to discuss poverty reduction “Blueprint”
      • Kick off of provincial tour to get community input on Blueprint
      • Visited 26 communities; more than 1000 participants
  • 13. December 4, 2008: A PRS for Ontario “ There is a lot more work to do before we can say we have succeeded, but today we have built the foundation for real progress on poverty. We should celebrate this achievement. We will be focusing now on the next steps: the work that needs to be done to implement the plan announced today.” -- Pat Capponi responding to the Ontario government’s Poverty Reduction Strategy
  • 14. 25 in 5’s Response
    • Network and advocates across the province greet the announcement with cautious optimism: a start, a turning of the corner... but not a done deal...
      • PRS is generally regarded as a good start and an important commitment.
      • Signals a change to way poverty is understood in Ontario; represents the end of era of blaming and demonizing the poor.
      • Recognition that much work to be done to fill in the gaps.
    • Network moves to frame investments in poverty reduction as crucial for Ontario's economic stimulus strategy: money in poor people's pockets good for local economy, investments in housing, ELCC critical as job creation.
  • 15. Strategy in lead up to March 2009 Budget
    • Network's primary goal leading up to the budget was to link poverty reduction to economic stimulus
    • February 12, 2009 – “Blueprint for Economic Stimulus and Poverty Reduction in Ontario” released
      • simultaneous release in communities across the province
      • fulfilling Blueprint proposals would require investments in the order of $2 billion per year
    • March 20, 2009 - Government announcement
      • $400 million to increase OCB for low-income families
      • $600 million to match federal money to repair and build new affordable housing.
  • 16. March 26, 2009 Budget
    • Positive:
    • Speed up OCB: to $1,100 in July 09 - new $400 million
    • Match federal investments in affordable housing - $600 million in provincial dollars + $600 million federal
    • Funds to hire new employment standard officers
    • 2% increase in social assistance
    • Commitment to invest in community infrastructure
    • Negative:
    • No $100 Healthy Food Supplement
    • No money for child care... although $1.5 billion package for early learning introduced in October
  • 17. Bill 152: Details
    • February 25, 2009, the provincial government introduced Bill 152: An act respecting the long term reduction of poverty:
      • Requires successive governments to have a plan based on the seven principles contained in the Act
      • Plan must have a poverty reduction target
      • Government must report out annually
      • The plan must be reviewed / renewed every 5 years, and governments must consult prior to implementing a new or renewed plan
      • Governments are obligated to publish annual targets, annual reports, and plans
  • 18. Moving ahead: PRS Challenges
    • One year ago, we thought these would be our major challenges:
      • Extending provincial commitment to a comprehensive poverty reduction plan rather than one limited to child poverty;
      • Account for specific needs of populations and groups within the broader strategy;
      • Ensure crucial pieces don't get lost: e.g., social assistance review, low-income dental program;
      • Ensure new HST does not leave low income people further behind;
      • Risk of deferring provincial action on poverty reduction because of the absence of a strong federal partner.
  • 19. PRS Challenges...
    • One year later, challenges are greater than anticipated...
    • Network challenge is to maintain provincial government commitment in the face of:
      • recession;
      • anticipated slow economic recovery;
      • BIG deficit at all levels of government; and
      • perception of mis-spending by government reducing confidence in public policy.
  • 20. Tough questions to consider...
    • PRS agenda requires policy reform AND new investments.
    • Moving forward, Network must consider tough questions:
      • As we push our case, what is the public policy context? What will governments’ policy response be to deficit conditions?
      • Where is the public on the deficit? A balanced approach over a few years until economy turns around? Demands for public spending cuts? Is Ontario public ready to talk taxes?
      • What does this mean for us? How do we balance our push for policy reforms (e.g. use $6B currently spent on welfare more effectively, reform educational opportunity grants) with our push for more money (social assistance increases, new housing benefit, etc).
  • 21. Next Steps...
    • Countdown to Dec 4: one-year anniversary of Poverty Reduction Strategy ( Breaking the Cycle)
    • Issue a report that takes stock of what’s positive, where improvement is necessary
    • Convene partners to discuss agenda for next provincial budget
    • Start organizing for next budget with awareness of need to address economic and fiscal conditions
  • 22. Website
    • For more information, visit:
    • www.25in5.ca
    • www.povertywatchontario.ca
    • www.growingstronger.ca