ISARC debate focuses on poverty issues

  • June 22, 2011

With an Ontario election looming in the fall, community faith leaders staged an all-party debate on poverty at the University of Toronto June 9. Well, it was almost an all-party debate. Despite seven weeks of trying, they couldn’t land a representative from the provincial Progressive Conservatives.

ISARC, an ecumenical and interfaith coalition supported by Ontario’s bishops and Catholic religious orders, went ahead anyway and at least one debater said the Conservative absence was irrelevant.

“Poverty will be an issue. You can’t ignore it. It’s not going away,” said Etobicoke Centre Liberal MPP Donna Cansfield.

Whether poverty is an issue when the election heats up in the fall will be up to churches, mosques and temples, said ISARC executive director Michael Skaljin.

“The faith communities are not going to be silent on this,” he said.

The Conservative platform, the Changebook devotes a page to welfare policy under the heading “Promoting Personal Accountability.”

“The goal of welfare should be straightforward: to help our neediest rebuild their lives, get out of the system, develop useful skills and get a full-time job. We will help more people exit welfare and enter the working world,” says the platform book.

The other parties have yet to release their platforms.

NDP poverty critic Michael Prue said debate on poverty may be muted by the province’s $17-billion deficit.

“It becomes very difficult to promise big-ticket issues,” he said.

But there are ways to improve the lives of poor people without digging the province deeper into debt, he said.

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