Poverty needs to be election issue

  • September 9, 2008

{mosimage}TORONTO - "The politics of poverty must be part of this election," said Mike Creek, spokesman for Voices from the Street, a Toronto advocacy organization that puts poor people in front of media cameras and microphones.

The 25 in 5 Network of more than 100 churches, unions and social agencies delivered a report Sept. 8 at Queen's Park outlining minimum demands for a provincial poverty reduction plan, but much of what they had to say was aimed at federal politicians as they headed out for the first full day on the campaign trail.

Ontario Campaign 2000 co-ordinator Jacquie Maund said an effective provincial effort to reduce poverty by 25 per cent in five years would have to have the federal government on side.

"The federal government has a crucial role to play as a partner," said Maund.

Poverty is the number four issue on voters minds at the start of the election, trailing health care, the economy and the environment, according to a Sept. 2 Angus Reid poll. More than half of poll respondents named poverty a "very important" issue in the upcoming election, with another 30 per cent classifying it "moderately important."

"Poverty reduction is not going away, off the election agenda," Maund said.

Federal parties hoping to get elected shouldn't ignore poverty as an issue, said Creek.

"They do that at their own peril," he said.

The 25 in 5 Network recommendations are based on more than 75 community meetings held over the last year which strongly favoured input from people living on welfare, disability pensions and minimum wage. The report is posted on a blog at www.povertywatchontario.ca.

Maund promised the 25 in 5 Network would have cost estimates for its recommendations somet ime in October.

The major recommendations include:

  • raising the minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2011;

  • making it easier to unionize workers;

  • tighter regulations to limit temp agency employment;

  • fewer clawbacks and more flexibility when people on social assistance find work;

  • welfare rates that ensure a "livable income;"

  • a national housing strategy, including significant new building of social housing;

  • training and employment programs that target native people, new immigrants and visible minorities who are more likely to be poor.

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