Good, bad and ugly: Ontario’s poverty reduction strategy

The Provincial government’s updated poverty reduction strategy has good intentions but is missing critical elements.

 

In 2008, the Ontario government released their first Poverty Reduction Strategy, a five year plan for the province. The targets were ambitious, and the government fell short in meeting them. The next version of the strategy has just been released.

Here is what all Ontarians needs to know:

The Good:
Helping vulnerable people in Ontario is a government priority. When the deputy Premier takes personal responsibility for a plan, it’s important. The newest incarnation of the strategy focuses on ending homelessness as a critical part of the solution. This strategy is also committed to a real transition plan. A plan that is focused on taking individuals from social assistance to sustainable employment. That's excellent news for all of us.

The Bad:
The government looks like it's on the way of missing the mark again. The new strategy uses the same target for reduced child poverty (25% reduction), with 2008 as the start point. Since the bulk of the work has already been done in the first five years, meeting the 25% isn’t much of a stretch goal. The strategy commits to studying how to measure and define homelessness so that targets can be set after that, which is good in principal but we also need more action for the many in our community who are suffering the affects of poverty every single day.

The Ugly:
Government aspirations and promises are all well and good, but the bottom line is always dollars. The new strategy doesn’t outline any specific new spending. You can’t reduce poverty or end homelessness without addressing the problem at the centre of it all: lack of money.

Overall:
No one is going to argue with the goals of the strategy. Undertaken following hundreds of hours of community meetings and stakeholder consultations, there is a definite consensus on where this strategy needs to take the province. But the fact of the matter is, the failure to address poverty is costing the whole system money (health, education, correction systems, etc.) and we need to be real about addressing these issues. There needs to be a method of measurement in place that the government will use to know that the strategy is working, and how the province will invest additional funding to ensure that, this time, the targets are met. In the end, it is going to cost us more before we start to see the desired results. 

The 25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction is a group of representatives from more than 100 organizations working to eliminate poverty. Here's what they said:

The strategy recognizes that poverty is bad for our economy and for our collective health. It makes important commitments on child poverty, good jobs and homelessness that open up opportunities to advance the cause of fairness in our province. What’s missing is the plan for making it happen, including clear targets and an investment strategy. Communities – and people living in poverty themselves – must be key players in designing next steps and action plans.
— Greg deGroot-Maggetti