Bold vision in Ontario’s new Poverty Reduction Strategy; action plan and investment strategy now required

(Toronto) September 05, 2014 – Anti-poverty advocates from across Ontario welcome the provincial government’s recently-announced strategy to reduce poverty over the next five years, including a bold new goal to end homelessness and working to expand health and dental care to all low income Ontarians.

However, the strategy, entitled ‘Realizing Our Potential’, falls short on providing a firm timeline on child poverty and implementation and investment plans to bring these commitments to fruition, said the 25in5 Network for Poverty Reduction.

“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,” said Greg deGroot-Maggetti, 25in5 spokesperson. “Communities – and people living in poverty themselves – must be key players in designing next steps and action plans.”

“The first five-year strategy made important progress because it was guided by a clear target and a timeline on child poverty. The public investments and community partnerships that followed made all the difference in lifting thousands of children and their families out of poverty,” said Anita Khanna of Ontario Campaign 2000. “That’s why we’re disappointed to not have a firm commitment on when the 25% child poverty reduction pledge will be met, and urge government to make that timeline public right away. And while we’re pleased to see a bold commitment to end homelessness, we now expect a medium-term target, a timeline for action, and plan for implementation. That’s the only way to ensure we get real results and accountability.”

The 25in5 Network for Poverty Reduction is encouraged that the new strategy expands its scope from the first time to put a specific focus on creating better pathways to good jobs. Developing an evidence-based approach that relies on an expanded set of indicators to track the strategy’s progress is also welcome, especially as it related to making a difference for specific populations with historically high levels of poverty.

The commitment to provide prescription drugs, vision care and mental health services for children and youth in low-income families – and to explore options for expansion of these services to all low income Ontarians – has the potential to be a gamechanger when it comes to creating dignity and opportunity in Ontario. The focus on social assistance reform was expected, but advocates want to see a comprehensive plan for reform and investments to significantly improve the income security of those on social assistance.

“There is plenty of evidence available to show that investing in anti-poverty measures saves much more in the long term and makes it possible for Ontarians living in or at risk of poverty to build better, more stable and meaningful lives,” said Margaret Hancock of Family Service Toronto.

The 25in5 Network and its partners look forward to working with the provincial government to develop implementation plans based on local needs and expertise, so that we can realize the potential of the second Poverty Reduction Strategy.

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Ontario’s new Poverty Reduction Strategy can be accessed at http://www.ontario.ca/home-and-community/realizing-our-potential-poverty-reduction-strategy-2014-2019.

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