During the provincial election in 2007, Make Poverty History in collaboration with other groups in the 25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction mounted a very successful campaign to get all provincial party leaders to support a poverty reduction plan.
In December 2008, the Government of Ontario introduced the plan Breaking the Cycle: Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy. On May 6, 2009 the Ontario legislature unanimously passed The Poverty Reduction Act, which commits successive provincial governments to act on poverty and provides measures to track progress over time. The strategy was created with significant input and collaboration from community groups and those living in poverty. In August 2014, the Ontario Government published its second poverty strategy entitled Realizing Our Potential. In the 2014 strategy, the government recommitted to its prior goal of reducing child poverty by 25%.
Breaking The Cycle Of Poverty For Children And Youth
- An increase in the Ontario Child Benefit (as indexed to inflation)
- Increased health benefits for children and youth in low-income families
- Improving access to full-day kindergarten
Moving Towards Employment And Income Security, Particularly For Vulnerable Groups
- Creation of jobs and skills programs for young people
- Improvements in access to employment and skills training for vulnerable populations, including Aboriginals and persons with disabilities
- A raise in minimum wage
A Long Term Goal Of Ending Homelessness In Ontario
- Improvements in supports for people with mental health and addiction issues including new investments
- Increased investments in affordable housing and homelessness prevention
- Improvements in support for off-reserve Aboriginal housing
Using Evidence-Based Social Policy To Measure Success
In the 2014 poverty plan, the Ontario Government reported that child poverty has decreased in Ontario. Based on the Low-Income Measure used by the Ontario Government, child poverty rates dropped from 15.2% in 2008 to 13.8% in 2011. Campaign 2000 uses a measure that marks child poverty as high as 19.9% in 2012. This measure results in a 9.2% decrease in child poverty between 2008 and 2011. According to some researchers, child poverty hit epidemic levels during the period covered by the first poverty strategy.
A common concern shared among organizations – such as the 25 in 5 Network and the Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition – is that while Ontario’s goals are commendable, the strategy lacks concrete targets and timelines as well as an investment strategy. The concern is that without action and measurable targets these goals cannot be reached. There has also been significant dissent about the efficacy of the new 2016 budget in striving towards the goals highlighted in the 2014 reduction strategy. Social assistance rates remain woefully insufficient, affordable childcare is out of reach for many families, and minimum wage is well below a living wage.