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Support growing for Faith to End Poverty

WELLAND — Do you want to help make poverty a high-profile issue in the Oct. 6 provincial election? If so, sign on to a campaign being launched next week.

Two groups, the Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition (ISARC) and Poverty Free Ontario, are the movers behind a poverty-free Ontario campaign, Faith to End Poverty, that is attracting considerable support in communities across the province.

Its rallying cry, Let’s Vote for a Poverty Free Ontario, is the message on signs that will start springing up on lawn signs starting Thursday, Sept. 15.

Rev. Jim Mulligan, pastor of St. Kevin’s parish, Welland, said the initiative does not target one political party over another. He describes it as “non-partisan” because all three parties in the legislature and their leaders supported the Poverty Reduction Act, whose intent was to make Ontario poverty free.

St. Kevin’s, 303 Niagara St., is one of two sites in Welland riding that will be distributing the campaign signs next week. The other is Bridges Community Health Centre,177 King St., Port Colborne.

The Let’s Vote for a Poverty Free Ontario signs, as well as campaign buttons, will be available at both locations from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

A sign campaign, it is hoped, will help make poverty a more visible issue during the campaign, Mulligan said in an interview.

But its organizers also want supporters to “grill” candidates who come to their doorsteps and in other face-to-face opportunities about their and their party’s views and plans for ending poverty in Ontario, Mulligan said.

Mulligan knows first hand the toll poverty is taking on people in the Welland area. His parish has a food bank that is struggling with an increased caseload and growing demand on its resources. His parishioners are generous in their support, he said, but it is becoming the norm to issue special requests for various non-perishable foods because supplies run out quickly.

In tandem with the sign campaign, a prayer vigil, ecumenical in nature, is being held at St. Kevin’s Sept. 15 at 7:30 p.m.

Mulligan said Bishop Gerard Bergie of St. Catharines diocese will preside at the service, with Rev. Chris Fickling of Central United Church, Welland, sharing a homily reflection. Fickling, a member of The Tribune’s community editorial board, authored an eloquent column with poverty as its theme, This is what poverty felt like (July 7). Mulligan said Fickling’s homily is sure to be “moving and challenging.”

Lori Kleinsmith of Bridges Community Health Centre said that while there are many important issues in the provincial campaign, “one that is of urgent concern is poverty.”

She said 1.7 million people in Ontario live in poverty.

“Only a few years ago, many of these people never imagined that they would be unemployed, losing their homes, applying for social assistance and visiting food banks. Our shrinking social safety net, along with the recession, has created many poverty traps,” she said.

Media conferences will be held simultaneously in many communities across Ontario the morning of Sept. 15 to launch the election-style sign blitz.

By JOE BARKOVICH/Tribune Staff



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