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Group making poverty an election issue

WINDSOR – Political candidates in the Ontario election are promising a lot, though one rather large group has yet to hear much aimed specifically at them: the poor.

So a number of anti-poverty activists across the province on Thursday launched a sign campaign aimed at encouraging candidates to address poverty during the election.

The campaign-style lawn signs, one of which was erected downtown at All Saints’ Anglican Church, read: “Let’s Vote for a Poverty Free Ontario.”

“It’s important that all the parties speak directly about poverty,” said Adam Vasey, director of Pathway to Potential, a poverty-reduction strategy for Windsor and Essex County.

“Poverty has so many facets. You can’t just have pieces of policy here and there and hope that the problem’s going to go away.

“Poverty has gotten worse in Ontario over the last couple of years.”

According to Poverty Free Ontario – part of the sign campaign with Pathway to Potential as well as Faith Communities in Action Against Poverty – the problem is worsening.

The poverty rate in Ontario climbed by 17 per cent between 2007 and 2009, the most recent statistics available, and now stands at 13 per cent.

The poverty line for an individual is around $20,000 a year.

“It’s not just a moral issue,” Vasey said.

“It’s an economic issue. Many studies from reputable economists show that savings from addressing poverty are tremendous.”

Vasey estimates Ontario could save between $32 billion and $38 billion a year by greatly reducing poverty, factoring in all costs associated with low-income issues: lost tax revenue, as well as health care, social services and criminal justice tabs.

Vasey advocates a 75-cent increase in minimum wage, which he says should be tied to the cost of living.

He also suggests providing a $100 a month healthy-food supplement to social assistance recipients.

Lillian Gallant, who joined the poverty-sign launch at All Saints’ Church, knows how difficult living in poverty can be, given that she grew up in a single-parent family on social assistance.

Though she worked full time when she became an adult, her relationship broke down and she became a single mother supporting four children.

“People who live in poverty are always in survival mode,” said Gallant, 43, who recently graduated from women’s studies/social work from the University of Windsor but who can’t find work.

“It takes a big toll emotionally. You never feel stable. Your life is always in someone else’s hands.”

Gallant says Ontario Works recipients face a nightmare of forms, meetings and restrictions for a meagre amount.

The average single person takes home about $570 a month, even though a small apartment costs at least $400.

“People generally say poverty happens to THOSE people,” Gallant said.

“But you could lose your job, not find a job right away, and creditors start to call and your house payments get backed up.

“It can happen to anyone.”

By Craig Pearson, The Windsor Star



2 Responses to “Group making poverty an election issue”

  1. Ontario’s greatest poverty is demonstrated through the fact that we turn a blind eye to the murder of thousands of children in the womb through ABORTION!

    Posted by P.M.A. Hatala | September 16, 2011, 6:53 pm
    • People elect against producing offspring when they perceive they cannot even support themselves much less a dependent. Thank you Hatala for your example illustrating another good reason to fight poverty.

      Posted by M. Morris | September 20, 2011, 11:21 pm

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