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Poverty eradication a political priority: group

York Region candidates canvassing your support for the Oct. 6 provincial election can expect a taste of their own marketing medicine.

Poverty Free Ontario, a non-partisan initiative urging all political parties and electoral candidates to make poverty an election issue, launched Let’s Vote for a Poverty Free Ontario at Newmarket’s Inn From The Cold Thursday.

The novel strategy to make poverty eradication a political priority borrows from traditional election campaign tactics, including lawn and window signs, buttons and brochures.

Co-sponsored by The Social Planning Network of Ontario and the Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition, in partnership with local social service agencies, the initiative was unveiled simultaneously in more than 40 Ontario communities, network co-chairperson Pat Taylor said.

“The public can get on board by asking their candidates about their position on the issues,” she said, adding window signs can be downloaded from the network’s Internet site. “The intention is to keep the campaign going after the election.”

The initiative is funded by the sale of buttons and donations, she said. Poverty Free Ontario has blanketed the province and hopes community support will sway political will in favour of concerted programs to end the varied hardships of the poor.

Ontario’s poverty rate stands at 13.1 per cent, the highest level in the last 30 years, coalition co-ordinator Peter Clutterbuck said.

“Community members and civic organizations in touch daily with the intolerable living conditions of low-income Ontarians recognize ending poverty is a major political issue,” he said.

Coalition executive director Michael Skaljin is buoyed by the groundswell of support from leaders and communities from all faith traditions across the province.

“Poverty amidst the wealth of our province, even in harder economic times, is morally indefensible and we expect political parties and candidates running for office would not only publicly acknowledge the issue, but make clear proposals about how to reduce and eliminate it within this decade,” he said.

Newmarket Regional Councillor John Taylor bought a button and took a sign for his lawn.

“Going into this election, we want to make sure poverty is an issue,” he said. “To be blunt, poverty hasn’t been getting the attention it deserves. In the United States, the gap between the rich and poor is threatening the social fabric. We’re following.

“I’m proud to say York Region has done much to end poverty, but much more can be done.”

Poverty Action for Change Coalition chairperson Tom Pearson endorsed Mr. Taylor’s remarks.

“The problem is too many groups work in silos, independent of each other,” he said. “By working together to tie up all the loose ends, we can make Ontario poverty free.”

Resources are available in support of the campaign, York Region Food Network executive director Joan Stonehocker said.

Buttons are emblazoned with We are Working for a Poverty Free Ontario. Lawn and window signs state, I am Voting for a Poverty Free Ontario. Reverse canvassing leaflets promoting the poverty issues can be given out at the door when candidates visit or at meetings.

Let’s Vote for a Poverty Free Ontario is one of the largest anti-poverty programs to date, Ms Taylor said.

“A lot of people have put a lot of effort into this,” she said. “If it doesn’t work, it’ll be very disappointing.”

• Let’s Vote for a Poverty Free Ontario signs can be downloaded at faithtoendpoverty.ca. Buttons and a limited supply of lawn signs are available at Inn From The Cold, 510 Penrose St., Newmarket. Program information is available at povertyfreeontario.ca.  For training information, call Yvonne Kelly at 905-967-0428, ext. 205.



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