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‘Small voices’ demand to be heard

SUDBURY – As a large white banner was unfurled from the top of the Church of Christ the King, the crowd assembled below burst into cheers and applause.

“Let’s vote for a poverty free Ontario,” it reads

On Thursday, the campaign with the same name was unveiled simultaneously in up to 16 communities across Ontario — including Sudbury. It’s sponsored by the Social Planning Network of Ontario and the Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition.

“The aim of our campaign is to bring together communities in the province to try to put poverty elimination on the agenda in this campaign. We want all political parties to commit to poverty eradication, and we want all electoral candidates to have poverty reduction as part of their platform,” said Janet Gasparini, executive director of the Social Planning Council of Sudbury.

The non-partisan campaign wants to get politicians and citizens alike paying attention to the poverty issue.

“There isn’t really any party yet that has come out and said they will eliminate poverty … and we are urging voters to ask these questions of candidates who are running for office. Will they commit to this campaign?” said Gasparini.

Also speaking at the launch Thursday was Bishop Jean- Louis Plouffe from the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie, Rev. Dave LeGrand of Trinity United Church in Capreol, and Elizabeth Davis, a Flour Mill resident and social advocate.

“As a resident of Sudbury, and a recipient of assistance, I feel that I’m one small voice … and I’m hoping that it’s enough to open the ears of those that we elected,” Davis said.

“We want to encourage people (living in poverty) to openly express their needs, because nothing will change if they don’t speak out about what needs to be changed.

” The healthy food issue (needs to be revamped) and the allowance increased for budgeting on how a family gets to eat today, and feeling comfortable enough that you know you’re going to continue to have a place to live because you’re not having to rob Peter to pay Paul.

“There are a lot of issues that need to be looked at, and we’re hoping this is just the beginning of opening the ears of those that we elected to government to strongly make a change.”

The current poverty rate in Ontario — 13.1% — is the highest it’s been in 30 years, said Gasparini.

“The reality is that 1.689 million Ontarians are now living in poverty … While some people say that getting a zero poverty rate is not possible, and they are probably right … we do know that there are policies and practices in place in countries, particularly in northern Europe, where the poverty level never goes above 4%.”

The minimum wage also needs to be increased, she added.

“Minimum wages … need three more increases of 75 cents a year over the next three years so that people who work full time don’t live below the poverty line.

“We need Ontarians to tell the government that this is important, and this is where they want (them) spending the money.”

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Poverty facts

As of 2008, 30% of all children in Ontario under the poverty line had at least one parent working a full-time job.

A single mother with one child who is on social assistance lives close to $9,600 under the poverty line.

A single adult on social assistance lives $11,320 under the poverty line.

Half of all Canadians in poverty have some post-secondary education, and 45% of unemployed Canadians have a college diploma or university degree.

400,000 Ontarians used food banks in 2010, a 28% increase since 2008.



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