ISARC Forum Story - Nov 28, 2016

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30, November, 2016Posted by :Chris Pullenayegem

By Murray MacAdam

Turning the Tide Against Poverty Forum Launches New ISARC Campaign

ISARC kicked off a new advocacy campaign to influence the province’s 2017 budget at a Queen’s Park forum Nov.24 that drew 75 people of faith from across southern Ontario to hear strategies and learn from each other.

Colin Johnson -
Colin Johnson – Anglican Archbishop

 

Anglican Archbishop Colin Johnson opened the forum with a reflection on how the needs of the poor are central to people of faith. “What would it look like,” he asked, “if all of our policies were based on the inherent dignity of every person? At the root of each person is a being that is cherished and we have to act in that way.”

Keynote speaker Senator Art Eggleton emphasized how poverty costs us all, in terms of stress and higher health costs, as well as the loss of dignity felt by the poor. One in seven Canadians lives in poverty, with 900,000 dependent on food banks each month, 38 percent of them children. Meanwhile almost half of working Canadians are living from paycheque to paycheque. “We really need a new way of dealing with this,” he said. “The old way has not worked.”

Senator Art Eggleton
Senator Art Eggleton
Senator Eggleton outlined five elements of a new anti-poverty approach: encouraging local leadership on poverty; stimulating the economy; education; tax reform based on fairness; and a basic income. A basic income would cost $30 billion and would replace provincial welfare programs, although other supports for low-income people, such as affordable housing and employment supports, would still be needed. “Overall we don’t need to spent more money, we need to spend more effectively,” said Eggleton.

The Senator encouraged participants to take action such as by building affordable housing on the property of religious groups, joining local poverty reduction coalitions, and meeting with political representatives. Building political will is critical, he noted. “Poverty is a tough sell. Poverty doesn’t grip the government enough to do what needs to be done.”

MPP Cheri DiNovo
MPP Cheri DiNovo

A panel presentation outlined various elements of the issue. MPP Cheri DiNovo outlined how Sweden has a much lower poverty rate than Canada through free childcare, large affordable housing programs, and high rates of unionization. Rabbi Michael Satz outlined the call to support the poor found in Scripture and that “tax is not a bad word.” Economist Kaylie Tiessen said we need a range of policies. Tara Kainer, who works with citizen groups in Kingston, made poverty real by outlining her difficult life as a single mother. “I lost nearly a decade of my life,” she says.

MPP Julia Munro
MPP Julia Munro
MPPs Helana Jaczek and Chris Ballard
MPPs Helana Jaczek and Chris Ballard

The forum also heard from MPPs Jonah Schein and Julia Munro, as well as Chris Ballard, Minister Responsible for Poverty Reduction, and Helena Jaczek, Minister of Community and Social Services, who urged participants to take part in the government’s pre-budget consultation process. “We need to get more people conscious that we need to lift people up.”

The urgency of the situation was underscored as the Campaign 2000 coalition released its 2016 Report on Child and Family Poverty in Ontario also on Nov.24 at Queen’s Park, with report co-author Jennefer Laidley speaking at the forum. The report pushed for policies to live out Ontario’s poverty reduction strategy, including a $15/hour minimum wage, dental coverage, and new affordable housing.

Rev Dr Susan Eagle - Chair ISARC
Rev Dr Susan Eagle – Chair ISARC
The conference wrapped up with ISARC Chair Rev. Susan Eagle launching a “Billion or Bust” campaign for an additional $1 billion in Ontario’s 2017 budget for anti-poverty measures, which would include a 10 percent hike in social assistance rates. “We have to make a difference in this budget,” she said, calling on faith groups to meet with all Liberal MPPs in the province in coming weeks urging their support for the additional $1-billion in spending to combat poverty.

For more information on how to visit your MPP, download our Advocacy Tool kit from our website or contact ISARC coordinator Chris Pullenayegem at coordinator@isarc.ca.

“Together we can end poverty”

Kaylie Tiessen - panelist
Kaylie Tiessen – panelist
Tara Kainer -panelist
Tara Kainer – panelist
Rabbbi Michael Satz panelist
Rabbi Michael Satz – panelist
Ryan Friedman - ISARC Steering Committee
Ryan Friedman – ISARC Steering Committee
Ryan Weston - ISARC Steering Committee
Ryan Weston – ISARC Steering Committee

 

 

DOWNLOAD: Senator Art Eggleton's Powerpoint

 

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