Repairing EI, establishing a national public child care program, good green jobs and investment in affordable housing identified as priorities at community town hall meeting.
TORONTO-On Monday evening, more than 100 people participated in a town hall meeting held to get input from community members who will not be given an opportunity to address Parliamentary hearings about the federal role in poverty reduction.
The meeting was organised by Campaign 2000, the 25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction, and the Good Jobs for All Coalition. It took place the same day as the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA) held its only hearing in Ontario about the federal government’s responsibility to reduce poverty.
Participants in the town hall meeting made recommendations to a panel of community experts who work with low-income, working poor, unemployed and homeless Canadians:
- The Rt. Rev. Colin Johnson, Diocesan Bishop, Anglican Diocese of Toronto and Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition (ISARC) representative
- Tam Goossen, Co-chair, Good Jobs for All Coalition;
- Mike Creek, Director, Voices from the Street;
- Janet Davis, Councillor (Ward 31 Beaches-East York), City of Toronto;
- Grace-Edward Galabuzi, Colour of Poverty Campaign representative;
- Peggy Nash, Assistant to the President, Canadian Auto Workers union;
- Paulette Senior, CEO, YWCA Canada.
“Strong economic growth and unprecedented prosperity for some people did not lift many children and families out of poverty,” said Laurel Rothman, National Coordinator for Campaign 2000. “History shows us that a recession will only deepen the hardship if there isn’t leadership for an aggressive federal intervention to support vital community services. MPs must make it clear that Canada can’t afford to waste another day without fixing EI, starting national child care program, investing in affordable housing and creating good, green jobs.”
“Stephen Harper’s so-called ‘economic action plan’ includes no plans to help me and my 2,400 former co-workers who are running out of Employment Insurance because our company closed down at the beginning of this recession,” said Fa Lim, a former employee of Progressive Moulded Products (PMP) and a representative of the Good Jobs For All Coalition. “It’s time for a Poverty Reduction Plan. Like in past recessions when 80% of the unemployed got the unemployment insurance they paid for, more accessible EI would help hundreds of thousands of families keep their children out of poverty. We didn’t cause this financial crisis, we didn’t get to choose when we lost our jobs, but we should be able to access our $57 billion EI surplus immediately.”
“Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s continuing refusal to support a national housing strategy shows a lack of leadership that is un-Canadian,” Baquie Ghazi, a member of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and a current resident of social housing. “Mr. Harper’s stimulus package gives a tax break for cottage owners to build decks and landlords to pave driveways, but not one dollar for those of us who can’t afford to own property and need new affordable housing now. The Harper government must increase the availability and accessibility of money in the Building Canada Fund for the repair of existing social housing and construction of new affordable housing.”
“On behalf of our delegation of poor, immigrant women, I am here to call the Parliament to account for the lack of progress on childcare – a matter of fundamental rights. Our community of Teesdale/Crescent Town in West Scarborough/East York is one of the poorest in the City. The lack of childcare is the key cause of this poverty. Women have the right to participate fully in society – in education, in workplaces, in social and political life. Without affordable, accessible and culturally sensitive childcare, the rights of mothers of young children are denied. This is unacceptable,” said Sultana Jahangir, South Asian Women’s Rights Organization.
“A weak employment insurance system, unenforced severance provisions and the fragility of our pension plans create real hardship for those directly affected,said Peggy Nash, Assistant to the President, Canadian Auto Workers union. “However all working people and seniors feel greater insecurity. To help get our economy back on track, people need to know they can count on financial support from the federal government when they need it.”
- In 1989, the House of Commons unanimously resolved to “… seek to achieve the goal of eliminating poverty among Canadian children by the year 2000.”
- In 2006 (the latest data available), nearly two decades later, 760,000 children – nearly one in every nine – still lived in poverty when measured after income taxes. This figure does not include the shameful situation of First Nations’ communities where one in every four children is growing up in poverty.
- The rate of child and family poverty in Canada was essentially the same in 2006 as it was in 1989 despite an unprecedented period of strong economic growth since 1996.
- Ethno-racial minority group members (people of colour) make up over 13% of Canada’s population; by the year 2017, this number will rise to 20%.
- Nearly one in five immigrants experiences a state of chronic low income, which is more than twice the rate for Canadian-born individuals.
- Thirty-four per cent of children in racialized families, and 49% of children in recent immigrant families in Canada live in poverty.
- The EI fund surplus held by the Government of Canada was $57 billion ($56,952,606,000) as at March 31, 2008, the most recent figure available.
Public Accounts of Canada for 2007-2008, Vol. I(page 4.16)
- The accumulated EI surplus under the Conservative government has increased $6.2 billion. It was $50.8 billion as at March 31, 2006.
- At the end of March, a public opinion pollconducted by Harris-Decima found that the majority of Canadians – throughout all regions of the country and across income brackets – believe that the scope of employment insurance should be expanded.
- The latest EI coverage data for March 2009 that was released by Statistics Canada in May, confirm that only 46.78% of unemployed people throughout Canada and 35.65% of unemployed Ontarians are receiving EI benefits. The coverage rate in Ontario has increased just 2.59% from December 2008, an increase of only 28,030 successful EI claims in the province despite the fact that 107,000 full-time jobs have been lost during the same period in Ontario alone.
- Canada is the only major industrial nation still without a national affordable housing strategy.
- Miloon Kothari, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, who toured Canada from October 9 to 22, 2007, found a “national housing crisis.”
- Mr. Kothari recommended that the federal government needs: to commit stable and long-term funding and programmes to realise a comprehensive national housing strategy; and a comprehensive and properly-funded poverty reduction strategy based on its human rights obligation. He called for special attention and funding to help people women, youth, seniors and Aboriginal peoples.
- The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation estimated that as many as 1.5 million Canadians are currently experiencing core housing need, meaning that they are under-housed or face an unsustainable financial burden to maintain their current housing situation.
For more information, please contact:
Jacquie Maund, 416-595-9230 ext.241; or
Laurel Rothman, 416-595-9230 ext.228, 416-575-9230 (cell); or
Ken Marciniec, email@example.com.
Campaign 2000 is a non-partisan, cross-Canada network of 120 organizations committed to ending child & family poverty in Canada. www.campaign2000.ca
The 25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction consists of over 450 organizations across Ontario representing thousands of individuals working to eliminate poverty in the province. www.25in5.ca
Good Jobs for All Coalition is an alliance of more than 35 community, environmentalist, labour and student groups representing people throughout the Greater Toronto Area.
For more details and photos visit http://www.familyservicetoronto.org/whatsnew/townhallmeeting.html