Time is running out for the poor

TheStar.com – comment/letters – Time is running out for the poor
April 17, 2008

Re:Ontario wary of `25-in-5′ – poverty plan April 15

Children and Youth Services Minister Deb Matthews asks, “But 25 per cent of what? How are we going to measure our progress?” I’m happy to report that there are ample documents from other jurisdictions that have set out precise indicators, formulas, data-management methods and evaluation tools of poverty-reduction strategies from around the world.

Most of the 500 people who were pleased to have the minister in attendance at this week’s anti-poverty forum would be happy to go over these existing indicators at a moment’s notice.

In terms of affordable-housing, for example, one can measure production of new units compared to targets, rent levels, incomes, foreclosures, net loss of rental units, emergency-bed stays, waiting lists, expenditures on social-housing repairs and reduction of complaints, transfer of individuals from short-term care to long-term accommodation, and hundreds of tried and tested measurements of poverty reduction.

Madam Minister, we’re here and ready to go.

Jennifer Ramsay, Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, Toronto

While I admire and respect Minister Deb Matthews, I am disappointed to hear her say she can’t commit to reducing poverty by 25 per cent in five years because we don’t yet have a perfect measurement of poverty. That sounds like another lame excuse to do nothing about the poverty crisis, which has reached tragic and devastating dimensions.

The minister, her civil servants and the service providers who surround her need to understand that this is a monumental crisis. The poor cannot afford to wait any longer while the province mulls over how to measure poverty. Lives and futures hang in the balance.

My message to the province is to quit playing around and get to work, now. Any poor person in Ontario can tell the government what poverty is in about two minutes. It’s not rocket science; it’s basic common sense.

Deborah O’Connor, Northumberland Coalition Against Poverty, Cobourg, Ont.

Getting together to fight poverty – Editorial, April 15

We appreciate that Children and Youth Services Minister Deb Matthews took the time to hear the stories of people who live in poverty. This week’s forum at Queen’s Park, with more than 500 people in attendance, provided many with the opportunity to describe what it’s like to go through a day without adequate food, or wonder how they’re going to pay next month’s rent.

The question now is: Is the government listening?

Nurses know the impact that poverty can have on people’s health. That’s why our organization is among those groups calling on the government to adopt the “25-in-5″ strategy as an essential step to improve thousands of lives.

Matthews shouldn’t be distracted by questions about how best to measure poverty. And suggestions that Ontario faces challenging economic times are not a reason to back away from a promise to help these citizens.

Quite the contrary, they are a reason to move forward.

Wendy Fucile, President, Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, Toronto

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