Taking Action to Reduce Poverty

By Sarah Blackstock

Recently, Statistics Canada reported a decline in the rate of child poverty in Ontario. Child poverty in 2011 (the most recent year for which we have data) was 13.8%, down from 15.2% three years earlier.

We should all be glad child poverty has decreased. Obviously, if you care about kids, you should be happy. Living in poverty is miserable. What’s more, research tells us that children who live in poverty are more likely to have poorer health, poorer school performance and poorer self-esteem than children living in families that have enough money to eat and pay the bills.

Poverty also makes our communities less safe – and results in greater public spending in the areas of health, social services and justice than is necessary. Check out our infographic to see just how much it’s costing us.

The fact that child poverty decreased is not good luck. Child poverty decreased because in 2008 the Government of Ontario, in consultation with advocates, policy experts and people with lived experience, created a plan to reduce child poverty when it established Ontario’s first Poverty Reduction Strategy. To be sure, the Strategy was imperfect and progress has neither been as fast or as far-reaching as all would like. Regardless, it is a demonstration that poverty is not an impossible problem. It is one that can be effectively addressed with smart policy and good investments  – even in hard economic times.

Over the next few months, the Government of Ontario will be developing its second Poverty Reduction Strategy. And the Government will also be moving forward with important social assistance reform. On both of these fronts, the Government will be consulting with Ontarians.

This is a wonderful opportunity for Ontarians to think carefully about the communities in which we want to live, the degree of dignity with which our neighbours should live and what will make Ontario a just and prosperous place for all.

You can share your ideas and learn more about the Poverty Reduction Strategy and Social Assistance reform.

And you can learn about the work being done by the 25in5 Network for Poverty Reduction to build an inclusive, thriving Ontario.

Difficult economic times require difficult decisions about how to use scarce resources, just as they also require careful thinking about the values and goals that must guide our decision-making.

Let the creation of Ontario’s next Poverty Reduction Strategy be an opportunity for us to bring our very best to the table – our best thinking, our greatest ambitions for our communities, our generosity and our determination. Without those, the next Poverty Reduction Strategy will not succeed.