How Poverty Reduction Strategies are Working in Ontario – Pay Attention, BC!


Toronto Star Photograph - Child PovertyThe province of Ontario legislated a five-year comprehensive poverty-reduction plan in 2008.  The encouraging results, including three straight years of reduction in child poverty despite the economic downturn, are providing evidence that child poverty can be reduced through targeted measures. According to the latest figures released last month by Statistics Canada, Ontario’s child poverty rate had dropped from 15.2% in 2008 to 13.8% by 2011.  The government’ five-year target is a 25% reduction, which would bring the rate closer to 11.25% by 2013.  While the three-year figures are lower than hoped for, they occurred during a significant worldwide economic downturn.

Greg deGroot-Maggetti (co-chair of the 25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction), Margaret Hancock (Executive Director of Family Service Toronto) and Heather McGregor (CEO of YWCA Toronto), in an article for the Toronto Star, pull out five important lessons from the recent report:

  1. Setting targets matters:  “What gets measured gets counted….Ontario’s commitment to reducing child and family poverty by 25 percent in five years was precedent-setting.  It has been critical in keeping poverty reduction on the policy radar through hard economic times.  Legislated requirements have ensured public accountability for progress.”
  2. Public engagement matters:  “Ontario’s engagement with all sectors of society in the development of its first poverty reduction plan seeded growing recognition that investing in people today is good for all of us in the long term…..Community consultations highlighted the specific needs of populations that are at heightened risk such as immigrants, women, single mothers, people with disabilities, Aboriginal peoples and racialized groups – these specific needs were recognized in the Strategy.”
  3. There is no quick, simple way of addressing complex issues such as poverty:  “Ensuring that work pays, building strong income security programs, and creating a strong social infrastructure of affordable housing and quality child care are all essential elements of an anti-poverty package.”  These require “a clear multi-year schedule of policy and investments”.
  4. Good social policy makes a difference:  “Substantial investments in the new Ontario Child Benefit, coupled with targeted tax credits, successive increases in the minimum wage, employment standards reforms and early learning investments have been the strategy’s strong points.”
  5. It is necessary to invest in order to reap rewards:  “…three consecutive years of reduction in child and family poverty is an encouraging, hard-won trend, especially in a slow economic recovery.  By contrast, poverty rates for working age adults in Ontario continued to climb because there has not been a concerted effort to address poverty among all Ontarians.”

Click here to access the Toronto Star article.