Social planning councils have a long history since the 1930s of advocating for low income people, whether recipients of welfare or workers living in poverty. In more recent years, the Social Planning Network of Ontario (SPNO) and its local and regional members have assumed a lead role in urging the Ontario Government to adopt a poverty reduction strategy for Ontario.
- In the summer-fall of 2007, SPNO mobilized cross-community support for poverty reduction in Ontario and released a report showing that Ontario is the “child poverty centre of Canada”, which prompted Premier McGuinty prior to the October 2007 election to commit to the development of a poverty reduction strategy within one year of his Government’s re-election. (Link to table showing child poverty numbers)
- SPNO developed a Policy Framework and Blueprint for Poverty Reduction in 2008 and conducted two speaking tours of the province covering 30 communities prior to the release of the Ontario Poverty Reduction Strategy in December 2008. (www.povertywatchontario.ca)
- In 2009, concerned that the Ontario Poverty Reduction Strategy limited itself to child poverty targets, SPNO focused its efforts on the Put Food in the Budget Campaign (PFIB) and the Social Assistance Review, promoting the adoption of a basic needs increase of $100 a month for all adults on social assistance (Healthy Food Supplement) as the first step towards adequacy in benefit levels to enable all Ontarians to live with health and dignity. (www.putfoodinthebudget.ca)
- Partnering with The Stop Community Food Centre, the SPNO is promoting public understanding of the current inadequacy of social assistance through the use of a survey tool called Do the Math (completed on-line by 9,000 Ontarians to date) and engaging more than 1,000 people in 20 communities across the province in the Do the Math Challenge (i.e. trying a welfare recipient’s diet for five days and blogging on the experience). [links to some of the local activity and blogs]
The PFIB campaign continues to build and strengthen a cross-community leadership base, positioning SPNO to extend from campaign mode on the social assistance issue to a broader push for a Poverty Free Ontario.
The Ontario Government’s current commitment to poverty reduction focusing on a 25% reduction in child poverty ends in 2013. Since 2011 is a provincial election year, now is the time to begin a public discussion about where Government action needs to go to move from a partial and measured commitment to reducing child poverty to a full commitment to poverty eradication by the year 2020. [Why Poverty Eradication? and What Does Poverty Eradication Mean?]