Now is a good time to talk about poverty
By Monty Laskin/Caledon Community Services
It’s the dead of winter, we’re all cocooning in our homes and there’s no better time to reflect on how good you’ve got it if you’re warm, back from a sunny holiday and you’ve just polished off your lentil soup, bbq chicken and steamed broccoli dinner. Within the context of this background, there’s reporting on the recent increase to Ontario’s minimum wage. We’ve got one party that’s not in support, another that is tepidly supporting it and a third that’s not even weighing in with an opinion.
Incredible! How has it become poison for our leaders to talk about or do something about poverty? Our Premier, in her job one year, is telling us that an increase of .75 cents/hour is proof that she really meant it when she told us that social justice was her priority. Seriously?
Minimum wage has held firm at $10.25/hour since 2010. The impoverished working poor have become poorer. When costs increase and you’re standing pat with your income, you’re moving backwards.
On the national front, food insecurity (defined as inadequate or insecure access to food because of financial constraints) is a serious problem. It affects the health and social well-being of four million people in this country, including more than a million children. This represents almost 13% of Canadian households.
According to the report, Household Food Insecurity in Canada (2012), “…food insecurity in 2012 remained at or above the levels experienced in prior years”. One in every six Canadian children is affected by this scourge on our national identity.
Sourge. Too harsh an indictment of Canada? Would you still think it was too punitive if it was your child who was counted in that one in six figure?
When a child is deprived of access to nutritious food in sufficient quantities to maintain good health, s/he suffers. According to the above-named report, these young developing bodies and souls, “…are vulnerable to the physical and emotional hardships that underpin the experience of food insecurity, but also to the associated compromises to their health and well-being”.
While Caledon is not struggling with food insecurity and abject poverty like some parts of northern Canada, our community has its share of work to do to ensure that all of Caledon’s children are given every opportunity to be strong, healthy and ready to take on challenges to achieve success. Isn’t that exactly what we want for our own children, our friends’ and neighbors’ children and quite frankly, for each and every child in this community?
Sure, we talk about it. Some of us even get involved in activities that address it in our community. But the reality is that despite decades of government spending on social programs intended to help lower income earners, the percentage of Canadians living in poverty has really not changed. So this begs the local question: Is it really possible to have a poverty-free community?
There are a great many people in Caledon who believe it is. These people tend to look at social determinants of health. These are things like income and social status; social support networks; education; employment; social and physical environments; personal health practices; healthy child development; gender; and culture. They reason that if we focus solely on tax cuts, we can’ possibly focus upon poverty reduction. They believe that if we create a platform for a community’s health that promotes dignity and opportunity for everyone, then poverty reduction, even poverty elimination, becomes achievable in Caledon.
This is precisely what Caledon Community Services is all about these days. We’re making headway through the support of a determined staff group of 140 strong, a committed Board of 14 volunteers, another 500+ community volunteers and a broad range of partner organizations and other stakeholders who invest their time and resources into CCS and the Caledon community.
In virtually every sector of public service these days, there is a move to building synergies across service providers. Whether it be health, employment, resettlement, transportation, food support or the care of seniors, there is a drive towards community capacity planning. That means working together, creating seamlessness, securing buy-in from the expected and the unexpected resources in Caledon. The collaboration, and the exchange of ideas and resources, is the fodder for community capacity building.
It really is a good time to talk about poverty now. Or are you settling for .75 cents/hour to keep you quiet?