25in5: Poverty Reduction Becomes Law in Ontario - Amended Bill 152 Gets All-Party Support

Toronto, May 6, 2009 – Ontario has taken a historic step forward on poverty reduction with the all-party approval of Bill 152, the Poverty Reduction Act, said the 25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction.

The legislation requires Ontario to set a new poverty reduction target and plan of action at least every five years, and to consult regularly on its progress with low income people, groups at heightened risk of poverty, and other key stakeholders. Poverty in Ontario can no longer be ignored.

“As a result of tremendous community effort and the willingness of all parties to listen, important amendments have been made to the Poverty Reduction Act,” said Greg deGroot-Maggetti, of the Mennonite Central Committee. “This legislation gives the people of Ontario a powerful tool to hold both current and future governments’ feet to the fire when it comes to reducing poverty.”

Amendments were made to the original Bill after the Legislature’s Standing Committee on Social Policy heard suggestions over two days of public hearings from two dozen community representatives, and received over 40 written submissions.

“The Committee was wise enough to listen to the expertise of the articulate, impassioned community activists who offered excellent advice to strengthen the Bill,” said Sarah Blackstock, policy analyst with the Income Security Advocacy Centre. “We take this as a good signal for future consultative processes as we move collectively toward ensuring all Ontarians have the decent standard of living to which they are entitled.”

Amendments that were advanced by community groups and accepted by the Committee include: a commitment to reduce adult poverty alongside child and family poverty; a recognition of the need to address discrimination and the barriers faced by disadvantaged groups; a requirement that Ontarians and, in particular, low-income people, be involved in design and implementation of poverty reduction strategies; and, specific timelines for annual reporting to the Legislature.

The 25 in 5 Network expressed disappointment that the Bill does not include: a vision for a poverty-free Ontario; a commitment to an independent review; a commitment to strengthening Ontario’s human rights laws and enforcement; and a requirement that all Ontario’s laws, policies and practices be consistent with the principles of poverty reduction outlined in the legislation.

“While the legislation falls short of envisioning a poverty-free province, Ontario has entered the field of jurisdictions with a legislative commitment to setting targets and timelines for poverty reduction and that is an important step,” said Peter Clutterbuck of the Social Planning Network of Ontario.

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For more information, contact Sarah Blackstock at 416-768-5825.

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