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Tom Cooper – Thu Jan 12 2012

Ontario’s smart move would be investing in poverty reduction

Just prior to Christmas, I received an invitation from the Ontario Ministry of Finance to “participate in a discussion about the 2012 provincial budget.” It was billed as an opportunity to share views and speak directly with the minister, Dwight Duncan

On arrival in Toronto, I discovered that the finance ministry’s definitions of “participate” and “share views” could be a bit open to interpretation. Interviewees were given exactly three minutes to state their position.

I sat waiting for my turn at the microphone with representatives from the Ontario grape growers, the insurance industry lobby and a property taxpayer coalition. As the representative from the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, I felt a little lonely.

When it was my turn, I spoke about the need for real social assistance reform in Ontario. In Hamilton, 75 per cent of families on provincial income-support programs use food banks. Monthly allowances do not provide enough money for food. The number of kids needing emergency food in Hamilton has risen to 8,500 every month — equivalent to 370 full classrooms. The impact of food insecurity on a child’s ability to learn and thrive is so devastating that many will fall behind and never catch up to their peers. more…