June 23, 2015

Health Providers Concerned That Toronto’s Twenty-Year Poverty Reduction Strategy Fails To Help Those In Immediate Need

TORONTO – Health Providers Against Poverty (HPAP) applauds the City of Toronto’s release of an Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy, however we remain apprehensive that this report will lead to real, measurable changes for our patients. While the Strategy identifies several immediate needs, it outlines a vague twenty-year vision. As front-line providers, we see daily the detrimental impact that poverty and income inequality has on our patients’ health and we strongly encourage the addition of bold timelines with measurable targets to the final Strategy.

We commend Deputy Mayor Pam McConnell for prioritizing inequality as one of the biggest threats to Torontonians. We concur with her statement that “systemic change will require embedding poverty reduction into the (entire) culture of the city’s DNA.” The 48-page Strategy, built with input from those impacted by poverty, identifies important values and directions. The report calls for an “inclusive strategy” and acknowledges that “policy choices have made Toronto the most unequal city in Canada”.

The Report cites Toronto’s 2014 success in the construction of 140 affordable rental-housing units, with 655 affordable homes built to date. But, as the report admits, 90,000 households are on the social housing waitlist and over 16,000 people used shelters last year. While Toronto was indeed a pioneer in adopting Housing First, to date only a few hundred individuals have received housing through this project. HPAP encourages the City to provide immediate concrete financial support to those who need affordable housing.

“I have encountered several individuals, this month alone, who are having to choose between buying food, paying for medications, and accessing other basic needs, because they are having to spend the majority of their income on substandard housing,” said Katie Dorman, a physician in Toronto. “Their health is deteriorating while they languish on a ten-year waiting list for subsidized housing in a city as prosperous as Toronto.”

The current degree of income inequality in Toronto represents a crisis that is harming the wellbeing of many members of our communities. HPAP supports the vision set forth in the Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy, but calls for inclusion of the following in the Final Strategy:

1. Timelines for each priority set out in the report with specific implementation plans and measurable targets for immediate, short- and long-term goals.

2. A cost analysis for each priority and a plan to ensure ongoing funding.

3. A review process to ensure progress monitoring and accountability where targets are not met.

Last night, the Councillors of the City of Toronto and East York proved that in a 3-hour session they could change the face of their part of the city by limiting residential street speed limits. It was incredible to see the city band together to tackle this safety issue. We aspire to all city councillors replicating that fervor and execution on the Poverty Reduction Strategy.