Press Release: Toronto Poverty Reduction Strategy

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.

Press Release: 2015 Ontario Budget

Apr 24, 2015

2015 Ontario Budget Fails People Living In Poverty

Toronto–Despite the Ontario government’s commitment towards its renewed Poverty Reduction Strategy, the 2015 Ontario Budget contains little that benefits people living in poverty.

“It’s encouraging that the government is not cutting back on prior investments in affordable housing, but we need much more to help the 1.7 million Ontarians living in poverty and the thousands of Ontarians without adequate housing” said Dr. Samantha Green, a family physician who works in Toronto’s downtown.

“I am happy to see the Government continue to explore the concept of Community Hubs, shared spaces for social services, education, and health services.  And I welcome the expanded Youth Action Plan for helping at-risk youth attain employment,” said Andrea Perry, an Occupational Therapist.  “I also commend the Government’s plan to index the Ontario Child Benefit to inflation and would like to see all social assistance indexed to inflation in this way.”

But the Budget does not include any target, timelines, or funding for the second Poverty Reduction Strategy.  There are no new investments towards ending homelessness, one of the Government’s key Poverty Reduction pillars.

The 2015 Budget also includes a hidden cut—an increase of just 1% in social assistance rates beginning in the fall of 2015, well below the rate of inflation.  “We know that poverty makes people sick, and current social assistance rates will only lead to further illness,” said Dr. Gary Bloch.

Contact:  hpagainstpoverty@gmail.com

Press Release: Ontario Poverty Reduction Strategy

Sept 9, 2014

Health Providers Call for Immediate Targets and Action on Poverty in Ontario

TORONTO – Health Providers Against Poverty responded with disappointment to the release of the Ontario government’s second five-year Poverty Reduction strategy. Although the Strategy keeps poverty on the public agenda, and expands the focus to include homeless adults, members are concerned about the lack of specific targets and timelines. They also note a lack of appropriate new funding to reduce poverty.

“As front line health providers who treat people living in poverty daily, we see the existence of high levels of poverty in Ontario as a public health emergency. We are disappointed and very concerned that this government has used its second strategy to set out vague goals, without clear timelines, and without significant new funding,” said Dr. Jim Deutsch, a physician in Toronto. “I am particularly concerned about the long-term impact on the well-being of children and families.”

Health Providers Against Poverty has called for an immediate 55% increase in social assistance rates, an increase to the minimum wage to $14 an hour, and investments in universal child care and pharmacare programs.  “An Ontario Association of Food Banks report estimated that poverty costs Ontario almost $3 billion in additional health care expenses alone. A strong investment in poverty reduction makes both economic and health sense, ” said Dr. Lucy Barker, a resident physician in Toronto. “We look forward to a significant infusion of funds and a bold commitment to major poverty reduction initiatives in the next budget”.

Health Providers Against Poverty is a coalition of nurses, doctors, other health care providers, and front line workers that works to reduce poverty as a powerful health intervention.