Almost a quarter of Torontonians live in poverty, and an even larger share of recent immigrants and youth. Poverty creates real problems at the municipal level. David Hulchanski’s Three Cities Within Toronto report showed that poverty is creating an unequal and divided city.
Ontario has had a Poverty Reduction Strategy in place since 2008 and is currently working toward an updated plan, while the federal government has been absent from this. Poverty is also a local issue, and a new report from Social Planning Toronto and the Alliance for a Poverty-Free Toronto makes the case that it’s time for the city to step up with a poverty elimination strategy.
Many of the levers to address poverty lie with the provincial and federal governments, and municipalities can feel that their hands are tied. But, as today’s report shows, there are many options for the city to act.
It calls for Toronto to strengthen its existing employment equity policy and implement targeted programs to increase the number of training and entry-level positions for youth and adults from marginalized communities. Given that poverty rates are significantly higher in marginalized populations, facilitating access into well-paid and stable jobs is critical. Getting a toehold in the labour market is a challenge for many young people and new Canadians; a stronger commitment to employment equity in the city would provide an important starting point.
There are also a number of opportunities for the city to address the housing and shelter needs of its residents. The report calls for the city to review and monitor demand for assisted housing, take action to address the urgent repair backlog for Toronto Community Housing properties, provide transitional housing assistance for people moving from social assistance into paid employment, and upgrade shelter services for people who are homeless.
Despite these concrete policies available to the City, many of the major policy changes required are in the hands of the federal and provincial governments. The city can advocate for these levels of government to act. With a new era of collaboration and leadership beginning at City Hall, now is the time for councillors to work together to create a plan to eliminate poverty in our city.