Bill 152 – Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Act – goes for a final vote in the provincial legislature on May 6 (Wednesday). Poverty minister Deb Matthews, during the third reading debate, noted the value of the amendment proposed by the Wellesley Institute that stresses the importance of the third sector in the poverty elimination plan. Minister Matthews told the legislature: “We heard about the importance of the non-profit, charitable and voluntary sector organizations to poverty reduction. All members of this House know how significant the non-profit, charitable and voluntary organizations are in strengthening communities and making a positive contribution to the economy. We listened and we acted by passing an amendment that provided this important recognition.”
The new law isn’t perfect. Parkdale-High Park MPP Cheri DiNovo noted that “to really eradicate poverty, what we need is action on housing. We need dramatic action on housing, where we’ve seen very, very little. We certainly need dramatic action on the health file. In Europe, where dental care is assumed in many countries until age 18, bad teeth are a sign of poverty, and bad teeth don’t get you the job”.
Beaches-East York MPP Michael Prue, whose commitment to eradicating poverty was praised by Minister Matthews, challenged the Ontario government to expand its poverty focus from children to all Ontarians. He called on the government to set out “a vision of a poverty-free Ontario [and] to build a strong, long-term commitment to eradicating poverty in our province.”
Bill 152 commits the government to take important steps towards reducing poverty, especially among children. It’s a critically important piece of legislation and an excellent start. Much more work is needed to be done.