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December 11, 2014: Poverty Reduction Goals; Ontario Renews Commitment.

December 11, 2014: Poverty Reduction Goals;
Ontario Renews Commitment.

By Yasir Naqvi, MPP Ottawa Centre.

In 2008, the Government of Ontario launched its first Poverty Reduction Strategy entitled Breaking the Cycle. By 2011 we had lifted almost 50,000 children out of poverty and kept many more from falling into it. This summer, we released Realizing our Potential, a new five-year strategy based on the belief that we can break the cycle of poverty in Ontario.

Our new strategy continues to focus on reducing child poverty through initiatives that will give our kids the best possible start. We are increasing and enhancing the Ontario Child Benefit to keep pace with inflation, and offering access to early learning through Full-Day Kindergarten, which is now available to every four- and five-year-old across the province.

We are also investing $32 million over the next three years to expand the Student Nutrition Program to serve about 56,000 more schoolaged children and youth. Moreover, investments will also be made in children’s long-term health by expanding access to health and dental programs, such as prescription drugs and vision care, as well as in earlier identification and treatment of mental health issues.

Realizing our Potential recognizes that employment, too, is critical to reducing poverty. This is why one of the central tenets of the new strategy focuses on helping those who face challenges in the labour market to obtain the skills they need to find work and provide for themselves and their families.

Ontario has already raised the minimum wage to $11 per hour, the highest in Canada, and has recently passed legislation indexing it so that it never falls behind the cost of living. In addition, our government will boost youth employment by removing obstacles, enhancing work experience and promoting entrepreneurship through initiatives such as the Youth Jobs Strategy and the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program. Our government will also sharpen its focus on people who face barriers to employment, including persons with disabilities – who are also people with tremendous abilities.

Our first strategy changed the conversation about poverty. It taught us that when people have a place to call home, they are better able to manage other challenges in their lives.

This is why our government has outlined a long-term commitment to ending homelessness. As a starting point we are enhancing funding for our Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative by $42 million, for a total investment of nearly $294 million per year.

This unique program allows local governments to develop homelessness programs tailored to their community’s needs, because a program that works in Toronto may not work here in Ottawa.

We know that a significant number of homeless people are struggling with mental health issues. That is why we will be allocating $16 million over three years to create 1,000 new supportive housing spaces to help Ontarians living with mental illness.

Reducing poverty and helping everyone realize their potential is part of the government’s plan to build Ontario up by investing in people, building modern infrastructure and supporting a dynamic and innovative business climate. However, reducing poverty requires a collaborative approach. The solutions do not reside in one ministry, or one program, or one level of government. In order to help all Ontarian’s realize their full potential we need to work together as a community.

To learn more about Ontario’s new poverty reduction strategy visit my website www.yasirnaqvimpp.ca or www.ontario.ca/povertyreduction.

Should you have any questions or feedback about this initiative, please do not hesitate to contact me at my Community Office at ynaqvi.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org or 613-722-6414. I look forward to hearing from you.

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