Make voices heard during provincial poverty consult

In my view, poverty is a critical, troubling, and exacerbating issue in Prince Edward County.

Arguably one in six County residents lives in poverty; and this against the background of growing income disparity as referenced in The County Foundation’s “Vital Signs 2018 Report”.

For example, PEC’s median household income remains at least 10 per cent below Ontario’s.

And while we see a welcome influx of high-income households (and the exciting amenities and opportunities that accompany that economic development); data shows the number of individuals who fall within the Low Income Measurement category has increased, and, in the case of seniors, has almost doubled since 2013.

Given that we have an aging population trend and a current median age of 55 versus Ontario’s 42 years of age, we should certainly be concerned.

Indeed, according to Hastings Prince Edward Public Health (2017), “After paying for shelter and food, minimum wage earners, and households on fixed incomes have very little – if anything – remaining to cover other essential monthly expenses”.

Fortunately our incredible County volunteer and not-for-profit sector includes such organizations as Food To Share, Reaching For Rainbows, the Prince Edward Learning Centre, The County Food Hub, the PEC Public Library, Poverty Roundtable HPE, our Recreation Outreach Centre, Food Not Bombs, and many more vital initiatives.

And it’s also important to note the excellent, ongoing engagement of our Police Services Board and OPP detachment with regard to their Community Safety & Well Being Plan.

However, as our Prince Edward Learning Centre shared recently, municipalities continue to pay a sad price when our residents can’t make ends meet: financial insecurity may cost as much as 4.6 per cent of operating budgets (up to $2.5 million in our case) due to evictions, homelessness, family violence, property crime, unpaid taxes and utility bills, etc.

Moreover, the literature and research is conclusive the effects of climate change (remember our Council has declared an “emergency”) disproportionately impact the poorest among us, notably single-parent households headed by women according to a 2019 “Canada Without Poverty” report.

Now the better news…

Every five years, according to a December 16, 2019 media release by our MPP and Cabinet Minister Todd Smith, the provincial Poverty Reduction Act (2009) requires our Ontario government to consult citizens and organizations on a new Poverty Reduction Strategy to devise “actions to reduce poverty by setting a specific and realistic target, as well as prioritizing actions and initiatives across sectors and at all government levels to help lift Ontarians out of poverty”.

This includes jobs, supports, services, affordability, and investments.

Please, let’s be heard – and engage in good faith with this process and hope it produces tangible results.

Written submissions can be made to [email protected] and an online survey is to be posted on this month. I

n my personal opinion, The County has a multitude of unique, constructive, innovative, and impressively knowledgeable experiences and stories (both promising and heartbreaking) to share with Queen’s Park… and just maybe those can a) provoke a positive difference… and b) we can then hold them to account.

Bill Roberts

PEC Councillor

Sophiasburgh (Ward 6)