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1 in 4 Torontonians live in Poverty – The City needs a strategy

Dear Councillor Thompson and Members of the Economic Development Committee:

RE:     ED31.9 Economic Dashboard (Ward All)

On behalf of CUPE Local 79, I would like to comment on the May 9, 2014 Staff Report update on the Toronto Economic Dashboard. The fact that the City’s population is growing faster than the national average and experiencing an unemployment rate 2% higher than Ontario and Canada is certainly a challenge that needs to be addressed.

In order for our city to remain vibrant and diverse we must be able to welcome and include newcomers in all the City has to offer. Programs and strategies to connect people with living wage jobs must be put in place and expanded.

The approximately 20,000 members of CUPE Local 79 work in all Divisions and all parts of the City. The services they provide in public health, shelters, child care, long-term care, employment and social services, 311 Toronto, to name just a few, are already stretched to the limit. Budget cuts and hiring freezes have directly affected and reduced service levels. What is the City’s strategy to address these increasing pressures on public services?

New strategies need to be in place to face the realities of a slow growth economy, an aging population, precarious work, gridlock, lack of quality child care, long wait lists for affordable housing, and high youth unemployment.

There are some far-reaching and progressive efforts underway like Councillor Mihevc’s Toronto Poverty Reduction Strategy that was introduced at the Community Development & Recreation Committee in March 2014. This strategy would go a long way to help the one in four Toronto residents living in poverty. We must do everything in our power to eliminate poverty, which has the highest impact on children and youth, newcomers, seniors, working-age adults and racialized groups.

The growing income disparity in the City is of great concern. A recent United Way Toronto Report gives a sense of what this disparity means:

  • The number of low-income people in Toronto rose to 703,000 in 2010 (up from 455,000 in 2003)
  • 1 in 4 Torontonians live in poverty
  • The number of Toronto’s neighbourhoods in Toronto has risen 4X since 1981
  • 40% of GTA workers do not have a stable, secure job – which negatively impacts individuals, families and community life.

Toronto needs a comprehensive strategy to deal with our expanding population and high unemployment rate. In order for Toronto to become the greatest place in Canada to live, work and raise a family in healthy communities, City Council must develop a long-term vision for the City.

I look forward to hearing what the Economic Development Committee decides to do with the findings in the Toronto Economic Dashboard.

Yours truly,

Tim Maguire, President

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