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Implementing Toronto’s Poverty Reduction Strategy

As City Council’s Budget Committee considered the Interim Toronto Poverty Reduction Strategy, Tim Maguire highlighted three budgetary priorities: thinking carefully about how a proposed 2% cut would affect Torontonians experiencing poverty, the importance of the City becoming a living wage employer, and the need to consider alternate revenue tools to provide stable funding to anti-poverty programs.


 

Dear Councillor Crawford and Members of the Budget Committee:

RE:           BU 10.1: TO Prosperity – Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy

On behalf of the Members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 79 – who deliver services across Toronto, including to some of Toronto’s most vulnerable communities and residents – I am happy to once again speak to Toronto’s Poverty Reduction Strategy.

Local 79 has actively engaged with the City’s efforts to develop a poverty reduction strategy from the start of the process. We undertook an extensive survey of our Members, which we shared with Councillors and the project leads. We are therefore happy that City Council chose to support this report’s recommendations in principle and are eager to see Committees begin the difficult work of implementing the Interim Strategy’s vision.

Several recommendations are directly relevant to the Budget Committee, so I will focus my comments today on those.

First, Recommendation 9.1 says: “Ensure that low-income people are not disproportionately affected when considering service reductions.” In June, Local 79 communicated our concerns about the Mayor’s proposed across-the-board 2% service cut. People experiencing poverty often require individualized, personalized services because poverty itself is complex and multi-layered. Years of cuts and below-inflation funding increases make such personalized service delivery increasingly difficult. Tightening budgets further will disproportionately affect low-income people. In the spirit of Council’s commitment to Recommendation 9.1, Local 79 encourages this Committee to think carefully about the potential impact a 2% cut would have on people experiencing poverty and low-incomes.

Second, community groups, researchers and the labour movement all agree that good jobs provide the best path out of poverty. Unfortunately, good jobs are increasingly difficult to find. More and more employers are offering low-wage, precarious employment. In the GTA alone, 43% of workers are precariously employed. As the cost of housing, food and transportation increases, low-wage workers are finding it increasingly difficult to get by, let alone to participate in their communities. That’s why Local 79 strongly supports Recommendation 14.1. The City should become a living wage employer and require City contractors to pay their workers a living wage.

This will also require the City to finally deliver on its longstanding commitment to develop a job quality assessment tool and, as Recommendation 15.1 requires, “apply it to City jobs, City contractor jobs, and procurement processes.”

Finally, although many of the recommendations contained in the report do not require additional financial investment, some do. The recommendations that require additional financial resources are too important to fund on an ad hoc basis. Therefore, I want to draw your attention to Recommendation 24, which calls on the City to explore options for dedicating stable revenues to address the root causes of poverty.

In “Toronto’s Taxing Questions,” the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) estimates that the City is forgoing $600 million dollars in revenue. Because City Council supports the recommendations contained in this report, this Committee already has a mandate to make use of the tools identified by the CCPA and to explore other options in order to ensure stable resources to combat poverty. Importantly, using alternative revenue tools to invest in anti-poverty measures will reduce many of the human, social, and financial costs associated with poverty.

Local 79 will work with Councillors and other Committees to ensure that recommendations without additional funding are implemented as soon as possible. We also look forward to working with this Committee to ensure the recommendations contained in the report that do require additional funds are immediately costed out and included in the 2016 Budget.

 

Yours truly,

 

Tim Maguire
President

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Shall replenish. Tree doesn’t face. There which creepeth multiply fish unto of Seed. Behold made two Rule divided. Fruit form.

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