Guelph is a city of about 120,000 people located an hour’s drive west of the Greater Toronto Area on the Speed River. It’s generally a well thought of example of a small city with a good sense of itself. Statistically, Guelph holds a position many North American communities would deeply envy. Crime is low, incomes are reasonable, the environment is in pretty good shape. A university town, Guelph is situated near good agricultural land. Other employment is found there in retail, government offices, and services along with a certain amount of manufacturing, something that helped build Guelph from the nineteenth century on. Nonetheless, there are some issues. How could there not be. Among them are ones familiar on this blog: growth in inequality, over-emphasis on far-flung and unremarkable suburban development, concerns for the older downtown’s physical and economic well being, declining vacancy rates and public transit and traffic issues. A source of research and perspective is the Guelph & Wellington Task force for Poverty Elimination. We enjoyed their 2010 report on public transit and poverty in Guelph. One of the most consistant findings around here has been in regard to the importance of public transit as a deliberate response to community poverty. In September the task force released findings on housing issues, another big one for suburban-poverty.com.
The Impact of Public Transit Fees on Low Income Families In Guelph
gwpoverty.ca – also other resources
Guelph Community Foundation Vital Signs Report
image: Wikimedia Commons
…and so they should! The Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition began life in 1986 to contribute to a review of social assisstance being conducted in Ontario at the time. Here we are in 2012 considering another major review of social assistance. If you were born in poverty in 1986 you could be having your children in poverty right now. ISARC represents an attempt by faith communities in answering to their imperatives to respond to poverty. None of the world’s great faiths let their members or leaders off the hook when it comes to helping others. ISARC is actually kind of fantastic in that contains elements from Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Hindus, Unitarians, Salvation Army and Buddhists as well. All to the good that they are prepared to add weight to a broad approach to improving life in Ontario. Later this month they hold their 2012 religious leaders’ forum. Details on their website along with a variety of other resources. Take a look at their project in suburban Halton Region.
Lower mainland British Columbia has seen pockets of poverty arising in the suburbs (Burnaby, Richmond, Coquitlam, Surrey) while pockets of increased wealth have appeared in the downtown east side. The latter notorious for the worst social conditions in Canada for as long as anyone can remember. As is increasingly found in the United States recent immigrants are tending to go directly to suburban areas and suburban poverty. This item from the Globe & Mail gives the details. Did you know that Coquitlam got its first permanent homeless shelter this year?
B.C.’s hidden new face of poverty
photo: Surrey, BC via Wikimedia Commons
With this alarming turn of phrase the CBC reported on the description of youth unemployment in New Brunswick as: “approaching levels seen in the poorer parts of Europe.” Randy Hatfield, a poverty activist, was speaking at a forum in Moncton as head of the Saint John Human Development Council.
New Brunswick poverty numbers on the rise CBC.ca
Poverty costs New Brunswickers $2 billion dollars per year
2011 report from Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
photo: Open CLip Art Library via Wikimedia Commons
It certainly is a mighty thing, Niagara Falls. All that water, the honeymoons, the things to see and do, the casinos, the hydro electric power that made both sides of the border into industrial societies. We can also see social difficulty on the Canadian side of the river has been a concern for some time. The number of people in Niagara Region living below the Low Income Cut Off (LICO) is higher there than the average for all of Canada, according to the Niagara Community Observatory at Brock University in St. Catharines. The Community Observatory recently issued a policy brief on poverty in the Niagara region. The LICO is the generally accepted rough equivalent in Canada to the poverty line in the United States. It would seem that despite its hydro power, industrial heritage and good agricultural land the Niagara frontier is coming to have things in common with the rust belts of Britain and America. Hopefully that can be turned around. Niagara needn’t be below the Canadian average. A community forum regarding poverty will be held in St Catharines tomorrow. It deserves to be well attended.
Are the consequences of poverty holding Niagara back?
Poverty creating storm clouds on horizon St Catharines Herald
photo: P. Bica via Wikimedia Commons
In the Toronto area earlier this month there was a small demonstration to protest federal policy in regard to prison construction and an emerging, American-style, tough-on-crime policy. The event went by mainstream media and the public despite the merits of the ideas being put forward. Why are we getting new, large prisons and harsher sentences when crime rates have been going down in Canada? Why dump socially excluded people in jails and cut back on social programs? Why are we even having this conversation?
Protestors target prison building architecture conference
Aids Action Now
Two union-related items from Canada, where the unions have been declining for decades. The first is local to suburban-poverty.com. A big, fancy, French-owned hotel has been found by the Ontario Labour Relations board to have undertaken illegal actions to discourage unionization. Thusly making unionization essentially automatic. Hotel work is low-paying and the industry has tended to be anti-union making this a victory for working people in Mississauga.
Accor Novotel Watch
The second item is national. By unanimous vote the Canadian Auto Workers and the Chemical, Energy and Paper Workers unions are merging. The result will be the largest non-governmental union in the country with over 300,000 workers in several sectors of the economy.
CAW votes to merge with CEP Globe & Mail
There is no bad time to take a good look at poverty. Unless, of course, you are living in it daily. Then you’d probably prefer to look at just about fuc&ing anything else. The rest of us, as voters, taxpayers and citizens of conscience, can’t really be excused for our distractedness on this. Ontario has experienced a fairly steady erosion in its social services and safety net throughout much of the neo-conservative era. Going forward, the industrial economy is looking shaky. Ontario was a surprisingly powerful manufacturer for a long time. It has been twenty years since there was a major review of social assistance here in suburban-poverty.com’s home province. High time!
Commission for the review of social assistance in Ontario
It’s time to build dignity into Ontario social assistance Toronto Star
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Canadian Thanksgiving weekend comes upon us and we do find plenty to be thankful for. The country remains blessed and peaceful. All the more reason to question the kind of poverty found even where the banks are apparently sensible and the tar sands melt into money. There is always a flip side to a resources boom, always. Vibrant Communities Calgary, a non-profit agency addressing poverty, details the nature of the problem in a blog and through other resources and intiatives in areas from wages to free transit on election days.
Supporting municipal policies in poverty reduction
T is for Toronto
T is for ten dollars and twenty-five cents an hour
T is for “totally sucks”
…which it does when you try and get by on that, the minimum wage, there. The fact Canada is a lucky country in many ways is all very nice but that should not be used to dismiss the need to improve wages, reduce inequality, crack down on slum landlords and build better public transit in Toronto.
Metcalf Foundation study: working poor numbers way up in Toronto
photo: alexindigo via Wikimedia Commons