Kitchener Centre All Candidates May28

May 29 2014

poverty free OntarioInnovative! That was the comment heard from candidates at the Kitchener Centre election event hosted by the Social Planning Council and its Poverty Free K-W partners at Mary's Place. This is often the reaction we get when political candidates, instead of being shown to a head table to prepare for the gauntlet of questions to be thrown at them, we invite them to sit with their constituents to discuss important issues in our community. What a difference from the traditional debate. How refreshing! At the Kitchener Centre round tables on May 28th, we talked about income, housing, health, employment, transportation, energy, taxes, public services and meaningful participation. Below, you can read the summary of the discussion that took place at the tables, as well as see the presentations made by the candidates in response to the issues raised. Candidates benefit when they sit next to someone who has lived the life that is affected by the social policy and budget decisions our government leaders determine. These conversations give them the chance to truly listen to people. They have a reprieve from the campaign trail, they can relax and take a bit of time to truly listen. Our hope is these conversations do leave a lasting impression on candidates so those who do get elected remember and act on what they heard. The Social Planning Council takes seriously our promise to be inclusive. We believe it is imperative to provide meaningful opportunities for everyone to be more involved. Face-to-face sharing of ideas in an informal fashion about the issues that matter does make for more informed, engaged and empowered citizens. The more direct the connection we have with candidates about the issues, the more likely we will have felt heard by the candidate. And after, between elections, we may feel less intimidated by the official status of elected official and be more inclined to come forward to raise further questions and concerns. Do not forget to check the fact sheets we are publishing and the party platform analysis made through the lens of the community criteria we created together for successful poverty elimination on the Ontario election page. all candidates May 28

Summary of discussion at the round tables

Income security Social assistance rates and the minimum wage have to reflect the real cost of living in our communities. Ensuring income security for all, without exception, is a long term investment and it does not benefit only individuals - it benefits the whole society. Income security is important particularly when the number, security and quality of jobs are in decline, or when pensions or supports available are not adequate for those who are not able to work. We need social assistance reform. Now that all the reports are in place it is time for implementation. Employment We have to create stable and decent jobs to have immigrants come to Ontario and to prevent people moving to the West. We need to stop the growth of precarious employment and fix the foreign worker program, as well as raise interest for skilled trades. Skills and knowledge of youth are not being utilized and we want them working in the fields in which they have been trained or educated. More needs to be done in collaboration between the Government and employers in terms of co-ops and paid internships. Support to all low-income people It is not easy getting out of poverty when assistance is clawed back before people have had a chance to stand firmly on their feet. There is still the need to fight against prejudice and demand dignity and respect for people on assistance. Wait times for supports and lack of adequate resources for 25 000 people with developmental disabilities is leaving entire families in despair. We all deserve a decent life, voice and choice. Human rights need to be equally respected for all of us and the commitment from all four parties is an imperative. Health Low-income people do not make enough to buy healthy food and there is still lack of access to health services for low-income people. Privatizing healthcare would not make it more accessible and only proven models of public private partnerships should be examined. Dental services need to be there for adults too. Addiction needs to be framed as a health issue not a crime. Poverty impacts health and as we eliminate conditions that keep people in poverty we would be improving health in Ontario. Let's start with immediate increase to the social assistance rates NOW so people have enough food and can pay decent housing rents. Housing Municipalities need more funding for creation of affordable housing and for building new subsidized housing, mixed communities and to re-purpose vacant buildings. Affordable housing is an important asset in our community and investment is needed for this housing stock to be maintained in decent condition. We need to make sure that people who need additional support can receive it regardless of the type of housing they live in, publicly run or privately managed. We need more affordable housing NOW and we should have 30% of units be affordable in all new buildings. Meaningful participation Political Parties are a type of engagement to promote more and there should be support for those who wish to run for elected office. Much was said about ways to be involved and bring forth concerns outside of the party politics. Partisan or not, the political process has to allow for everyone to speak and to be heard. Strong opinions were expressed about the representatives we elect. They have to stay in touch with the people they represent, to be responsive and accountable, regardless of whether they come from partisan or community organizations. Their responsibility is to follow up with citizens, take youth, newcomer, people with disabilities and low-income people's views seriously and make every effort to involve low-income people in decision making. Get people involved in voting, inform them better and fight cynicism. Governments should rely more on community organizations such as social planning councils to be intermediaries on an ongoing basis, being important partners in informing, supporting and engaging low-income voices. Other Issues Raised Energy bills are high and we need serious thought and investment in more efficient and sustainable energy sources, from wind to nuclear energy. Deficit needs to be understood and addressed. When we can be more realistic we will be able to eliminate poverty. What role do public jobs and corporate tax cuts really have in creating and reducing deficit or in creating stable economy and healthy society with a conscience? Transportation infrastructure and reasonable fares are among the priorities for low-income people, young and old, and we need strong leadership that can make firm and immediate decision to provide dignified and decent income and supports to the most vulnerable, especially for people with disabilities and their families.

Candidates' Resposes

Ronnie Smith, Green Party of Ontario

Margaret Johsnton, Ontario NDP

Daiene Vernile, Ontario Liberal Party

Wayne Wettlaufer Campaign Team, Ontario PC