Meeting with Minister MacLeod and Minister Smith

Ministers Hear Recommendations to Eliminate Poverty

By Ed Bentley

On October 11 I had the privilege of facilitating a meeting with the Hon. Lisa MacLeod, Ontario Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, and several area anti-poverty advocates.  The meeting was initiated by Bay of Quinte MPP, the Hon. Todd Smith, Government House Leader and Minister of Government and Consumer Services and organized by the Poverty Roundtable of Hastings Prince Edward.  Those attending included people with lived experience of poverty, community leaders and anti-poverty advocates from Hastings, Prince Edward and Lennox & Addington Counties.  The purpose of the meeting was to share local concerns and recommendations with Minister MacLeod as her Ministry prepares to release the province’s new social assistance strategy.

Public statements by Minister MacLeod had expressed her commitment to an approach to social assistance based on compassion.  She told us that her personal philosophy is to ensure that all who are able are assisted in securing employment but acknowledged that there are many whose circumstances make them dependent on publicly-funded programs.  A key element in her strategy is to make structural changes that will simplify the system in ways that reduce costs and, she hopes, improve services for those who need them.

The Roundtable’s plan for the meeting was to enhance Minister MacLeod’s sense of what a compassionate system would look like from the perspective of people trying to manage on very low incomes, especially those who depend on Ontario Works or ODSP, women who are survivors of domestic violence, people living with intellectual disabilities and those who face barriers as they try to move into employment.  Those perspectives were given by participants who shared their personal stories and were supported by data from several local organizations.  PRT Director Christine Durant gave the Minister a copy of the PRT’s ‘Moving Forward: Recommendations for Community Action’ based on hundreds of conversations on poverty throughout Hastings and Prince Edward.

Ministers MacLeod and Smith seemed to genuinely engage in the conversation and expressed appreciation to all who attended.  We were encouraged by Minister MacLeod’s final comment, that her ministry is the ‘heart’ of the government and she is resolved that the province will not reduce its deficit on the backs of its most vulnerable citizens.

As a member of the Roundtable’s Steering Committee I am grateful to our MPP and especially Minister MacLeod for taking the time to hear our stories and recommendations.  We now wait to find out if what she heard is reflected in changes that truly benefit those whom her ministry is mandated to help.

Ed Bentley

Member, Steering Committee

Poverty Roundtable Hastings Prince Edward

Belleville Intelligencer Thursday’s Letter to the Editor

The Poverty Roundtable HPE also left Minister MacLeod and Minister Smith with recommendations for social assistance reform. Those recommendations can be found here.

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