By Murray MacAdam
As Ontario’s government gets to work following the recent election, Anglicans are urging MPPs of all parties to take action on behalf of the more than one million citizens living in poverty. Meetings are planned with 49 MPPs of all parties across our diocese, focusing on specific proposals to advance the poverty reduction agenda that all parties agreed to in 2009 when they approved the Poverty Reduction Act. The campaign seeks to have an impact on the government’s 2012 budget, expected next spring. Archbishop Johnson will take part.
“It is very important to meet with our local MPP now to form a working relationship with our representative and present the priorities that are crucial to reducing poverty,” says Scott Riley of St. Martin, Bay Ridges (Pickering). “Our motivation is to serve our Lord Jesus Christ by keeping his commandment of loving one another as Christ loves us. Speaking out on behalf of those who are in desperate need is an excellent way to show that love.” Mr. Riley and members of his parish will meet their local MPP on Dec. 14.
The need for action is more urgent than ever. Nearly 400,000 Ontarians turn to foodbanks each month for some of their meals. Many of them are low-wage workers. Meanwhile 150,000 Ontario households are on waiting lists, often for years, for decent, affordable housing.
“It is absolutely essential that we tell our elected officials of the continuing need for affordable housing, and the costs of not making this a priority,” says Helen Perry of St. James, Orillia, who is active with the James Place outreach ministry. “A young man came to us who’s trying to complete Grade 12 and enter a skilled trades program at Georgian College. But he’s homeless and unless he finds a decent place to live, his dream of becoming a skilled worker will remain just a dream. A young mother is desperately trying to find an affordable apartment on her salary of $15 per hour. We constantly hear stories such as these.”
The MPP meetings will focus on three basic goals that would improve life for low-income people:
- Raising the minimum wage from $10.25 per hour to $11.00;
- Bringing in a housing benefit to bridge the gap between high rents and low incomes, a proposal backed by non-profit housing providers, foodbanks and landlords;
- Indexing social assistance rates to the rate of inflation.
Proposals for fair tax increases to raise the revenues required for these measures will also be discussed.
“The Occupy Movement has opened up a new space for discussion about social and economic injustice, the need for fair taxation for the common good, and the responsibilities of society to all its members and especially the more vulnerable, “ says the Rev. Maggie Helwig, chair of the diocese’s Social Justice and Advocacy Committee. “These concerns have deep resonance for Christians and all who believe in a gospel of justice and compassion. It’s our duty as people of faith to share these concerns with those who have been elected to represent us.”
Meeting delegations are still being formed, so if you’d like to take part, please contact Social Justice Intern Leah Watkiss at email@example.com. The MPP meetings will take place between late November and late January.