On May 6, the Ontario legislature unanimously passed Bill 152: The Poverty Reduction Act.
This legislation is particularly significant because it acknowledges that poverty is not inevitable and that government can and should create policy to reduce poverty.
There are 3 key facets of the legislation.
1. It requires both the current and future governments to set a new poverty reduction target at least every five years, and to create a new Poverty Reduction Strategy after having consulted with low-income Ontarians, specifically including those most at risk of poverty.
2. It requires all Poverty Reduction Strategies to include a specific poverty reduction target, initiatives that will improve the lives of people living in poverty, and indicators to measure the success of the strategy.
3. It requires the government to report directly to the Legislative Assembly on its progress on reducing poverty.
In addition, all Poverty Reduction Strategies must be based on eight principles. The language below is taken directly from the legislation:
1. That there is untapped potential in Ontario’s population that needs to be drawn upon by building and establishing supports for, and eliminating barriers to, full participation by all people in Ontario’s economy and society and, in particular, persons who face discrimination on the grounds of their race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status or disability.
2. That strong, healthy communities are an integral part of the poverty reduction strategy; their potential must be brought to bear on the reduction of poverty.
3. That not all groups of people share the same level of risk of poverty. The poverty reduction strategy must recognize the heightened risk among groups such as immigrants, women, single mothers, people with disabilities, aboriginal peoples and racialized groups.
4. That families be supported so that they can play a meaningful role in the reduction of poverty and in promoting opportunity.
5. That all people in Ontario, including those living in poverty, deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.
6. That Ontarians, especially people living in poverty, are to be involved in the design and implementation of the strategy.
7. That a sustained commitment to work together to develop strong and healthy children, youth, adults, families and communities is required to effectively reduce poverty.
8. That the third sector, including non-profit, charitable and voluntary organizations, are integral to a poverty reduction strategy by delivering the pro-grams and services that matter to people, by strengthening communities and by making a positive contribution to the economy.