Poverty Reduction Summit Recap

Published on October 25th, 2015


Here are some of the major takeaways from the "Poverty Reduction Summit: Every city, province and territory working together," held in Ottawa, May 6-8th, 2015.

Poverty, Policy and Social Justice

  • Poverty is a human rights and justice issue.
  • Poverty is constructed by the public policy choices that we make as a society.
  • We have the power to deconstruct poverty but we must also have the will.
  • Poverty is an assault on human dignity.
  • Rich and poor, we are all in this together.
  • In our rich country, poverty truly is our nation’s shame.
  • Every person deserves the opportunity to reach their potential.
  • We need to place dignity and respect at the centre of all poverty-focused policies and programs.

“Charity is good. Justice is better.”

Engaging People with Lived Experience
Nothing about us without us. 

  • The greatest power comes from the voices of lived experience.
  • We need to bring people with lived experience to the table.
  • Meaningful systemic change has to be informed by the lived experience of those living in poverty.
  • We need to find citizen voices, not tokens. Include those voices in discussion.
  • Narratives address their needs not our plan.
  • We need to build human-centred design approaches.
  • Lived experience should have the greatest influence on policy development.

“We are born free, with dignity. We need to recover our right to be equals.”

The Need for Integrated Strategies

  • A tri-sector approach includes business, government and agency/charity. 
  • Poverty reduction work requires real community buy-in and activism.
  • Strategies to address child poverty, education, employment, and homelessness need to be integrated in order to create a successful overall poverty reduction strategy.
  • Provinces and territories must continue to make substantial investments in affordable housing and high-quality and affordable early childhood development and care.
  • Strategies should be informed and driven by data and evidence, and results need to be measured and shared broadly.

“Government may provide the levers but the local grassroots provides the legs.”

Broad-Based Collaborations

  •  Together we are stronger. We CAN end poverty.
  • Poverty reduction is everyone’s responsibility.
  • We need a National commitment for provincial and locally-driven solutions to eliminate poverty.
  • Cities, Provinces, and Territories need to take a lead role, but business, education, and the social sector all need to be engaged.
  • We have shared values, there is both a moral and business case, and we are poised for action.

“We all have a part to play. We are moving away from protecting our own turf. We cannot be asking “what does this mean for my organization?” and ask “what does this mean for the people I serve.” – Deb Matthews

Business Community Coalitions

  • Eliminating poverty creates opportunities for economic solutions.
  • Every problem related to poverty is an opportunity to build a better economy, to create an “opportunity economy”.
  • Businesses talk a lot about their community investment strategies, but what they don’t talk about is the impact of their business practices on poverty. Simple changes to payroll, procurement, and hiring practices can make a big difference.
  • Business leaders have access to political and community leaders, and they can bring us with them.
  • Let’s start measuring “social productivity”. How can we reduce the impact of poverty on our economy?

“Don’t ask business leaders for a cheque; ask for their time, participation, and leadership.”

Pushing for a Federal Agenda

  • We have to create political will to create change.
  • The Federal government must do more to redistribute $ to those who need it.
  • At the federal level, Employment Insurance should be strengthened and the Canada Child Tax Benefit and Working Income Tax Benefit should be bolstered.
  • The disability income “system” needs to be addressed
  • Far more attention is needed to meet the needs of Aboriginal Canadians.

 “We need to give poverty a face during the election. Behind every statistic is a real person.”

Provinces & Poverty Reduction Strategies

  • Ontario has designated a Minister responsible for Poverty Reduction, established an office to coordinate a strategy across all Ministries to reduce poverty by 25%, and linked to program spending reviews by Treasury Board.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador has moved from the highest level of poverty in Canada to 2nd lowest: How we support vulnerable people speaks to how we address poverty.
  • New Brunswick created an independent Crown Corporation with a representative board to implement the provincial strategy, and a Community Inclusion Network to distribute funds.
  • Nunavut developed a shared understanding of poverty reduction that is inclusive and sensitive to Inuit culture and traditions.

Cities & Poverty Reduction Strategies

  • There are many actions cities can take to reduce poverty, including: designing for livability, engaging citizens, fostering social capital, reducing costs, and leading by example. – See “Memo to the Mayors of Canada” 
  • There is growing recognition of the crucial role that cities play in contributing to the economic and social health of the nation. Cities are starting – albeit slowly − to get the respect they deserve from both citizens and senior levels of government.
  • Cities need to attract and retain skilled people. They need to provide amenities that will make them desirable both at home and abroad. Clean environment. Healthy business climate. High-quality services. Cultural vibrancy.
  • Many cities have anti-poverty strategies with buy-in from the council, mayor and citizens. 

Reclaiming our Humanity: Solutions

  • All solutions have to be systemic, yet driven and owned locally.
  • We know what to do. The building blocks to reducing poverty include affordable housing, education and training, and jobs and income. While we have much right, we need to call for strategic and substantial investment in these priorities.
  • Poverty reduction efforts need to engage more than “the usual suspects”.
  • We need to have the creativity and find the time and energy in one’s own team. to seek out unlikely partners and persuade them to find time and energy to partner.
  • Let’s focus on the big things, things that work at scale and will make a real difference.•

“We have the right people, we have the right tools, and this is the right moment to make change happen.”

Poverty Elimination

  • Poverty elimination is a possibility if we all work together, pushing forward for equality and justice for all.
  • Prevention is the key to solving poverty.
  • Reducing poverty is one of the biggest ways to decrease health care costs.
  • We have a responsibility to strengthen, reinforce and empower to break the cycle of poverty.

“We need to shoot for the stars; forget “poverty reduction’, embrace poverty elimination. Poverty CAN be eradicated.”

Links and Resources