This week we welcome back Nauman Khan as our guest blogger. He is a member of United Way Toronto’s Communications and Public Affairs team. Thanks to a career in broadcast journalism and politics, he has built a strong understanding of how governments influence community building through strategic investments. He also thinks Toronto is the best city in the world to live, work and raise a family.
Subway. Light Rail. Property Taxes. You have likely heard these ideas repeatedly over the last several months as Toronto gets ready for the 2014 municipal election. The idea that you have heard much less about is poverty. And that is surprising considering the latest data from Statistics Canada that shows poverty has reached unprecedented levels across Toronto. The full analysis of the data can be found here.
Poverty undermines our strength and resilience as a city and is an issue for all Torontonians. All of us — no matter where we live or work — should be asking what municipal candidates will do to reduce poverty in Toronto. Despite living in a city that is the economic engine of Canada, hundreds of thousands of children, families and individuals are living in low-income.
- Nearly a third of all children in Toronto now live in low income households
- 15 of Toronto’s 140 neighbourhoods have child povetry rates of 40% or more and 55 of the city’s neighbourhoods have child poverty rates of 30% of more.
- When compared at a neighborhood level, there is alarming disparity in child poverty rates, ranging from 5% in Leaside to more than 50% in Regent Park, Moss Park, Thorncliffe Park and Oakridge.
Analysis of the data also shows Toronto faring much worse than other cities across Canada when it comes to poverty — overall rate of 23% — and the worst across jurisdictions in the Greater Toronto Area, such as Peel, Durham and Halton. Spurred in part by these dismal numbers, Toronto City Council voted unanimously in April this year to pass a motion asking staff to develop a Poverty Reduction Strategy. That work is underway now and United Way Toronto is working with city staff to lay the groundwork for a strategy that is inclusive, responsive to residents and has clear targets.
Addressing poverty is all of our responsibility. On October 27 we will be making some important decisions. We will be deciding who will represent us at city council for the next four years. As we consider our options, we need to make sure the issues that affect us all are part of the conversation. Torontonians need to ask mayoral and council candidates what their vision is for a more equitable and prosperous Toronto. What are they planning to do so that thousands of people do not have to choose between a TTC metropass and their next meal, between paying their rent and living in a shelter, between watching their days go by in hopelessness and feeling like empowered, engaged citizens who have a role to play in making Toronto better.
The time to have the conversation about poverty — is now.