Podcasting to Reset the Region – Poverty Reduction Strategy

As promised, here’s Episode 5 of Podcasting to Reset the Region. It’s a follow-up to my series of blog entries about what Regional government can do to help alleviate poverty.

Here are the blog entries:

Part 1 – Transit
Part 2 – Affordable Housing
Part 3 – Public Health
Part 4 – Infrastructure Gap
Part 5 – Data

The transcript for my hearing impaired friends and followers is as follows:

Welcome to Podcasting to Reset the Region. I’m Laura Ip, and I’m running to represent the people of St. Catharines at Niagara Regional Council.

This past week, I released a series of blog posts about what regional government can do to help alleviate poverty. They had been released a couple of weeks ago as well, and I wanted to follow up that series of blog posts with an idea about a Niagara-specific poverty reduction strategy.

So, as a little bit of background, we have two initiatives in the Niagara region that are working on poverty reduction. The first one is the Niagara Prosperity Initiative. So, it’s a grant program that began around 2008, and the funding that they have came from the children’s portion of social assistance payments, so it’s $1.5 million when it was re-uploaded to the province. When that is re-uploaded the province, the Region now has $1.5 million in their budget that they have to do something with and the province says, specifically, that they have to use that money for poverty reduction initiatives. So, Niagara Prosperity Initiative is born. Each year, they award $1.5 million to various groups and non-profits that are doing neighbourhood-specific projects throughout the Niagara region to help reduce poverty. Some of those things are community gardens, some of them are activity programs for children living in poverty, there’s quite a wide range.

The other initiative in Niagara, and I sit on one of the working groups for this is the Niagara Poverty Reduction Network. They originally started as an advisory committee to the Niagara Prosperity Initiative, which from hereon I’ll call NPI, but then they branched out into doing advocacy work for a number of poverty reduction programs instead. So, I sit on the Wages and Work group, and we look at things like a living wage, what the government can do to help wages and benefits and that sort of thing as well. There’s also a transit committee and there’s an affordable housing one, there’s a number of different groups.

But, going back to their original role, they were originally set up as an advisory committee to NPI. The hope was that when groups were submitting grant applications to NPI, Niagara Poverty Reduction Network, NPRN, you’re going to get tired of acronyms during this episode, would help them to decide what kinds of things money needed to be spent on and where it needed to be spent, beyond the neighbourhood-specific approach that NPI already takes. When they decided to sort of split away and go into an advocacy role instead, which is extremely important in Niagara still, NPI lost their advisory committee, and there is no concrete strategy for poverty reduction in Niagara.

So, for instance, in the fifth blog post in the series that I wrote, I talked about data and that we don’t have consistent, comprehensive data about poverty in the Niagara region. We don’t know if most people who live in poverty are in the situation that they’re in because they lost a job; we don’t know if it’s because of mental health issues; we don’t know if it’s because of trauma that they suffered at some point in their life; we don’t know if it’s generational poverty; we don’t know what the root cause of their poverty is.

Now, of course, it’s entirely feasible that the root cause is all of those things for different people, but we don’t know for sure where it’s coming from. Is it a lack of transportation and so they can’t get to work? We need the data so that we know where we should be focusing on efforts, and if we had a Niagara-specific poverty reduction strategy, then we know are we putting more money into employment programming; are we putting more money into mental health initiatives; are we putting money into community gardens; where is the bulk of the money best used in order to create long-term change for individuals who are living in poverty?

Last week, if I’m not mistaken it was last week, Canada released a national poverty reduction strategy. This is an extremely helpful tool for us to have in Niagara; however, depending on where their focus is, what are the root causes of poverty, the Niagara picture may look, probably does look a little bit different, as it would in each community than the national picture looks. So, we can certainly use the national poverty reduction strategy as a tool in creating a Niagara-specific poverty reduction strategy, but we do need to get agencies and experts in poverty reduction together to talk about what the issues are, specific to Niagara. We know that we have a high unemployment rate; we know that we have a high population of seniors; we know that we are in the midst of an opioid crisis; we know a number of things, but what are the hard numbers around each of those issues as far as individuals impacted?

After releasing the blog series the first time, which was a few weeks ago, a few people said to me, “well, you need to be more focused on things like economic development or transportation or infrastructure,” those kinds of things, and I understand that. In fact, in the blog series, I talked about economic development and infrastructure, but I want to take a second here and talk about how reducing poverty, in fact, helps economic development.

Businesses are more willing to locate; more likely to locate in areas where there is a low incidence of poverty. When we have better infrastructure – our roads, our watermains, our transit system, all of those things – businesses are more likely to locate in those areas. Reducing poverty, as far as economic development goes, doesn’t just have the obvious impact of: when people have more money, they spend more money. It means that we’re more likely to attract businesses; we’re more likely to attract developers; we’re more likely to see a boon in several areas around economic development if we help to alleviate poverty at the same time.

So, that’s what I’m asking for at Niagara Regional Council, is that we also have a Niagara-specific poverty reduction strategy.

If you have any questions about me or my campaign, I encourage you to visit my website: lauraip.ca. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram by searching: Laura Ip for Regional Council. My e-mail address is laura@lauraip.ca, and if that’s not enough communication for you, we also have, starting September 18, I have Coffee with Laura dates starting up, so they’re all listed on my Facebook page, and I’ll be promoting them on social media as well, but the first one is September 18 at 8 a.m., and with that, I will just ask that on Monday, October 22, 2018, please vote to Reset the Region. Vote for me – Laura Ip – for Regional Council.

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