Jeff Heuchert email@example.com
Deputy Premier Deb Matthews stopped in Stratford Tuesday afternoon where she met with social advocates at the United Way to get feedback on the government’s new five-year poverty reduction strategy.
Announced by the Liberals last fall, the strategy commits $50 million for a poverty reduction fund for programs that demonstrate success in lifting people out of poverty, $42 million to municipalities to develop homelessness programs tailored to their communities’ unique needs, as well as $16 million to create 1,000 supportive housing spaces for people struggling with mental illness and addiction.
Speaking with the Gazette prior to attending the closed-door meeting, Matthews said she looked forward to learning what the needs and expectations are locally.
“If we’re serious about reducing poverty we need to all be working together,” she added.
The strategy commits to reducing child poverty by 25 per cent – the same goal that the Liberals set in 2008 but failed to achieve, drawing criticism from opposition members at Queen’s Park.
“The Liberals failed to keep their promise to children and low-income families,” NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo said in a media release shortly after the poverty strategy was announced.
MPP Jim McDonell, who serves as the Progressive Conservatives’ critic for the poverty reduction strategy, called the Liberals’ pledges “hollow words.”
“It’s just the same old story, the Liberals making promises they can’t keep,” he said in a statement.
Matthews, who is also the minister responsible for the poverty reduction strategy, said the government is creating new indicators to help get young people who are either unemployed or not engaged in some kind of training back into the workforce.
The strategy will also focus on Ontario’s “vulnerable population” - people with disabilities and newcomers, for instance, who are more likely to struggle with poverty, she noted.
Earlier in the day Matthews participated in a private meeting with municipal representatives from across the riding in St. Marys where discussion was expected to centre around regional issues such as transit and economic development.
Matthews also stopped in at the Stratford Family Health Team office and toured the University of Waterloo Stratford campus and the Stratford Accelerator Centre, an incubator program for technology start-ups.
“When I hear that these graduates are getting jobs, that they’re getting opportunities right from the get-go, that tells me we’re doing something right here,” she said.