Good morning, Mr. Chair and members of the committee.
First I want to thank you for having invited us today and for giving us the opportunity to discuss the developments, achievements and challenges of the Toronto Poverty Reduction Strategy.
We also want to take this opportunity to thank the Government of Canada for investing in social and affordable housing in phase 1 of the infrastructure plan.
We are happy to contribute to the work of this committee and to the development of a federal poverty reduction strategy which will be informed and supported by provincial and municipal strategies.
In 2015 Toronto City Council unanimously approved TO Prosperity, the Toronto poverty reduction strategy. This strategy is based on thorough research and a year-long community engagement process co-led with community organizations and people with experience in poverty, and it involved more than 2,000 city residents.
In adopting this strategy, the City of Toronto has acknowledged the importance of municipal leadership in poverty reduction and the need to commit resources to ensure the economic, social, and environmental prosperity of Canada's largest city. TO Prosperity is a system strategy that focuses on five key issues: housing stability, transit equity, service access, food access, and quality jobs and liveable wages.
We have three overarching objectives.
The first is to address immediate needs. We want to ensure that vital services are well funded and coordinated and meet the needs of those living in poverty.
Second is to create pathways to prosperity. We want to ensure that the city programs and services are integrated, client-centred, and focused on early intervention.
Third is to drive systemic change. We want to leverage the economic power of the city to stimulate job growth, support local businesses, drive inclusive economic growth, and tackle deep-rooted social inequality.
At the City of Toronto we firmly believe that tackling poverty must be a collective effort. In some areas, the City of Toronto has the tools, resources, and authority to lead the way, and it is doing so. In other areas, the city must collaborate with other orders of government, the private sector, labour, and community organizations to reduce poverty and promote inclusive economic growth. Siloed policy development, uncoordinated services, piecemeal programs, and intermittent investments often exacerbate poverty and vulnerability.
In year one of the poverty reduction strategy, the city invested in student nutrition programs, employment programs, social housing, shelters, child care fee subsidies, recreation centres where programs are free, and public transit, which is now free for children 12 years of age and under.
In 2016 the city council also approved the new social procurement policy and program that will increase access to city contracts for businesses that are owned by, employ, or provide employment training to equity-seeking communities and low-income residents. Last week, the executive committee approved the creation of the low-income transit pass, which will be brought to council next week.
Finally, city divisions introduced innovative approaches to program development and delivery, including pilots that will use intensive case management strategies to improve services and outcomes for social assistance recipients facing barriers to employment, such as mental health challenges.
We're proud of these achievements, but there is much more that needs to be done, and the Government of Canada can play a crucial role in helping us move forward. Significantly reducing poverty in urban centres requires major investment in social and affordable housing, child care, and both the building and operations of public transit. Our efforts to prioritize limited municipal resources and to find innovative and effective ways to support low-income residents will not yield the desired outcomes without adequate funding for housing, child care, and transit. These are the key pillars of socio-economic stability and inclusion. Without them, residents cannot fully participate in economic and civic life.
The city applauds the recent investments in these areas through phase one of this infrastructure plan and hopes that phase two investments in the national housing strategy and, of course, the Canada poverty reduction strategy will further advance that.
I would also like to briefly talk about monitoring and evaluation.
It is widely known that the currently used low-income and poverty measurements—LIM, LICO, and MBM—have major methodological limitations. In this regard, we would like to echo previous witnesses who appeared in front of this committee and recommended that the federal government task Statistics Canada with the collection and dissemination of non-monetary poverty data, including material deprivation data. Our ability to monitor and evaluate our poverty reduction efforts would increase significantly if we could combine monetary low-income measures with a material deprivation index.
Once again, I thank you for this opportunity to address you this morning.
My colleague Kelly Murphy and I will be pleased to answer your questions, to the extent of our knowledge, of course, and to put any material that can be of use to the work of the committee at your disposal.
It is a pleasure for us to work with our federal government colleagues on the development of a poverty reduction strategy for Canada.
Thank you very much.