Despite the huge and growing gap between Ontario?s rich and poor ? some 345,000 children are currently living in poverty ? the issue has once again slipped through the cracks during this election.
More than 2,500 people attending the Vote Out Poverty event at Massey Hall on Monday, October 1, are pressing politicians to pay attention. Host Mary Walsh invites candidates from the three main parties up to the stage to detail how they would end poverty.
Several anti-poverty groups have called on the province to cut child poverty by 25 per cent within five years and by 50 per cent in 10 years.
And earlier in the day, Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty promised to make poverty reduction a priority if the Libs are re-elected, but he won't commit to any targets until after he consults with experts.
Ontario NDP leader Howard Hampton is offering a five-point plan that includes raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour, putting $100 million into a public health dental plan and building 7,000 units of affordable housing a year.
Federal reps in attendance, when they're not offering their two cents, are throwing cold water on any proposal to eliminate poverty outright. Liberal MP Ken Dryden says the goal is impossible, pointing to the fact that the UK has been unable to meet its targets.
That's news to keynote speaker Stephen Lewis, the former UN special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, who tells the crowd that current levels of poverty are "intolerable, unconscionable and indefensible."
"Targets are absolutely vital, but targets set in the nether distance do not help people who are struggling with poverty today," he says.
Lewis describes Canada's record on poverty internationally as woeful. We're the only G8 country that is decreasing funds for foreign aid and has yet to pledge cash to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, he points out.
"There is something tremendously out of whack about the way we're donating in the struggle to improve the human condition."
Walsh closes the evening with a reminder that more than 200,000 Torontonians live below the poverty line.
"Poverty is political," she says. Yeah, so get out and vote.