Category Archives: Ontario

King for a Day?

RHBS 182The Ontario government is conducting a Basic Income Pilot project in three locations; Thunder Bay, Lindsay and Hamilton. The pilot provides a basic income of $17,000 to approx. 34,000 people that currently receive money from the Ontario Works (OW) and Ontario Disability Support Programs (ODSP). The $17,000 is a huge increase to those now receiving $13,000 or less from the government, but it is a paltry amount for most Ontarians.  You have to consider for whom a basic income is directed at and you’ll understand the need for more for this segment of Ontario’s population.

Using the example of a single male on ODSP and it’s shocking what some people in Ontario are forced to live on. After rent is automatically deducted from the ODSP, it leaves less than $500 for hydro, phone/internet, food, transit fees and other items for the rest of the month. Could you pay hydro, and other bills with only $500 a month and eat well? It was not always like this, our social assistance system was friendlier and more generous. Multiple governments have reduced programs and allowances available and not increased payments to meet increased costs for expenses. At one point ODSP included a number of allowances including moving allowances but with those gone the cost of a move eats further into the leftovers and leaves no chance to for people to improve their living conditions.

There are approximately 900,000 Ontarians receiving assistance through ODSP and other Social Assistance Programs representing just 6.5% of Ontario’s population. In the recent Ontario budget the Wynne Government allocated money to allow increase limits for those on ODSP etc. to earn more with less being clawed back. The governments’ focus on support payments is on families and children that because of a job loss saw these families fall well below the poverty line and reliant on the government. For many this doesn’t provide any comfort, they don’t have the assets to claim against assistance and have little opportunity to make more money, so they fall further behind month by month. For many they will rely on food banks and the generosity of friends providing $20, $40 or more when needed. Many don’t ask because they don’t want to be a burden, so they suffer invisibly. It’s sad to see people we know go moneyless up to half way through a month, because what’s left after rent doesn’t see them through to the first week of the month.

What makes me angry is while the Ontario government seems to be focused on families/children on ODSP and OW their attention does not reach the singles who struggle just as much each month. Long-time progressives in the Wynne government like former Ottawa Vanier MPP Madeline Meillieur and current Ottawa Centre MPP Yasir Naqvi seem to have blinders when assisting those without dependents. Baby steps by the government may help families, the singles, as they get older, fall further and further behind and will become a larger burden on the government because they have no pension; savings support avenues available to them.

General consensus with budgeting states that 30% to 35% of a person’s annual income should go to housing costs, and that includes hydro. Even if we up the 35% to 50% a single person on ODSP with annual rent of $9000, the annual income that should be received is $18,000. In reality, rent accounts for 68% of ODSP for the single person and if you add average hydro of $70/month that increases to a whopping 75% of annual income going to housing and hydro. Someone please tell me how anyone lives on 25% of an annual income? At this point, I hope that the Ontario PC’s or Ontario NDP understand the plight of the few in Ontario (I’ve given up hope Wynne and Ontario Liberals will ever understand this).

A solution is to change how ODSP is fixed to recipients. Rather than have a fixed amount of money received each month, the amount paid should be a fixed percentage of how much housing costs should be. If the government were to fix housing costs to 40% of the annual income,  the ODSP recipient would see an increase of their payments to $17,100. The result? While rent increases happen annually, so too will ODSP to meet the most important monthly cost that is taken out of the month government cheque. Without this, the motivation to move to a better location is destroyed as increased rent results in decreased spending for all other living expenses.

I realize that this gets very close to the government sponsored basic monthly income pilot – what separates it from that program though is the ability to change housing due to any number of reasons; accessibility, declining living conditions, and safety. Rent increases will not affect what might be left after rent is paid. The basic income does not do this. I propose to look after the number one need of those of assistance, housing, and the remainder will be less stressful on the first of each month, or as a friend calls it “King for a Day”.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I post about the little things in life I see and do.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net

 

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Ontario Greens: Out looking for number 1

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I recently wrote about the return of MPPs to Ontario’s Queen’s Park. In that post, left out were Ontario Greens. They don’t have an elected MPP, and have fielded a full slate of candidates since 2007. In the 2007 election, the Greens had good success attracting 8% of the total vote. They have not seen that support since with the party falling to 2.9% in 2011 and 4.8% of the total vote in the last Ontario election.

On the heels of the success of the BC Greens holding the balance of power and working with the BC NDP Party to take Christy Clark out of the Premiers’ office, Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner is talking about looking for their number 1, their first elected MPP.   Schreiner was selected as the Green Party of Ontario (GPO) leader in 2009, 2018 will be his 3rd election as a leader and he is firmly behind the idea of “third time lucky” in considering the possibility of having a Green MPP in the Ontario Legislature.

In an interview with CBC Kitchener-Waterloo earlier this August, Schreiner said that in order for the Greens to ask questions and hold the government to account, it only needs one MPP. Schreiner’s correct it is difficult to ask the Premier a question from the lobby out side the legislative chambers in Toronto. The Premier has no obligation to answer.

I sat down with Ontario Green candidate James O’Grady, he’s running in the riding of Nepean and asked him about the party and what it means to be an Ontario Green. To know this James went back in time to understand the Green Movement. The worldwide green movement includes nearly 100 parties and associate member parties. The Green Party of Canada is one of the member parties and while the GPO is not listed as a member party of the worldwide green movement, Article 3 of its Constitution states The Green Party of Ontario affiliates with and supports the core values of the worldwide Green Movement…

Back to who is the GPO and what is the worldwide Green movement. As explained to me, it is a values based movement, policies that come from the Green Party respect its guiding values, if you want to put it that way. The GPO shares the values of the Green worldwide movement of: Ecological Wisdom; Social Justice; Participatory Democracy; Non-Violence; Sustainability and Respect for Diversity. With these values in mind, people ask, are Greens, Conservative or Liberal? Greens are both, progressive in social justice, and diversity while they also believe in balanced budgets and allowing communities to have greater control.

Can there be a breakthrough for the Greens in Ontario? O’Grady discusses the breakthrough of the Ontario Greens in the same manner of the Farmers Party from last century which led to progressive reforms, the CCF and the New Democratic Party. For Schreiner and other Ontario Greens they point to Guelph as the riding where they will elect their first MPP. The riding is held by Liberal Minister Liz Sandals, she won with 41% of the vote in 2014. But look at 2nd, 3rd and 4th in the riding, it was almost an equal spilt of the other 59% of the vote. The hope of winning in Guelph lies in the sub results of that election. The Greens trailed the runner up PCPO candidate by only 818 votes. Of the four main parties, the Greens were the only party to increase voter support from 2011 results. Schreiner increased the Green vote by more than 12%, that gain came exclusively from the Liberal, PC and NDP candidate loses of -1%, -5% and -6%.

With support for the Ontario Liberal government at an all time low, Schreiner sees votes coming his way from all the other parties including from Liberal supporters. Sandals, who has not said whether she is going to run in 2018,has been the MPP since 2003, she earns support more for being a ‘legacy’ candidate rather being Liberal. What happens to liberal vote with a new candidate? Will the Liberals lose the environmental vote because of failed policies like Cap and Trade and the disastrous Green Energy Program?

O’Grady calls the difference between the themes of the 2014 vs the upcoming 2018 election as being “business vs people”. He compares the Green party politically as being the 21st century ‘flat approach’ which is collaborartive and empowering and the others as taking a 20th century ‘hierarchal approach’. The GPO have not announced when their policy convention will be held. But it is easy to see where the Greens will go. Carbon pricing is on the table, but maybe temporary until 50% +1 of Ontarians are net positive with their carbon footprint? The Liberal Cap and Trade is not the way you’ll see Schreiner head on carbon pricing. The Greens have indicated their preference is a price on carbon with dividends going to Ontarians, and not businesses (as Cap and Trade does). They also have other economic policies almost make the greens look blue.

The difference that Schreiner hopes will sway votes his way and to O’Grady in Nepean; along with the other 123 Green candidates in Ontario are the values of the party. The six values are clear, understandable and are progressive and conservative enough at the same time to attract votes from all sides, as results in Guelph in the last election indicate. It will all be dependant on how the party communicates their values.

For the Schreiner and the Green Party of Ontario, its value system and words like “local”, “Sustainability = happiness” and getting people thinking about “doing good” are going to have to be its selling points.

Do these reflect something different for Guelph and Ontario voters to consider? We’ll have to wait less than 300 days to find out.

 

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I post about the little things in life I see and do.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

 

Back in Session, what to expect at Queen’s Park and on Parliament Hill this fall

As we wave bye-bye to the August long weekend, thoughts turn to cooler weather coming, back to school and for some the return of politics. In Toronto, the Ontario legislature, Queen’s Park returns on September 11th and federally Parliament Hill will be buzzing again on September 19th. This week I’ll look at what we might expect to see and hear in both Toronto and Ottawa. I’ll begin with Ontario politics and Queen’s Park, as MPP’s will be back in their chamber first.

Make no mistake about it; the 90th day of the 2nd session of the 41st Parliament in Toronto is important, very important. The June 2018 election will be front and centre in everything the will take place in Queen’s Park. All questions, every debate and each piece of legislation is all about the next election and who will be able to reach voters and journalists with their messages. What is at stake for each party and Leader?

ONDPThe Ontario New Democratic Party will be watching, possibly distracted by the Federal NDP Leadership. Ontario Deputy Leader Jagmeet Singh could be headed for Ottawa, if he wins the leadership. This will leave a hole for Andrea Horwath.  Singh was the future of the ONDP. If Horwath does not deliver at worst, Opposition status in Queen’s Park she will be out as leader. The NDP has been quiet this summer, maybe even on vacation. They have also lost the thunder of a $15 per hour minimum wage and calls for universal pharmacare to Kathleen Wynne and the Ontario Liberals. As the Liberals turn further left in their efforts to make Ontario more and more a social services driven province where do the NDP go? After an end of summer retreat, where will Leader Andrea Horvath take the NDP as she mines for greater support leading to June 2018?

PC logo 2This should have been a summer of love for Patrick Brown , in part it was. Instead, the Ontario PC Party is fighting off concerns about interference in nominations when he campaigned for leader on open nominations and no party meddling. Oddly enough though, while party members and the party executive are battling it, Brown has been on the road across and all over Ontario. I attended a rally in Thunder Bay in July, he filled the room with party supporters and those that didn’t belong to the party. One person, who is not a party member, told me after hearing Brown in Thunder Bay, ‘he has my vote.’ So while some in the party are not happy with Brown, more Ontarians are unhappy with Kathleen Wynne and are starting to listen to what Patrick Brown has to say.

Heading back to Queen’s Park, Brown and the Ontario PC Party will need to start from where they left off in June going after the Liberals jugular vein on hydro rates and selling Hydro off. The bribery scandal will be in the courts this fall and the government is pursuing economic policies that will kill small business in Ontario and drive others out of the province. The message from Brown and his caucus must be aimed at Wynne and how she is adding to the provincial debt, increasing the cost of business and costing Ontario jobs as businesses leave Ontario. Where his advisors send him will be the key to the lead up to Ontario’s 42nd General Election.

LiberalsNever ever ever count the Ontario Liberals ‘out’ in an election. Other political parties strive to be as polished and ahead of issues before anyone else, but the Liberals do it best. A key example of this goes to the 2014 election when then leader Tim Hudak announced a reduction in the Ontario public service of 100,000 civil servants. Before the press conference was over the Liberals had sent out a press release “Hudak to fire 100,000 government workers”. Whatever gains Hudak had, evaporated after that.

This does not mean it’s in the bank for the Liberals; they have a long road ahead to win back support. You can count on Wynne to fire at Brown everyday in Question Period. Her Ministers will aim at Brown in every press conference and Liberal MPPs at local events will hammer away at Brown. BUT, there is something else, there is Wynne, who is going to overhaul work places, put in place basic incomes and increase the minimum wage. The trouble that Wynne will have is that she cannot be trusted. Hydro rates were supposed to come down. While she reduced rates by 25% this summer, the government  not only going to pass on the cost to the reductions to consumers years down the road but hydro producers  have already  applied for increases when the period of reduced rates ends. While Wynne has the impression of making things better, in the background is the question, “who is going to pay for this?” The Wynne Liberals also will need to deal with an energized opposition as the Sudbury bribery court case will be heard this fall and it could affect Wynne in an election that way the Duffy Case did for Harper while he campaigned in 2015.

The Liberals could not escape Queen’s Park fast enough in June, they won’t be moving so quickly to go back.  There is a lot of promise for each party as MPP’s head back to work in 5 weeks. The three factors to watch are: Can Andrea Horwath blaze a trail for the NDP that the Liberals won’t take from them? Will Patrick Brown be able to stop in the infighting and keep the spotlight on Wynne and the Liberals bad decisions? Will Kathleen Wynne be able to avoid not only the opposition, but also the press, as the PCs and ONDP aim to take her out of the Premier’s office?

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I post about the little things in life I see and do.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

Vacation State of Mind?

Vacation Alert

What is a vacation state of mind? What is an ‘away from work’ Zen moment feel like?

Do you detach completely? Is it an awareness there are something at work that you know will be waiting for you when you get back? To get your vacation state of mind do you leave town? Do you go off grid? Or does obtaining a vacation state of mind merely mean getting out of the office?

I have a week off, so I got out of dodge as they say, this week we’re in Thunder Bay. That does not mean I left everything behind. Give me two weeks away from the office and I will go stir crazy. To avoid that when we go away for two weeks, it better be in another city, town, somewhere that means the regular life trappings are not in my line of sight. Without somewhere to go, why take the time off? It is not an uncommon as you might think.

The benefits of taking vacation are well known; a reduction in stress helps relationships and a paid mental break from work. Are there benefits for the few that don’t want to take vacation? For those enjoy their work, vacation my just be an unwanted distraction from it. It is very difficult to find benefits to not taking vacation, but there are reasons why some workers will avoid it.

Count the reasons for vacation denial as being the fear of email inbox overload and increased assignments, the fear that another worker will take their job away, the fear that someone else doing their work will screw it up and it will have to be redone when they return.

A 2014 study in the US; Project: Time Off found 4 in 10 Americans did not take their vacation. Are Canadians any different? If you believe a study from Expedia .ca, Canadians only did a little better. Just over one in four Canadians did not take the vacation OR had a year between vacations (http://www.torontosun.com/2016/10/19/canadians-leave-31-million-vacation-days-unused-each-year-study ).

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Our work places are changing and work environments are also adjusting to be more competitive, hence the reluctance to get away from it all.   While most of Ontario is off on vacation for one or two weeks this July and August, Ontario MPPs are currently touring Ontario to discuss Bill 148, The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act. Sadly, with 173 recommendations from a study that led to the legislation, the majority of press around this bill goes to one recommendation to increase in minimum wage to $15.00/hour by January 1, 2019.

Other aspects about workplaces including vacation, sick notes, emergency personal eleave, overtime and other aspects that will impact Ontario employers are going almost unnoticed. Much of what the Ontario government wants to implement are clauses that are normally negotiated between companies and unions. Is Kathleen Wynne now going to force non-union workplaces to have ‘union’ like workplace rules and atmospheres? Bill 148 will change workplaces in Ontario, but for the better?

Take some time to read about Bill 148, http://www.ceridian.ca/blog/2017/06/ontarios-employment-standards-act-reform-what-bill-148-may-mean-for-employers/ and then talke to your MPP and let them know what you like and don’t like about telling good employers how to run their shops.

Of course there are some bad employers Bill 148 will be awake up call for them – but to force union like rules on workplaces that are successful? The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act is something I would expect from the Ontario NDP…BUT the next Ontario General Election is less that 11 months away (June 2018), so yes I also expect this frm Kathleen Wynne and the Ontario Liberals.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I post about the little things in life I see and do.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

Should Queen’s Park still be in session?

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On June 1st, Ontario Legislature Speaker (Brant MPP) David Levac gave a tearful farewell,  a week before he announced that he would not be seeking re-election in 2018. This led to speculation that Kathleen Wynne would call a snap election before the 4 year mandated election scheduled for June 7 2018, before Queen’s Park is due to come back this fall on September 11th.

All that is left on the Order Paper are mainly Private Member’s Bills and a couple Government Bills. The Liberal government has wisely had all their major legislation receive Royal Assent. Its lone major bill, Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces Better Jobs Act, is controversial in that it will bring many ‘labour negotiated work concessions’ to non-union smaller businesses around Ontario.

It is important to restate that many important Private Members Bills will die if an election will be called this summer. So that leads to my primary thought for this blog post, why did the Ontario Legislature rise for the summer break?

Legally sitting days are regulated by Standing Orders of Parliament. In Toronto, Standing Order 6 dictates when and how long Queen’s Park sits (http://ontla.on.ca/web/go2.jsp?Page=/house-proceedings/supporting-content/files/standing_orders&menuitem=dandp_proceedings&locale=en) In Ottawa, Parliament is still sitting and Ottawa City Council continues its regular bi-weekly council meetings and all committee meetings until a two-week break in August.

Having worked at Queens Park, I know how hard all MPPs work at Queens Park. They sit Monday to Thursday taking part in Question Period, regular House Duty, Committee Hearings and when needed late sittings in the House.

On Parliament Hill, the house will likely rise before the end of this week in June (week of June 12th), one week earlier than published on the Parliamentary Calendar. But I have to ask the question, is the governing of Ontario such that our Provincial legislature rises earlier than our Federal Parliament and our local City Council? My thoughts have always been the closer the level of government is the electorate, the more work there is to do and more legislation to get enacted.

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At Queen’s Park there are still some important pieces of legislation in the queue, many at first reading and until second reading takes place – these bills will sit there gathering dust.

Bill 104; Tax Fairness for Realtors Act. This act is sponsored by all three parties and yet is stuck at Committee since April 6th.

Bill 94; Highway Traffic Amendment Act (School Bus Camera Systems), 2017. This act is to strengthen the use of camera for school buses and student safety.  This bill was sent to committee February 23rd and will not be in effect to keep students safe when they return to school in September.

Bill 88; Asbestos Use Prohibition Act, 2017. This also passed second reading in February and was sent to the Standing Committee of the Legislative Assembly.

Bill 71; Lung Safety Act 2016. Another Bill with all party support. The Lung Safety Act was introduced November 22nd was quickly through 1st and 2nd reading by November 24th, sent to the Standing Committee on Social Policy November the same day. There has been no committee report nor has the bill come back for 3rd reading in 27 weeks.

Bill 17; Saving the Girl Next Door Act, 2016. MPP Laurie Scott’s important bill to stop the trafficking of young girls has been in the Committee on Justice Policy since October 6th, 2016!

SONY DSCOf 169 bills in the current session at Queen’s Park, 102 are still on the books at either first or second reading.  29 bills are at Committee stage, 13 of the 29 have been in committee since the end of 2016.

There is a case to be made that our provincial government should sit longer and not allow so much legislation to to sit for a 3rd reading vote until the fall.  If Kathleen Wynne does call an election, all these bills may die.  Some will be re-introduced in the new session, which would be the 42nd Session; others will not see the light of Queen’s Park ever again.  Longer sitting sessions would allow the important work of our MPP’s to be done at committee stage where bills are further thought out and amended.

The summer break is important for MPPs to refresh and to spend in their ridings, it seems this summer break in 2017 might be more than that – it will be a chance for a longer ‘unofficial’ campaign through our #Canada150 summer before the writ is dropped.  But all this takes place with a cost, as  some good needed legislation will die and whether it returns all depends on who wins the snap election this summer.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I am celebrating #Canada150 with a daily post of an event celebrating our sesquicentennial in Canada.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

 

Elections should be easy for voters: Part One

RHBS 160In one year we will be in the middle of a writ period in Ontario. Leaders of all of Ontario’s main parties will tell you “this is the most important election Ontario has ever had”. Let’s be clear, every election is always more important than the last one – the future is at stake, the four year ‘near’ future.

Instead of talking about how this coming election was more important that the 2014 election, wouldn’t it be better if the next election was presented in such a way that voters would know what to expect and understand what will take place based on a “real” election promise, not something vague. Somethings about the needs of Ontarians that is real to them and will make a difference.

Election promises are made, some are kept and others, well…aren’t. But to be honest sometimes the promises don’t make sense and just provide an agenda (if you don’t like the platform) or plan (if you support the leader and the party) for a four year mandate. Here is a simple idea – a simple four year plan to the voters of what will take place until the next election on four major themes. If you think about what happens now, each year of spending is a pot pouri of promises without a specific theme. Budgets are like Mambo #5; a little bit for you, a little bit for that group and little bit here and there. Lets talk about changing that with thematic budgets that address specific areas of the lives of Ontarians.

Simply put there are four areas that matter to voters: Health Care; Education; the Environment and Energy. Yes, yes…there are other important areas, but they can exist in one or  more of the four sectors mentioned. Each year of the mandate would feature a budget that focuses on one sector and its sub-sectors. It could look something like this:

Year One: Health Care

Year Two: The Environment

Year Three: Energy

Year Four: Education

Here is my theory, you do health first because changing health care is like steering a oil tanker on the seas, turning around takes a long time – it can’t make that turn on dime.  It will take four years for changes made to be seen and felt  for Ontarians.  If it works then Ontarians will see improvement in how health care is delivered by the time the next election comes around. In the second year the Environment is the theme and ties into year three with Energy. In year four Education is addressed for action after studies and consultations are done in the first 2-3 years of the mandate. If successful the four year platform rolls out smoothly, is successful and sees positive results that will ensure a second mandate.

Now, it will be problematic if there is no plan to follow up four years of success. Think back to Mike Harris and his five priorities, he completed his five priorities successfully however without a plan that could follow them up and because of that, under Ernie Eves, the Ontario PC’s fizzled. The lack of additional priorities was death bell of the Ontario PC’s in 2003 and brought us McGuinty and Wynne – we know how that has worked for Ontario.

The needs of Ontario do not stand still, neither should election plans, but governments get tired and try to stay relevant based on yesterday’s success. In this series of posts, I will look at the possibilities of having a structured election plan. It may even be considered as free advice heading to the June 2018 Ontario election.

 

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I am celebrating #Canada150 with a daily post of an event celebrating our sesquicentennial in Canada.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

The Collective Benefits of Ending Homelessness 2

December 2011 I posted “the Collective Benefits of Ending Homelessness”, since then, over 5 years, there have been 500+ clicks to see the post. Five plus years later, it is time for an update. In those five years the conversation has shifted, it has moved from talking about ending homelessness to having available affordable housing, in essence the conversation could now be the “Collective Benefits of Affordable Housing”.

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Back in 2011 I wrote about the then Federal Conservative Government plans to reduce homelessness by finding and funding places for people to get off the streets and under a roof. Was it the right approach? Where does the search to end homelessness begin? Is this is a chicken or the egg situation? What is the right beginning, to create new housing to move people to a house from a room or fund shelter spaces to move people off the street? Whatever the solution, it helps the circle of movement move faster and more efficiently (one hopes).

Since the 2012 report from the Ottawa Alliance to End Homelessness (ATEH) there has been an increase in the number of people accessing homeless spaces. The 2016 report (http://endhomelessnessottawa.ca/resources/2016-progress-report-on-ending-homelessness/) shows that 7170 individuals used a shelter of some sort, not since 2012 have over 7000 people sought a shelter for the night. There is some indication that the federal plan of 2011 has had a positive impact as numbers dropped to 6508 in 2014, but that number has been slowly creeping back up to the numbers released recently by the ATEH.

Why isn’t the needle moving in a positive direction on this? What is hold us back?

With a 10 year commitment from the City of Ottawa to reduce homelessness in its 4th year, there remains a concern that the needs are not being met – and that the reasons for it are changing. Affordability is becoming more and more the reason for not having a permanent home. Youth are couch surfing and families are moving into smaller homes as the cost of rent and everyday needs (like hydro) increase without solid solutions to reduce or stabilize the cost of staying in a home. In 2012 it was estimated that 1000 new housing units were needed annually in Ottawa to meet, reduce and eliminate homelessness. In five years the City of Ottawa has created just under 1300. Based what the ATEH estimated, the Ottawa is 3700 units behind its needs.

It is clear to me each new government has its own ideas for solutions to ending homeless and in 2017 we see affordability becoming a huge issue as the cost to purchase a home rises annually. The Liberals in Ottawa announced $11B over 11 years as part of National housing strategy, but that money is being spread over several initiatives – the $11B sounds like an incredible figure and it is. But on an annual basis the figures do not seem as impressive. As an example, the $3.2B in the Renewed Federal-Provincial-territorial Partnership for seniors housing over 11 years is less than $300M each year.

The $11B is a good first step nationally, but for the 10,000+ on the Ottawa housing wait list it will take years to build those roofs and walls and eventually end homelessness in Ottawa and other communities across Canada. What needs to be addressed is how governments can help the unknown those families, youth and individuals who are not on wait list, we don’t know where they are today or where they will be tonight.

I have hopes that by distributing the $11B through the CMHC it will be a much more effective and efficient flow of funding rather than previously when the money flowed through three different government hands before it got to the providers and builders of affordable housing. One positive out of the 2017 budget is that it should reduce the reporting structure for how the money used while this funding is available over 11 years.

2017 and 2018 will see several Municipal and Provincial elections held, for the social and affordable housing sectors these will be important to hold governments to account for a lack of progress and to ensure incoming governments and councils will take actions that will see less use of shelters as more rooms, apartments and houses for youth, seniors and families will be ready with doors wide open for them.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I am celebrating #Canada150 with a daily post of an event celebrating our sesquicentennial in Canada.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.