The Peel Poverty Action Group is composed chiefly of people who are cash poor. We're already at the bottom of the barrel, so we have no fear from the economic recession. We can't get into any worse shape, except for a large number of people cramming into the same barrel.
What the Peel region needs and asks you for is a fair share of employment insurance, a fair share of a national housing program, a fair share of a national child care program, and a fair share of health funding. Many of these things already exist: we want a bigger piece of that pie, because we are a growing area and the efforts that have been made have not been matched to population.
In regard to employment insurance, Peel lost 77,000 jobs between March 2008 and March of this year. About one-quarter of these jobs were in manufacturing, with construction and trades next in line. The local employment insurance office gets up to 800 applicants a day, and it plans to open on evenings and Saturdays to cope with these applications. About 700 auto assembly workers in Peel will soon exhaust their benefits and are expected to go on social assistance. Yet unemployed people in Peel and the GTA/905 area get $4,630 less in EI benefits than the average jobless person elsewhere in Canada; and nearly 80% of Peel people don't have the hours to qualify for EI anyway, which particularly affects women and those starting out in part-time work.
The Peel Poverty Action Group asks the government to increase EI payments to the level received by the unemployed elsewhere in Canada and to revise the qualification periods.
A national housing program could reduce Peel region's affordable housing problem. We have 13,500 families on the waiting list, and they may wait 20 years for homes they can afford. This is the longest list and the longest wait of any municipality, I think, in Canada—and certainly in Ontario. Meantime, homeless shelters take in families with children, who face changes of schools along with the disruption of frequent moves, while their parents have to move away from employment, friends, family, and support groups.
Peel has shovel-ready plans—whatever that means—for 441 units, if the federal government will release the cash.
The Peel Poverty Action Group asks the government to formulate a national housing program to provide affordable homes now. You might also consider reinvesting the money CMHC receives in mortgage repayments.
A national day care program would go far to reduce child poverty and safeguard our children against the ill effects of the current economic downturn. Quebec offers $7 a day child care—and I'm sure you've heard a lot about this—and claims it has cut child poverty in half since it began doing so in 1997, which was also a period of recession. In Peel region, a families-first program for sole-support mothers has shown that with guaranteed child care, women can increase their income and self-esteem and self-reliance.
The Peel Poverty Action Group asks the government to implement a national day care program that ensures high-quality child care at an affordable fee.
Peel does not receive the health care funding it needs. People living in poverty—167,000 of Peel's 1.2 million residents—are statistically more likely to get sick. Health care funding does not yet take population into account, and does not take poverty into account at all. Per capita funding will be phased in over the next six years, but we need that money now.
Mental health is a huge problem, affecting many homeless people and thousands of others who are either chronically or occasionally affected. Not providing the funding that Peel needs means more trouble down the line, as supports are not in place when needed. The result is ever higher costs for health care in an aging population, and ever more law enforcement problems among youth who need mental health supports.
The Peel Poverty Action Group urges the government to speed up the changes to per capita funding, so that local public health and non-profit groups can do their job. Peel does not need more incarceration of at-risk youth.
That's the presentation from the Peel Poverty Action Group.