Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 29

Dear Colleagues, 

Please SAVE THE DATE for a Poverty Task Force full-meeting on Friday, October 16th from 10am-12noon.  We shall be hosting a virtual meeting to commemorate the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on October 17th.  An Agenda will follow with an invitation to join us on zoom. 

COVID-19 gives us the opportunity to rethink how we organize our systems to address the inequities embedded within them. The long-term impacts of COVID-19 on women in the workforce remains unknown. However, with women’s labour force participation at a record low, decades of progress towards gender equality are at stake. 


The voices are getting louder and stronger in addressing the increased need for fast, reliable and affordable Internet service for rural residents.  

  • Free Public wifi in Grey County: can be found on the Community and Business Resilience Map 
  • Free Public wifi in Bruce County: can be found on the Open in Bruce Map  
  • Bruce Telecom has partnered with the Municipality of Kincardine, Town of Saugeen Shores, and the Township of Chesley to offer free WiFi at various Outdoor Learning Centres for the 2020/2021 school year.   This will enable people to take online courses, home school and working from home.   


  • Leads Employment Services is starting the Options program on October 5th.  This program is funded through Skills Link funding, part of the Government of Canada’s Youth Employment Strategy. The program focuses on youth with disabilities (ages 15-30) who are motivated to work.  Paid group based learning with an employment placement to follow.  See attached flyer. 
  • Leads Employment Services has been back up and running since August and are available to meet clients in person.  They are following all safety measures including extra cleaning of surfaces,  offices, pre-screen form, mask distribution to clients and use of boardroom to meet clients.  


  • We have been very fortunate that we have some key agencies – The Salvation Army Owen Sound, OSHaRE, Habitat for Humanity, United Way Bruce Grey and Grey Bruce Sustainability Network – that have agreed to take on more leadership in the access to and distribution of food to meet the emergency needs of communities across Grey Bruce. 
  • Partners of the Food Security Action Group are moving forward in formalizing Distribution Hubs in order to expand our reach further across Grey Bruce and support smaller community food programs and other non-profits who are offering food in their programs.  
  • Partners are in the process of setting up new communication, administration and distribution channels throughout Grey Bruce with several lead agencies:   
  • Distribution Hub foodrescue.ca fresh produce donations: OSHaREreceives fresh produce donations from grocery stores, restaurants and farmers. Extras are made available for redistribution to community meals programs and food banks. 
  • Distribution Hub for food banks donations:  The Salvation Army Owen Soundis a member of Food Banks Canada and Feed Ontario as well as receiving other food donations. They are able to receive large donations and/or purchase bulk food at significant discounts. 
  • Distribution of fresh produce from Community Gardens:  There are many local community gardens that provide food to food banks and community meal programs. Grey Bruce Sustainability Network/Meaford Community Gardens connects gardeners/farmers as donors directly to community food programs and will also transport fresh produce to OSHaRE for further distribution. 
  • Transportation and distribution support: The United Way Bruce Grey has contracted Habitat for Humanity to transport and distribute non-perishable items such as toilet paper and PPE to food banks. Habitat is also delivering fresh produce to community meal programs and delivering hot meals to people sheltered in motels by the Women’s Centre, M’Wikwedong IFC and YMCA Housing.  
  • Support to Community Food Programs: the United Way has hired a Food Security Coordinator to provide greater support to community food programs in the way of logistics, distribution and access to funding.
  • Ontario School Nutrition Program – Grey Bruce: linkages have been made for community meal programs to aslo share extras with the breakfast club programs. Items for the ‘grab-and-go” snacks are needed. At present, school kitchens are closed, some schools are closed to volunteers and hot meals are not being prepared. Cost saving solutions and partnerships are being built with the program.  


  • Launch Pad: now offer programs for 55+. Call to register or send an email. T: 519-506-6300 or email at: james@yatc.ca 


  • Saugeen Shores Attainable Housing Task Force: 200 people attended the public consultation and launch of the Task Force last night.  
  • They are requesting the public to complete an Attainable Housing Survey.  42% of people who work in Saugeen Shores don’t actually live in Saugeen Shores. So they are encouraging people who live outside to also complete the survey which runs until October 8th, 2020.
  • 24 organizations have agreed to participate in stakeholders’ meetings in October. There will also be community roundtable meetings in November.    
  • Housing challenges in Saugeen Shores include:
    • the short-term rental market (summer tourism) being more lucrative than year round rentals. This has driven the high rental rates and availability. 
    • The median income is over $105,000. 
    • There is not enough housing stock for people to move through all ages and stages of life. It is challenge to find housing for: seniors who wish to downsize, students to move home, young families to afford homes and low-wage workers to live and work in the same town. 
    • COVID19 has meant that many “snowbirds” won’t be leaving for warmer climates in the winter of 2020 and remain in their homes. Thus there will be less rental vacancies. And for some “snowbirds” they may be looking for winter accommodations. 
    • And the area is attractive to retirees and under COVID19 people are moving out of the city.  
  • The objective of the Task Force is to look at solutions for attainable and affordable housing for all ages and income levels.
  • The Ontario government has introduced the Helping Tenants and Small Businesses Act that would, if passed, freeze rent in 2021 for most rent-controlled and non-rent-controlled residential units. The bill would provide the vast majority of Ontario’s tenants with financial relief as the province continues down the path of renewal, growth and economic recovery.
  • Housing partners report that many sheriff eviction notices being served now were pre-COVID19 decisions.  
  • The Emergency Housing Action Group members are engaged with the City of Owen Sound to find effective solutions to “hotspots” around the city. While the Council has approved more policing dollars for one particular hotspot there is a need to come up with a more comprehensive plan. 
  • The Grey Bruce Health Unit and the Community Drug and Alcohol Strategy have been releasing stories of substance use to educate the public on the complex nature of addiction and put the faces to the statistics. 

Stay well, Jill 

Losing Ground – Income Inequality in Ontario

A new analysis by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) – Losing Ground Income Inequality in Ontario, 2000-15  describes an increasingly “polarized” Ontario labour market that is shifting away from stable manufacturing jobs to more precarious service sector work and rewarding higher-earning families while punishing poorer ones.

The report  examines 15 years of income inequality for families raising
children in Ontario (2000 to 2015), comparing it with national data for context,
and finds several disturbing trends.

The data reveal that the top half of Ontario families take home 81 per
cent of earnings; the bottom half of families take home only 19 per cent.
What’s more, the richest families in Ontario earned almost 200 per cent of
the average family’s earnings in 2013–15.

It is a story of sustained labour market income inequality that is being
driven by slow economic growth and increases in precarious work. Simply
put, lower–middle class and working poor families are losing ground.
The Ontario data show a drop in the share of earnings for families in the
bottom half, falling from 22 per cent in 2000–02 to 19 per cent in 2013–15.
That income shifted from the bottom half to the top half of the income distribution:
the top half’s share of earnings rose from 78 per cent in 2000–02
to 81 per cent in 2013–15.

On a national level, the story of income inequality among Canadian families
hasn’t changed much since 2000. The lion’s share of earnings goes to
the richest families, at the expense of the rest. Nationally, families in the
bottom half of the earnings distribution saw their share of earnings flatline
at 21 per cent between 2000–02 and 2013–15.

Dynamics within the labour market are at issue. The experience since the turn of the century clearly indicates that Ontario needs a raise. And that proposed changes to labour market rules in the province’s Bill 148 (Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017)—which among other crucial reforms would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by January 2019—are long overdue.

It’s about fairness. It’s about changing labour laws to reflect a seismic
shift in Ontario’s labour market. It’s about requiring employers to do their
part to reduce labour market inequality.



People without Jobs — Jobs without People: Decoding Canada’s ‘skills crisis’

By:  Economy, Published on Fri May 24 2013

Laid-off welders in Ontario sit idle, while oilsands employers in Alberta are chronically short-handed. High-skill jobs go unfilled, yet university graduates can’t find work. Canada has 1.33 million unemployed workers, yet business hired 338,000 temporary foreign workers last year, citing shortages in such low-skilled jobs as fast-food servers.

Why? One reason cited has been called the skills mismatch or skills shortage, phrases that refer to the growing gap between the skills Canadian employers say they need and the ones job seekers can provide.

Employers say it’s one of the toughest challenges they face; the federal government made it the centrepiece of its 2013 budget, with a training incentive grant for employers called the Canada Job Program.

Labour groups, meanwhile, say the skills crisis has been overblown by employers looking for a way to keep a lid on wages and training costs.

On all sides, there’s precious little agreement about what the skills shortage is, how to address it, and whether it even exists.

There is, however, agreement on the need to address the growing problem of what one observer has called “People without Jobs: Jobs without People.”

How pressing is the ‘skills gap’?

Like other advanced economies, Canada has an aging population and a rapidly changing economy.

As the first wave of baby boomers hits retirement age and younger people stay in school longer, the percentage of Canadians in their prime earnings years begins to shrink, taking with it Canada’s capacity to fund everything from pensions to education.

John Manley, president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, has called it a “demographic time bomb.”

Critics say the impact of this demographic shift is being overstated, saying the warnings ignore the fact many baby boomers are already staying in the workforce longer, either because lifespans are lengthening or they need to recover retirement savings lost in the recent economic downturn.

The federal government’s own data shows the overall labour market will remain “in balance” over the next decade, much like it is today.

The Canadian Occupational Projection System predicts Canada will create 6.5 million new jobs and 6.3 million new job seekers — including recent graduates and immigrants — between 2011 and 2020.

Retiring baby boomers will play a huge role in the creation of job openings, the study acknowledges, creating nearly two-thirds of the vacancies, while economic growth will account for the rest.

At the same time, globalization has intensified the competition from lower-cost countries, creating a growing pool of jobless Canadians at the low-skilled end of the workforce, while technology changes the nature of work.

“The new jobs require more education, more specific skills than the professions of the past,” said Benjamin Tal, deputy chief economist at CIBC World Markets. “And we are competing with China and Mexico. And we lose low-skilled employment to those countries.

“The nature of those jobs is changing. So the nature of training and education is changing. The labour market is changing faster than our ability to adapt to it.”

Business groups like the Canadian Chamber of Commerce say if nothing is done to address these challenges, we could have a shortfall of 1 million skilled workers by the end of the decade. That could mean lower productivity and longer waits for service. “A crisis that had been hidden by the recession has become fully apparent,” the chamber said in a policy paper outlining its top 10 public policy priorities.

Labour groups, however, say the skills crisis has been overblown. “In very rare industries and very rare regions, labour markets are tight,” said Jim Stanford, economist with the Canadian Auto Workers. “But we should not for a minute accept at face value the claim that there’s a generalized labour shortage or a generalized skills shortage in Canada.”

By his reckoning, the skills mismatch might account for, at most, 100,000 unfilled positions across the country. Meanwhile, up to 2.3 million Canadians are either unemployed, underemployed or have given up looking for work, he said.

Before the recession of 2008-2009, Canada’s national unemployment rate was a relatively low 6 per cent. By August 2008, it had hit a high of 8.7 per cent.

Since then, it has fallen back to around 7.2 per cent, or about 1.33 million people, according to Statistics Canada. But that’s still high by historic standards.

The number of job openings, meanwhile, has declined. In January, it was 200,000, down 22,000 from a year earlier. As a result, there were 6.5 job seekers for every available job, up from 6.1 per cent a year earlier.

Labour economist Erin Weir of the United Steelworkers Union said that’s proof Canada’s biggest challenge isn’t a lack of skilled workers. It’s the lack of job creation by employers.

Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney has also chastised Canadian employers for sitting on piles of cash instead of pursuing growth opportunities.

If there are gaps, where are they?

That doesn’t mean labour markets aren’t tight in some regions, and some occupations.

For instance, Alberta’s unemployment rate is just 4.4 per cent, as global demand for oil fuels a resource boom there. There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that even fast-food restaurants are having trouble hiring in that province.

Some 30 per cent of employers across Canada say they face a skilled labour shortage, double the rate seen just three years ago, CIBC’s Tal said in a report last December.

But employer surveys are highly subjective, he wrote in The Haves and Have Nots of Canada’s Labour Market.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce said there’s a limit to how much employers can raise wages to attract and retain workers.

“I talked to a guy last year in Newfoundland who couldn’t find people to staff his pizza chain. Why couldn’t he pay more and keep them on the job? Because he couldn’t charge $40 for a pizza,” said chamber senior vice-president Warren Everson.

Is the shortage severe enough to cause employers to raise wages or spend more on training, he asks? Only in some fields, Tal found.

Right now, CIBC’s Tal found the largest skills shortages in health care, the mining industry, advanced manufacturing and business services, sectors enjoying the highest wage increases and lowest unemployment rates.

At the other end of the spectrum, the pool of unemployed people is growing in clerical services, food services, recreational guides, personal services, and sales and service, Tal wrote.

Looking ahead, federal government data predicts there will continue to be shortages and surpluses in specific industries, though they’re not the ones you’d expect from listening to many employers talk about the “skills crisis,” said Alex Usher, president of Higher Education Strategy Consultants in Toronto.

Most shortages will be in management, health care and business services, the report by the Canadian Occupational Projection System shows.

Yet, no one in government is talking about a looming shortage of nurses, Usher said.

Why can’t we agree on where the gaps are?

Canada needs to do a better job of collecting and disseminating reliable labour market information, the kind employers, students and policy-makers can rely on to make good decisions, observers say.

“Our data is horrible,” said Rick Miner, a former Seneca College president who took part in a federal labour market advisory panel in 2009. The U.S. and most European countries do a much better job of tracking the job market, he said.

When the federal government, under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, cut Statistics Canada’s funding and also the long-form census, it left an information vacuum, said Miner, now a partner in the Toronto-based management consulting firm Miner & Miner.

In its place is a hodgepodge of conflicting claims by employers and labour groups and a lot of anecdotal evidence.

“The problem is everybody’s got a vested interested here,” Miner said. “You’ve got to be very careful what you believe and who you believe.”

The Canadian Occupational Projection System is based on outdated “national occupation codes,” the official descriptors of hundreds of job categories, he said. “There’s no apps developer, no windmill technician.”

It doesn’t take into account the fact that jobs evolve over time and require new skills, Miner added. For example, even hotel housemaids now require some training in technology as hand-held devices are used to track which rooms need cleaning. Nor is it able to predict future kinds of work, he said.

“Think of iPad, or Kijiji, or cloud computing,” he said.

Miner believes the country is facing a widespread crisis of skilled workers, a term broadly defined to include anyone with more than high school education.

While 62 per cent of Canadians now achieve some form of post-secondary education — including apprenticeships, college and university — he said that figure will need to be closer to 70 per cent by the end of the decade.

“There’s an increased need for people who are in more skilled categories,” Miner said. “That doesn’t mean simply trades. Technicians, technologists, engineers, research scientists.”

Yet, more and more young people are enrolled in the humanities and social sciences, he said, “programs that don’t have an obvious link to the economy. How many philosophers can we employ in the world? Or historians?” Miner asks.

“We’ve got some real serious problems in front of us that are going to require some innovative solutions.”

Hot jobs, not-hot jobs

Next Week: Looking for solutions

Top 10 job vacancies

  • Managers in engineering, architecture, science and information systems.
  • Managers in health care, education and social services.
  • Managers in construction and transportation.
  • Accountants and other business service professionals.
  • Scientists and engineers.
  • Doctors, dentists, veterinarians and other health professionals.
  • Nurses and nursing supervisors.
  • Medical technologists.
  • Social workers, psychologists, counsellors, probation officers.
  • Supervisors in mining, oil and gas, manufacturing and processing.

Bottom 10 job vacancies

  • Machine operators in pulp and paper and metal production.
  • Fishermen/women.
  • Upholsterers, tailors, shoe and jewelry repairers.
  • Butchers and bakers.
  • Personal services.
  • Travel, food and beverage services.
  • Elementary and high school teachers.
  • Cashiers, sales and service supervisors.
  • Clerical workers.
  • Managers in manufacturing.


Sources: HRSDC, CIBC