Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 113

Dear Colleagues,

The impact of rising prices on vulnerable people for rent, food, utilities, etc. and our slow recovery from the pandemic are creating the start of a tough year. It means more people are having to make hard decisions about what they can and can’t afford.

Five weeks into the new year, we are all busy with new strategic planning, advocacy for budgets and the release of new studies.  

NEW ADVOCACY/POLICY 

  • Ontario released Pathways to Safety: Ontario’s Strategy in Response to the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
  • How Can We Confront Homelessness in Rural Ontario: is aTVO panel interview held at the recent Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) meeting.  The Institute of Southern Georgian Bay has been looking at social financialization of housing and the Institute’s Marilyn Struthers was part of the panel.  
  • The Ontario Human Rights Commission issued a statement on human rights and access to cold weather services.  The importance of respecting the rights of people experiencing homelessness was reaffirmed by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on January 27, 2023 when it denied the municipality of Waterloo’s request to remove an encampment when there is no adequate indoor shelter space as it would violate the residents’ Charter rights to life, liberty, and security of the person. 
  • Rest Stations for Extreme Weather: 211 provides listings of warming stations available in Bruce County and Grey County. 
  • Short Term Shelter Programs in both Counties have worked hard this winter to ensure that people were sheltered before weather systems hit.  Connections were made with prisons and hospitals to ensure that people were not discharged onto the streets during the extreme weather. They reached out to people living in tents to do wellness checks and offer warmer shelter.  
  • Safe N Sound in partnership with the City of Owen Sound extended their hours, including one extreme weather episode providing all night shelter.  

NEW BUDGETS

INCOME SUPPORT

  • Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS): The Ontario government is doubling the GAINS payment for seniors for 12 months beginning January 2023. This measure will increase the maximum GAINS payment to $166 per month for single seniors and to $332 per month for couples, a maximum increase of almost $1,000 per person in 2023.
  • Canada Housing Benefit  The one-time top-up aims to help eligible low-income renters with a tax-free one-time payment of $500. Applications are due by March 31st 2023.
  • Ontario Disability Support Program Earnings Exemption: the government has increased monthly earnings exemption for people with disabilities from $200 to $1,000 effective 1 February 2023 and reflected on March 2023 payment. This will mean that the first $1,000 earned in a month is exempt and will not affect ODSP income support. For each dollar earned above $1,000, the 25 cents is exempt from the calculation of income support. However, the total earnings are based on the household income, not the individual’s income on ODSP. 

NEW FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES

  • Community Services Recovery Fund (CSRF): responds to the adaptation and modernization needs of non-profit and charitable organizations facing immediate and long-term impacts of the pandemic as they continue to support communities.The deadline to apply is February 21st at 5:00pm. Find out if your organization is eligible and how to apply here
  • An online CSRF Q & A Session for Grey Bruce community service organizations applying to the Community Services Recovery Fund is happening on February 9 from 4 – 5 pm. Register here.
  • 2023 Emergency Food Access Grant: as food banks struggle with the urgent and increasing need of their communities, Food Banks Canada has a new fund ($2M in funding). Application deadline is February 19th, 2023. For eligibility or apply here:

NEW RESEARCH 

  • Bruce County Housing Demographic Study: has been released and the link to the Committee item is available at Human Services Committee – February 02, 2023 (escribemeetings.com)
  • Re-engaging Retreated Workers: After analyzing the participation rates in the Stratford-Bruce Peninsula Economic Region it was noted that 6,000 workers retreated from the workforce in March of 2020 and were no longer participating in the workforce. With close to 90% of the available workforce between the ages of 25 – 54 (Labour Force Survey 2021 Custom Data Purchase) already participating it is more important than ever to re-engage the workers who have retreated. This report by the Four County Labour Market Planning Board looks at challenges to re-engaging workers in the region. 
  • RentSafe’s new suite of resources on mould aims to support proactive and coordinated action to address one of the most pressing habitability concerns in rental housing. RentSafe baseline research found that dampness and mould is one of the most common health concerns in rental housing. 

HOUSING SUPPORT 

NEW SURVEYS/STUDIES

  • Bruce County Strategic Public Engagement: is underway and seeking initial ideas.  Please submit your initial ideas online through the Bruce County 2023-2026 Strategic Plan Public Engagement Survey by Friday, February 10, 2023.
  • Grey Bruce Health Services Addiction Treatment Services: have released 3 new surveys. Community Addiction Treatment (CATS) Services, Withdrawal Management Services (WMS), and WMS survey for friends and family seeking feedback on program and service needs. CATS surveyWMS survey and WMS Survey for Friends/Family
  • City of Owen Sound Community Garden Policy Input: closed on 30 January 2023 with input from Grey Bruce Community Garden Network Coordinator. A feedback report will be presented at the February 15th Community Services Committee. This is the first of its kind in Grey Bruce and sets a good framework for other municipalities/towns and cities. 
  • Seniors Home Share:   Bruce County Housing to undertake a local  feasibility study with York University. The team from York University is carrying a literature review/best practices analysis and carrying out key informant interviews/focus group discussions. The study results are expected to be released in March 2023. Contact Matt Meade, mmeade@brucecounty.on.ca, for further info.  
  • West Grey Public Library Children & Youth Service:  Click here to provide input to the programs for kids and teens in West Grey. Contact Kayla, 519-369-2107,   kids@westgreylibrary.com.

FOOD SUPPORT

  • Grey Bruce Foodrescue: nearly 60% of food produced in Canada is lost or wasted each year according to Second Harvest.  1/3 of that waste is still edible, yet it goes to landfills instead of to those who could use it. 
  • No Frills Owen Sound and Foodland Markdale have been added to the program.  OSHaRE continues to be a central hub for pick up, sorting and making surplus food available to community agencies. For more info contact Colleen Seaman, info@oshare.ca or 519-377-7460. 

TRANSPORTATION

  • Grey Transit Route (GTR): route changes have been affected by budget and the Flesherton to Hanover/Walkerton route will be canceled in April 2023.  
  • Student Travel: students at Georgian College’s Owen Sound Campus will be able to access free GTR during the winter semester.  This will help them getting to and from campus as well as to employment and field placements, co-ops or practicums.

The next Poverty Task Force meeting shall be on Friday, February 17th.  

Stay well, Jill 

Transportation Action Group Agenda and Minutes_26 Nov 2013

The Transportation Action Group held an initial meeting  of some Transportation Service Providers and South East Grey Community Health Centre representatives.

Key agenda items:

1. Examine coordinated services across Grey and Bruce Counties amongst service providers.

2. Draft support statement to MPP Bill Walker’s resolution calling for Committee to examine Public Transportation in Rural Ontario

The meeting examined existing services, potential areas for working together to create greater efficiency and identified who should be additionally invited to the table. See the full set of minutes:            Transportation Action Group_Minutes_26 Nov 2013

The group also generated some key recommendations that were incorporated into a letter to support to MPP Bill Walker’s motion. 

Bill Walker Resolution_support letter from BG Poverty Task Force

 

 

Tranquil, sure. But Ontario’s rural communities take a hit as factories close in nearby larger centres

Debora Van Brenk, QMI Agency

Sunday, October 20, 2013 6:00:00 EDT AM

FLORENCE, ONT. – It’s high noon on an autumn day and the loudest sounds are the ratcheting of crickets and the occasional call of an in-town rooster crowing out of time.

A shiny new playground and a community hall sit in the middle of Florence, empty this time of day, and there’s a road so freshly paved the centre line isn’t yet laid down.

Florence — part of the southwestern Ontario township of Dawn-Euphemia, where Middlesex, Kent and Lambton counties meet — is at the intersection of everything, but far from the centre of the universe.

Once within buggy distance of eight schools and home to a tractor dealership and other amenities, the township has lost 17% of its small population in the past decade.

“Welcome to Hooterville,” seed dealer-farmer Emery Huszka quips.

But it’s clear he’s convinced this place is Canada’s heartland — not its hinterland: High-speed Internet, clean water, resourceful workforce, close to major centres, helpful neighbours. And all the tranquility a body needs.

That’s why it troubles him the hamlet where he lives and works is — like many rural Ontario communities — shrinking. The statistics of the migration are mere numbers to some, but to him are the 360 faces of his friends.

“One factory in a city like Mississauga is just a blip. One factory here, if it closes, is the difference between getting your mortgage paid or not,” Huszka says.

And he knows this first-hand, having been on the receiving end of more than one factory closing where he worked.

In this area, deep in the heart of one of the nation’s richest farm belts, but with manufacturing cities nearby, the closing of a Navistar truck plant and the loss of thousands of other industrial jobs have cost the community dearly.

“The rural communities are more economical to live in, provided you don’t have to drive 40 miles to your job,” says Dawn-Euphemia Mayor Bill Bilton, who was born and raised in the township and has been its reeve or mayor, and always its biggest booster, for 30 years.

Out here, you can grow your own gardens, canoe on the river, borrow a library book, buy lumber and know everyone by name, occupation and lineage. Out here you can get your milk, mail, meal and movies at one location.

But what you can’t do in Florence is attend school (the decrepit high school has been for sale, now listed at $17,500, almost since it closed down in 1965), be doctored (the lone physician moved out years ago) or buy much more than the essentials.

“If there are no jobs, there are no young families — it’s that simple,” Bilton notes.

That’s a trend echoed across the province, including in Elizabethtown-Kitley stretching between the borders of Brockville and Smiths Falls in Eastern Ontario.

Plant closings in both cities have squeezed out rural residents who lived in the country but worked in the city, says Mayor Jim Pickard. “When jobs start drying up, people start to move … One thing you cannot fight is job losses and aging.”

Teens leave for college and don’t come back. Couples lose jobs and pack out. Older people move to where the health care is.

“I’m sure we’re reflective of so many other municipalities,” Pickard says. “There’s no one thing to put your finger on.”

To be sure, not all rural communities are faltering.

Nearer to major centres — to the GTA and Ottawa, for example — so many people are clamouring to live in the countryside many hamlets have grown into full-fledged towns. In those areas with double-digit annual growth (Whitchurch-Stouffville’s population has ballooned 54% in five years), politicians rightly struggle to pave roads, build clinics and schools to transport, heal and educate everyone.

But in a province that’s grown an average 5% during the past five years, to show neither population gain nor loss is to fall behind.

“If I had the magic solution, I’d bottle it and sell it and it would cost you a lot of money,” Pickard says.

Some trends aren’t reversible, such as smaller families and larger, more mechanized farms that mean fewer people need to work the land.

But Huszka, for one, believes the exodus has bottomed out. Technology is allowing more people to telecommute. And land affordability in a hamlet, even with gas prices factored into the commute, make it an affordable choice.

He holds out hope agricultural diversification and sound economic policy can reap ten-fold returns on a modest investment: a beet processor nearby or a biofuels plant, for example.

Adding just 25 couples — 50 people — could revive church suppers, bring in more taxes, fill a day-care centre. Revive the heart of Ontario.

“It wouldn’t take a lot to make a big difference here,” he says.

 

 

BY THE NUMBERS

2006 to 2011:

— Canada’s population grew 5.9%

— Ontario’s population grew 5.7%

POPULATION LOSERS

Examples, 2006 to 2011:

Dawn-Euphemia: -6.4%

Dorion: -10.8%

Dawson: -9.2%

Elizabethtown-Kitley: -4.7%

Southwold: -4.9%

Hamilton: -2.5%

Lambton Shores: -4.4%

Marathon: -13.2%

Enniskillen: -6.1%

POPULATION WINNERS

Examples, 2006 to 2011:

Oakville: 10.2%

Ottawa: 8.8%

Shelburne: 13.5%

Milton: 56.5%

Whitchurch-Stouffville: 54.3%

Vaughan: 20.7%

What went wrong with rural Ontario

Rural demography is about as tough to get a grip on as mutton-busting at the country fall fair.
And framing the reasons for rural population decline as either all good or all bad is just as slippery.
It’s a whole new landscape out there. The 19th-century farm is gone, for better and for worse. As the think-tank Rural Ontario Institute notes, non-metro Ontario had virtually no year-over-year population growth from 2006 to 2012.
So, while the issues itemized below look like a linear list, they’re more like the Venn diagrams you drew in elementary school, with interlooping circles of influence and infinity-echoing patterns of cause-and-effect.

FARM MECHANIZATION
Cows virtually milk themselves now and house-sized combines harvest corn. There’s more need for knowledge and less for people on today’s larger, more technologically advanced farms. Young would-be farmers have a tough time coming up with money to enter the business.

TRANSPORTATION
Good roads go both ways. But for rural communities, they’re often outbound to enrich big-town coffers, where a 20-minute drive and $20 gets you a burger and a movie. A lot of the money that could help small centres grow flows into larger ones.

EDUCATION
Rural routes are littered with old schools converted to houses or storage sheds. Populations shrink and schools close, leading more families to leave and fewer to move in if there are no schools.

REGIONAL ECONOMIES
So many rural people have jobs in cities that an economic downturn in industry makes country living financially impossible. And if the only job they can find is minimum wage, they’re not going to commute two hours a day for that.

AGING
Older rural residents often resist moving to town — but as their health fails, they often have to move out to be closer to health clinics.

IMMIGRATION

Most immigrants go to cities, drawn by a similar population or language. One saving grace? Western European farmers with plenty of money and large families are rebuilding some rural economies.

COMMUNICATION
Some rural places still lack high-speed Internet. Try studying, shopping or just surfing without that. Conversely, rural entrepreneurs with high-speed Internet can stay put, with access to markets worldwide.

NETWORKS
They dwindle as hamlets wane. The service club or church may close. The softball league becomes a single team, then strikes out altogether.

How to keep rural Ontario thriving

In one Ontario hamlet, where school enrolment was falling, boosters decided to reverse the flow.
Instead of busing their kids to city schools, they held up the smaller rural school as an example of educational excellence — then, city kids started busing to the country for school.
Promoting small-town amenities to cities is among the revitalization strategies Bill Reimer likes to cite when talking with struggling rural areas.
Reimer, a professor at Concordia University, is one of North America’s foremost experts on rural economies.
His six broad suggestions for helping rural areas reassert their importance:

Look beyond your community:
In one Western Canadian town, it was pumping up the local hockey program so that now the hockey school is sought out beyond the region.

Find and exploit your niche:
Maybe it’s a social event or a cultural landmark or maybe an idea that’s unique to that area. Stratford has made that work with world-class theatre.

Integrate strangers:
Create a rural welcome wagon of sorts, and make sure newcomers know where to find social supports.

Build social infrastructure.
Book clubs, church communities, little league baseball teams — and make them too good to ignore.

Build capacities and links:
Labour should connect with charity and recreation and so on, to make it a better place.

Think regionally.
There’s a huge power differential between small and large communities; independence is often a catchphrase of rural life, but interdependence should be more important. When their main products, such as food or raw resources come from the rural areas, urban areas are defeating their own self-interest to ignore or downplay the economic, lifestyle and environmental benefits they get from rural areas. “It is in the interests of urban people to figure out how to support their smaller communties,” Reimer said.

debora.vanbrenk@sunmedia.ca

Bus operators need to be encouraged to come here

By Denis Langlois, Sun Times, Owen Sound

Saturday, October 5, 2013 4:58:09 EDT PM

The closure of Owen Sound’s bus terminal and Greyhound’s decision to cut its routes to the city has put a spotlight on transportation issues in our area.

Specifically, it has highlighted the importance of intercity bus service to rural communities.

Students attending school in Toronto, London, Barrie and elsewhere, for example, rely on the bus to get to and from their rural Ontario homes.

People use the bus to get to hospitals in major Ontario cities, to visit family in southern Ontario and to access services not found locally. Some people just want to hop aboard a bus to spend time in Toronto.

Despite the need for bus transportation, options for people in rural Ontario, including Grey-Bruce, continue to decline.

Greyhound now only makes one trip daily into and out of Owen Sound. The bus takes people to Toronto via Collingwood and Barrie. Aboutown Northlink only makes a trip between Owen Sound and London three times a week.

People wanting to get to Orangeville, KitchenerWaterloo, Guelph, Hamilton or other cities must transfer to another bus in Toronto or London. It can be a long trip.

The provincial government should step up and do something about this transportation shortage. More should be done to encourage bus companies to make the trek to and from Owen Sound.

Part of the problem, it seems, is Ontario’s current regulatory framework for intercity bus transportation.

Companies must apply to the Ontario Highway Transport Board to receive a permit before it can operate a new route.

John Emberson, president of Coach Canada, said the process is time consuming and expensive. The applicant must provide a business plan, among other things, to the board.

Other companies can object to the permit request, he said, and the board will often side with the firm that currently offers the same or a similar route.

The process limits competition, he said, and can allow some companies to hold a monopoly on certain routes.

Coach Canada, which owns more than 200 buses, is among the companies lobbying the province to deregulate the system.

Alberta and Manitoba have done it. Alberta implemented a new modernized framework in 2011. Companies there now have the option of running a smaller bus for certain routes or creating a flexible schedule without, as happened in the past, having their application objected to by existing carriers, which would have triggered a full-blown hearing.

It’s time for Ontario to take a serious look at doing the same.

There are also calls from outside of the industry for the province to make changes to improve Ontario’s regional transportation network.

Owen Sound Mayor Deb Haswell, for one, has called on the province to explore ways to encourage more buses to run routes to the city.

The Southwest Economic Alliance (SWEA), meanwhile, is calling on both the provincial and federal governments “to work together to plan and adequately fund a regional transportation network.”

A summit, with politicians, transportation companies and advocacy groups, is scheduled for Nov. 14.

“The objective is to generate cooperation, planning and policy development which will lead to more transportation in southwestern Ontario,” SWEA says.

It is our hope that SWEA will have luck with its campaign.

However, it’s important that Owen Sound also benefit from any improved regional transportation system.

Without changes, the city could become even more isolated from the rest of southern Ontario.