The poverty story in the Greater Toronto Area is well-documented. More than 86,000 people a month now turn to Toronto’s Daily Bread Food Bank seeking help. The child poverty rate in Mississauga jumped to 20 per cent from 12 between 1990 and 2005. The middle class is shrinking.
While details of disadvantage are plentiful, it’s much less certain how such problems will be addressed in an era of governments preoccupied with reducing massive deficits.
The City of Toronto, backed by the United Way and investments by the provincial and federal governments, does have an aggressive program aimed at addressing need in 13 of the city’s most disadvantaged neighbourhoods.
There are plenty of other things governments can do. They could, for instance, require developers to build at least some affordable housing units in every new project. Childcare services could be expanded.
The reality, however, is that public investment won’t be enough. People need jobs. And at the moment, it’s not at all clear where those jobs will come from. The gutting of the manufacturing sector during this past year has killed both low- and high-end jobs and hit new immigrants particularly hard. Studies suggest that people who arrived in Canada recently were three times more likely to receive pink slips during the economic downtown than their Canadian-born co-workers.
Optimists talk of creative industries and creative-sector jobs that will turn things around in the new economy. They have a point. Some people will definitely land great positions that will allow them to afford everything this city has to offer. All the signs, however, point to many others being left even further behind.