September 28, 2022
Open Letter to All Toronto Mayoral and Council Candidates:
We are a concerned group of non-profit organizations who are ringing the alarm bell on rising poverty and inequality in Toronto. Much of this poverty is gendered, racialized and along neighborhood lines. The pandemic, paired with the rising cost of living and rent has exacerbated inequality in our city – but these are not the only contributing factors. Long before the pandemic began, 1 out of 5 children in Toronto grew up in poverty, the waitlist for social housing was 7 years long, and a subsidized child care spot was hard to come by.
The upcoming Toronto Municipal Election on October 24th represents an exciting moment – an opportunity to get things right. With a new term and a new mandate, an inclusive recovery from the pandemic is possible.
We urge all candidates to reflect on our #VoteEquityTO campaign that will be launched on Monday, October 3rd and fully commit to our policy asks across five key pillars: housing and shelter, transit and internet, decent work, community safety, and community wellbeing.
While the City has taken action to address certain social issues, as evidenced by the HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan – looming challenges persist including an increase in community and gender-based violence, homelessness, opioid-related deaths, hate crimes, and child poverty.
There is a greater role the City can and must play to ensure all residents are cared for and that economic growth is inclusive of all community members.
As frontline organizations, we are witnessing a heightened level of crisis in our shelter and housing programs. More community members are experiencing food insecurity, mental health instability and gender-based violence. As nonprofit agencies, we are also struggling to provide services with current funding models – and we are losing talent to public and private sectors because our wages struggle to be competitive.
We know that many women have been pushed out of the labour market because of the pandemic. Many newcomer and racialized women are stuck in minimum wage jobs with little opportunity for career advancement and no access to benefits or paid sick days. Because women continue to assume primary care responsibilities at home and face wage disparities in the paid workforce, they are more vulnerable to poverty, food insecurity and certain forms of violence.
Women and gender diverse people require access to specialized services that are anti-oppressive and culturally-responsive, as well as specific and additional avenues of financial, caregiving and employment support.
Over the past several years, we have heard many commitments made by the City to make Toronto more equitable for all. However, those words have not always turned into action. Last year, the City conducted extensive research into the impacts of the pandemic and produced a series of comprehensive policy recommendations. But many of the recommendations fell to the wayside. What was the outcome of this research? The City is now working on a new Poverty Reduction Strategy – but what has the previous strategy achieved, in concrete terms? The City claims that it is committed to applying an intersectional equity lens in the budget process but has sidelined community voices and made the process even less transparent. The City has created a Gender Equity Office – but the timelines for the Intersectional Gender Equity Strategy have been delayed and the Office is only equipped by two staff members.
We cannot achieve a more equitable Toronto without comprehensive, adequately supported and intentional plans to get there.
What we need is a bold Council to address the crises before us – before the situation gets worse. And we require clear directives from the highest level in the City bureaucracy to prioritize equity, inclusion and poverty reduction for all residents of Toronto.
Toronto must be a leader in addressing the disparities faced by women, girls and gender diverse people. Municipal election candidates have an opportunity to prioritize gender equity. We urge all candidates to reflect on our #VoteEquityTO campaign and fully commit to our policy demands.