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Campaign aims to get voters interested in poverty issues

Local anti-poverty groups will launch a campaign on Tuesday to try to get voters thinking about poverty issues during the federal election.

Local anti-poverty groups will launch a campaign on Tuesday to try to get voters thinking about poverty issues during the federal election. 

Groups such as the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction and the Association of Dundas Churches will kick off the Vote to End Poverty campaign, an effort that includes lawn signs.

The campaign will try to raise awareness of issues such as homelessness, employment insurance and affordable housing, said Tom Cooper, roundtable director.

Organizers want the major parties to pay attention, Cooper said. But the ground-level goal is to influence voters.

"Success locally would be encouraging more low-income people to get out and cast their ballots," Cooper said. "Seeing greater turnout in low-income neighbourhoods would be really important."

Figures from the last federal election show a correlation between household income and voter turnout. Even at the riding level, Hamilton Centre has an average income of $31,032, for example. Voter turnout was 54 per cent in 2011.

In Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale, by comparison, voter turnout was 69 per cent and the average income is $47,636.

The Vote to End Poverty campaign is non-partisan, Cooper said. The goal, says its media advisory, is to encourage voters to ask their candidates about these issues. Hamilton is one of more than a dozen communities participating.

Every week, Cooper said, the campaign will highlight a different public policy issue. That will include affordable housing and a national childcare strategy.

"Really, this is a conversation starter locally over the next seven weeks," he said. 

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