'We all benefit when poverty is reduced': CDN-NDG to develop new action plan
Borough councillors will review suggestions put forward by citizens' group
In Montreal's most populous borough, some 45,000 people live below the poverty line, struggling to pay for rent, food and shelter.
Now a citizens' group tasked by the borough of Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce has come up with some suggestions for actions and policies that would help mitigate the struggle so many face.
James Hughes is president of the volunteer-run CDN-NDG Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, a group which was appointed by the borough's previous administration.
"There's always been pockets of poverty in our borough," he said. "When a quarter of your population is living without the means to live in a reasonably secure and comfortable way, that's a problem for all of us."
Members of the roundtable have been studying this issue for a year-and-a-half, looking for solutions. Dubbed "Plan 45,000," the proposal will be presented at the borough council meeting Tuesday.
From there, it will be up to officials to decide what to do with the suggestions.
Trying to make a difference
The priority areas addressed by the plan are housing, revenue and employment, transportation and food security as well as improved promotion of resources and support services already available.
Hughes said the five-year poverty action plan they've created is an "urgent call to action that the borough do something about it — do something in a comprehensive way."
Hughes is no stranger to the issue given his former experience as the executive director of the Old Brewery Mission and as deputy minister for social services in New Brunswick.
"We all benefit when poverty is reduced," he said.
The list of actions the borough could take includes reducing the fees people in poverty pay for sports and social services.
Another suggestion is that the borough adopts an automatic housing inspection program for buildings with more than six residential units. A permit would then be issued to those buildings that meet cleanliness requirements.
The permit would be paid for by the buildings' owners to fund the inspection process, he said.
"That's going to go a long way to make sure these people living in poverty are protected, and we think that's a really structured, pointed way to make a difference in these people's lives."
To reach beyond the borough's borders, the plan suggests adopting a policy that ensures all of the companies it does business with, be they contractors or road salt suppliers, are paying their employees "fair wages and benefits," he said.
Borough to adopt a strategy this fall
Mayor Sue Montgomery told CBC that her administration has already taken steps to address issues of unsanitary housing, putting thousands from the borough's surplus into new social initiatives.
"We are all well aware of the problems," she said. "I wanted some concrete solutions."
She said she wants to work closely with community groups to help improve the lives of low-income residents.
"My feeling is when you lift everybody up from the bottom, everyone benefits," she said.
Once the report is tabled Tuesday, the borough will analyze the suggestions and make decisions about what can be implemented.