London city councillors have taken their first step forward with the recommendations from London’s Advisory Panel on Poverty.
During Monday’s meeting of the Strategic Priorities and Policy Committee, councillors reached a compromise and unanimously supported receiving and acknowledging the 112 recommendation report panel members crafted over the last six months.
While the decision to move the report forward to full council for consideration was unanimous, councillors technically didn’t endorse the document.
That was because of changes made to the motion by councillor Phil Squire and Deputy Mayor Maureen Cassidy who met last week to discuss some of Squire’s concerns with the document.
Squire has long been critical of some of the panel’s recommendations including lobbying for London to be a provincial test site for a guaranteed minimum income pilot project.
Through their discussions, the motion before the SPPC was amended to call for city council to receive updates on progress made on the recommendations. Council will also have to approve any potential spending of municipal funds.
The committee’s supportive vote also paves the way for establishing a group to make sure the panel’s recommendations are implemented, something Medical Officer of Health and Poverty Panel Co-Chair Dr. Chris Mackie said is a crucial next step.
“It was fantastic to see such a strong endorsement from council in terms of committing the resources to support the implementation process,” Mackie told AM980 after the meeting. “To see city council unanimously agree that they need to be committing resources to make that implementation happen is really fantastic.”
Mackie said he’s optimistic about those next steps.
“We have a huge community movement that is happening,” he said. “It is absolutely crucial that we do bring people with lived experience of poverty into the conversation and have them at the centre of the decision making process. I think if that didn’t happen, this process wouldn’t be able to be successful, but there is the commitment of doing that and I’m very excited about it.”
Melissa Sheehan was closely watching Monday’s committee discussion. The homelessness advocate took part in the panel’s community consultations over the past six months and was at City Hall on Monday to hear the SPPC’s decision. She told AM980 after the vote she didn’t always think the panel would be effective.
“I was skeptical at first like a lot of Londoners, but after talking with the panel members, going to the meetings and sharing my experiences, I’ve come around to kind of wholeheartedly supporting this report,” Sheehan said. “It’s an excellent step in the right direction.”
One of the recommendations the panel hopes can be addressed within the coming year is the idea of providing free rides with the LTC for children 12 years of age and under. Councillor Phil Squire voiced his support for the recommendation, even tabling a motion to ask staff to cost out the idea.
Initial estimates say the plan could cost in the neighbourhood of $137,000 a year.
“I’m looking forward to the transit (recommendation) because it’s been needed for so long,” Sheehan told AM980. “I know so many friends and family that are of low income. Like many councillors and panel members said they have to choose at the beginning of the month, ‘Do I get food or do I save so I can take my kids to their appointments?”
The SPPC’s decision will be discussed during Tuesday’s meeting of full city council where it’s expected to be approved.
Photo credit: Councillor Josh Morgan, via Twitter