Ontario is heading to the polls in this first provincial election since our world was upended by a pandemic that has deeply impacted members of our community who were already living precariously: those who are underhoused, those who are underemployed and those who have long been under-supported, and continue to face systemic barriers, especially Indigenous, Black and racialized people, people with disabilities, 2SLGBTQ+ people, women and newcomers. To meet growing needs throughout this crisis, United Way Greater Toronto has worked alongside elected representatives of all political stripes and dedicated bureaucrats of all levels of government. And we’ve collaborated with an outstanding network of 300+ poverty-fighting agencies. Together, we’ve delivered food, expanded mental health services and more.
Because taking care of people is our collective job. Our community, our economy and our region all benefit when the social services and government work hand-in-glove. United Way Greater Toronto has always been proud to be a strong bridge between these two vital sectors. United, we are an exponential force for good, one our community will need as we navigate the uncertain times ahead.
We all want this crisis over. Many of us talk about our relief to be heading back to the office, our local restaurants, the gym. But the reality is that for some, especially those from historically disadvantaged communities and neighbourhoods, the pandemic was catastrophic. And repercussions like today’s record-high inflation and unaffordability, impacting the cost of everything from food to shelter, only serve to compound challenges and perpetuate deep need. Needs that must continue to be met by a resilient yet strained sector, that at times has been running on fumes – frustrated, exhausted and disrupted too – but still the lifeline that so many rely on to access what they need, from childcare to seniors’ care, from shelters to community health centres.
Investment in a strong and sustainable community services sectors is vital to our shared future – and not just to respond to urgent and basic needs. But also, to tackle the most troubling systemic issues — where poverty, geography and equity intersect, — that limit the full capacity of our communities today and rob our province of potential for the future:
- housing that is increasingly beyond the means of low to modest income families to afford, let alone the twin tragedies of mental illness and poverty that are resulting in increasing levels of homelessness
- a growing income gap and the lack of good jobs and decent pay or adequate income support to manage today’s staggering cost of living – where buying groceries or filling the tank become impossible choices
- And through it all, a lack of access to the community supports that enable people to overcome structural barriers.
The answer lies within community. Together with local agencies and community partners, United Way has helped to develop a plan – one that requires a united effort. A resourced and at-the-ready community services sector, yes. And more: engagement — from the boardroom to community centre, from private sector to civil society — that will ignite the political will and leadership to bring about bold public policy.
In this critical moment that harbours such hope and packs such potential for transformation and shared prosperity, each of us has a role to play. It starts with caring about your neighbours, your community, your region – and doing something about it. Telling canvassers at the door and leaders vying for your support what issues and priorities matter to you. Casting your vote for an inclusive future, one without poverty. And then, most importantly, after election day has come and gone, staying on it, pressing for action and accountability to ensure that our provincial government lives up to its commitment, steering a course that leads us all forward, and leaves no one behind.