Thanks to InsideToronto for covering our last event!
Please see below for an excerpt of the article:
Working poverty is on the rise, and in the case of much of Scarborough, it’s accelerating.
That’s the argument of John Stapleton, a social policy researcher with the Mowat Centre think tank and former government bureaucrat for nearly 30 years with the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services. Despite growth in other parts of Toronto, he sees a rise in income inequality, particularly north of Hwy. 401.
“All those trends we saw before are now accelerating, certainly in Scarborough,” said Stapleton following his talk at an event Wednesday, Nov. 2 in Scarborough organized by the Institute for New Suburbanism. “You can see the growth of working poverty among people who have to live further away from where the jobs are.”
While the downtown core and other affluent areas of the city become further “Manhattanized” from runaway land values and an unprecedented construction boom, that’s not the case in Scarborough and North York where working poverty rises as low-income earners get increasingly pushed to edges of the outer suburbs and out of the city.
That effect makes it appear poverty is on the wane, but in reality it’s only migrated to areas which are more affordable.
“You are seeing eradication there because rents and house prices are pushing it away,” said Stapleton.
The working poor are frequently invisible because their incomes place them just above the poverty line, making them largely ineligible for social assistance, even though they barely make a living wage. Before the long-form census was reinstated, voluntary household surveys virtually guaranteed an inaccurate picture since most people don’t consider themselves to be poor or rich, but middle class.
But the whole-scale collapse of manufacturing due to free trade and automation has resulted in a hollowing out of the traditional suburban middle class resulting in an increase in income polarization, said Stapleton. This is seen in the composition of shopping malls once dominated by the likes of middle-income department stores like Sears, now being replaced by a plethora of dollar stores or high-end luxury outlets.
“These changes mirror the changes in the labour market,” said Stapleton.
The lack of transit options also plays a role in poverty, but he dismissed the idea the Scarborough subway extension will massively boost the fortunes of the working poor, since its primary purpose is to push more people into the downtown core.
“The narrative is Scarborough is not treated well because we don’t have transit and we need a subway to ferry the people to pour the coffee and clean offices downtown,” he said. “That’s not how Scarborough (transit riders) looks at transit.”
Stapleton sees some relief coming for the working poor in the increase of the provincial hourly minimum wage to $14 as of January and up an additional dollar by 2019. He said a livable wage could push individuals a little more above the poverty line.
"We'll have to see what happens with jobs, but if everyone gets a boost we might see a time where we have reductions," he said.