The past year and a half have proven to be one of the most challenging periods in our country’s recent history. In addition to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, resulting impacts such as massive unemployment rates, home and food insecurity and increasing debt have tested the nation and all levels of government. As the country inches closer to the polls, and a state of COVID-19 recovery, we at WoodGreen Community Services believe there is a unique opportunity for the incoming federal government to prioritize the goal of an inclusive economic recovery to ensure we can all weather the challenges that lay ahead.
To achieve this, we recommend the federal party leaders prioritize four key areas of action to ensure our country’s recovery is effective and long-lasting.
1. Rapid Affordable Housing Relief
Over the past year, COVID-19 has underscored just how deeply intertwined housing is with health and wellbeing. The housing affordability crisis is one that the government will not be able to solve alone.
As the second-largest affordable housing provider in Toronto, we continue to work towards our ambitious target of adding 2,000 new units over the next 10 years, bringing our total stock to 3,000. The current mix of government grants and loans available for new community housing development, however, still does not meet the broad range of affordability needs for families across the country. A gap remains between what is affordable to our community members — especially those who face complex challenges — and the rents that make building and operating community housing possible. Adjusting the balance in favour of more grants would help non-profits like WoodGreen to create more affordable housing supply faster to respond to our communities’ needs.
2. Introducing a National Mental Health Strategy
Mayor John Tory recently shared a letter with the federal party leaders to highlight priority issues for Toronto, including the need for a robust mental health strategy.
Last year, WoodGreen joined the City of Toronto and several other key mental health service providers to support the municipal government’s implementation of a mental health support strategy in response to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, our services have continued to be a vital support for our clients and local community residents. We support the Mayor’s call for action on mental health to ensure resiliency as we move towards recovery.
3. Strengthening our Diverse Workforce
As a significant provider of employment services, we recognize the increasing challenges and barriers that job seekers who lack the savings, education, or social safety net, continue to face throughout this pandemic. As Canada opens up its borders to Afghan refugees and a targeted 400,000+ newcomers annually over the next three years, it is imperative that the government and industry stakeholders work together to remove barriers to accessing the labour market, if we hope to achieve a successful and inclusive economic recovery.
WoodGreen remains a champion in supporting the revitalization of employment services and workforce development programs within our communities. We're ready to collaborate with industry partners to pilot new approaches and develop effective models that can be replicated and expanded across the country.
4. Implementing a National Child Care Strategy
As a long-time operator of nine child care centres and programs, WoodGreen recognizes the importance of women and family-centred policies as a way to achieve an inclusive economic recovery. We would like to see the next government implement a National Child Care Strategy as well as adopt the YWCA’s proposal for a feminist recovery. Without such measures, we will see families fall further behind, in particular women, who were forced to exit the labour market to care for their dependents.
A Time for Real Action
With just under three weeks left of campaigning, candidates have a lot of ground to cover in a short amount of time. While there are many issues on the table, we believe that achieving an inclusive economic recovery will prove most beneficial for Canadians over the long term. As the country continues to transition into a phase of recovery, WoodGreen Community Services is here to support the Government of Canada as it works to ensure our health care system, communities and economy remain resilient for generations to come.