Vol. 20, #1 - Celebrating 30 Years Of Community Impact


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October 2014


Community Development Halton recently celebrated 30 years of social planning and volunteerism in Halton. At this event, CDH paid homage to Walter Mulkewich with an award that is called, the Walter Mulkewich Community Development Award. This award will celebrate those extraordinary people who come together to take collective action and generate solutions to common problems in their community. It seems so fitting that a man who has brought people together to build a healthy, creative community should have an award named in his honour. Walter’s imprint on this community is profound and lasting. He has worked and is working for change in our small place in this world, the totality of his acts have rewritten the history of this community and are influencing its journey into the future.

In this Community Dispatch, I would like to share with you his remarks at our Annual General Meeting, celebrating 30 years of impact.

Joey Edwardh
Executive Director

Walter Mulkewich: A Celebration
Good evening and thank you for the work of Community Development Halton on behalf of the citizens of Halton.

Anniversaries are an occasion to look back, reflect and learn from the past and also to reflect about the future. I would like to share some personal memories and reflections about the past along with some musings about the present and the future.

Your history is actually longer than 30 years because there were active Social Planning Councils in Oakville dating to the early sixties and in Burlington to the early seventies and before. For many years the Social Planning Council of Hamilton included Burlington in its work, until 1971 when a community meeting established the Burlington Social Planning Council, a meeting I recall attending. From the beginning, this new Council in Burlington was community driven, responding to local community social needs. It started out with a part time Secretary and a small room for an office at Port Nelson United Church.

It was around 1973 that I had lunch with Larry Ogden and Roly Bird, and Roly would later become Mayor. We decided to stand for election to the Board of the Social Planning Council and very quickly Roly became President and I became Vice President.

I recall two of the first issues tackled were the huge need for affordable housing and subsidized childcare – sound familiar? I think these issues are still current? Volunteer committees led both projects. I chaired the housing task force and Rob McKenzie chaired the childcare task force. I mention this because I think there is a lesson here in involving citizens in research projects and advocacy.

One of the early tasks of the Board was to tackle funding – sound familiar? I should note that historically, the Hamilton United Way included Burlington in its catchment area and at first did not understand why a separate Social Planning Council was needed for Burlington. We did our homework, consulted with Burlington agencies, and then met with the Hamilton United Way Board. We argued our case that it was underfunding the Burlington Social Planning Council and Burlington agencies and threatened to set up a Burlington only United Way – and we got increased funding. We also went to the City Council and got a larger grant. Our goal at the time was to establish sustainable funding with municipal contribution at 60% and United Way at 40% – currently CDH is at 44% and 30% leaving 26% to be raised elsewhere. The connection to the United Way is important not only because of the funding but because traditionally Social Planning Councils have been important research arms for United Ways and I hope continue to be so.

With increased funding we hired our first Executive Director, Ted McMeekin, now Minster of Municipal Affairs & Housing and we established a real office on lower Brant Street.

The drive towards a Regional Social Planning Council was partly initiated by the Burlington and Oakville Social Planning Councils having joint discussions regarding cooperation. But mostly, it was a forced marriage by municipal governments saying continued funding to both Burlington and Oakville Social Planning Councils depended on going Regional and also including the fledgling Social Planning Council established in north Halton.

Mayor Bird led the way by taking the position that the Region was responsible for social services and regional planning and that the appropriate place for funding was at the Region not the local municipalities, a position I supported. And, other social services were forced to do the same. The next Executive Director was Susan Goodman followed by Elaine Eastman and then Joey Edwardh.

I recall being appointed Regional Council representative on the first Halton Social Planning Council and Volunteer Bureau Board – and if you don't have a Regional Council representative on your Board now you might wish to consider that because that is an important link. It was not an easy process bringing together people from four municipalities, merging two Social Planning Councils with different cultures from south Halton, and bringing in the social planning group from north Halton.

Councillor Mulvale, later Mayor Mulvale of Oakville, who succeeded me as the Regional representative on the Board, we had a late breakfast last week and shared some memories of the challenges in those days:

  • We recalled that Dundas Street was like the Mason Dixon Line separating north and south Halton and Bronte Creek the line separating west and east Halton.
  • We recalled that there was not only quite a large Halton Social Planning Council Board, but also additional Advisory Boards for each of the four municipalities, a concept that has disappeared - for good or bad?
  • And, there was no Halton United Way as attempts to establish a Halton United Way did not succeed. But, United Ways were established in Milton and Halton Hills, although these two United Ways have never been significant contributors to the Social Planning Council, which represents a real gap for a Regional agency. The Hamilton United Way changed its' branding to be the Burlington Hamilton United Way and paid more attention to Burlington. The Oakville United Way continued to be a major player.

At an early point, Volunteer Bureaus were established in both Oakville and Burlington in the seventies as part of their respective Social Planning Councils. I should note that combining Volunteer Bureaus and Social Planning is not a trend across Ontario, but it has worked in Halton. I should also note that the role and challenges of the Volunteer Bureau in the seventies was somewhat different than it is now. In the seventies, very few organizations had their own Volunteer recruitment staff and recruitment procedures and I think there was a more robust sense of community participation.

I think it is fair to note that the role of the Volunteer Bureau has adapted to changing society and needs by doing much more than linking volunteers to agencies but also to promoting volunteerism and providing information, and providing training and support to local service providers, as well as targeting population groups and corporations. Just looking at the Volunteer Halton website, which is a really good site, reveals the huge service this program of CDH provides the community – a treasure for Halton and its four municipalities which we could not do without.

Social Planning has always been a difficult concept for many people to understand and, yes, for some to accept. Indeed there are many definitions and viewpoints as to what social planning is. My simple layperson definition is that it is a process to assess social issues in a community through research and community participation with a view to improving the wellbeing of the community.

I defined Social Planning as a process. The problem is that people have a hard time understanding processes – but rather want to see results and how those processes benefit them - and this has always been a challenge for social planning, not only to focus on process, but also to demonstrate results from those processes in terms of improvement in the wellbeing of the community – and here is where good communication comes in.

I think that communication has always been an issue social planning has had to deal with. It is about communication to the community, the partners and the funders – but it's about communicating results. My experience in sales and marketing tells me that you do not sell a product - but the benefits of the product. And, I think you need to continually and clearly identify the benefits you are providing specifically to your community, your partners and your funders.

The Halton Social Planning Council rebranded itself as Community Development Halton 10 years ago. Your website lists community development as one element of social planning and is defined as facilitating and supporting "positive change in partnership with community groups and individuals." Indeed social planning and community development must be interconnected and I am not sure where one starts and the other ends.

Over these past thirty years, CDH, its Volunteer Centre, the various reports and the community involvement have been essential to the wellbeing of the Region.

I want to single out two initiatives in recent times:

  • Your work with Poverty Free Halton along with your research on the living wage are particularly important in facing one of the major social issues of this decade, poverty and inequality.
  • Your report on "Where We Live Matters" and neighbourhoods along with your participatory work in the north Burlington and Acton neighbourhoods is taking a community organizing approach which I do not think anyone else in Halton is undertaking. It is about empowerment, building social capital and building community capacity.

On a personal note, I certainly appreciated the help of CDH in two projects I was involved with:

  • The citizen engagement project which I helped to lead in 2010, a project initiated by Mayor Jackson and which was named, Shape Burlington.
  • I also appreciated the role of CDH in the Inclusive Cities Project in 2005, a project that former Mayor MacIsaac and Joey Edwardh co-opted me to participate in and which I was pleased to do.

In 2014, I see three big challenges facing our communities, challenges we face with the rest of Canada:

  • The increasing inequality gap, an issue you focused on when you helped to host Alex Himelfarb and Trish Hennessy in a public meeting, an issue CDH is active in through several of your projects.
  • The climate change challenges as demonstrated by the recent Burlington flood, and increasingly I believe we need to see the challenges of climate change as a social issue and there may be a role there.
  • The dual decline of democracy and social capital, two important concepts that are interrelated and need increasing attention. Democracy is more than the percentage of people who vote, which has been declining; it is also about social capital. I really do believe that we have lost some of the sense of social capital as identified by Robert Putnam who succinctly pointed out that we no longer bowl together in bowling leagues.

Let me conclude by talking a bit about social capital and the future.

Social capital is all about the institutions, relationships and networks that bind us together as a society. Unfortunately, the neo-liberal political and social philosophy that has dominated a lot of discourse since the nineteen eighties has put the focus on individuals rather than social capital. I am not sure we can recreate the kind of social capital that was the hallmark of the great generation that experienced the Great Depression and the Great War and who gave us a progressive society. It is more likely that we can build increased social capital on another model for different times, times that are increasingly characterized by individualism but also new social capital through digital relationships and communication.

In this time of the decline of traditional media, including both print media and television, I think you will need to become more involved and savvier with the world of social media for both communication and research. I believe that you need to strategically expand your presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and more. This is about involving the community, particularly the younger generations, and it is about two-way communication – and increasingly this will be digital.

Yes, the political climate is still dominated by austerity and retrenchment, which affects funding sources and receptivity to your work. This too will likely change, because these things go in cycles, but in the meantime this organization need to find ways to work within that austerity climate, and I think to do so you have to emphasize the benefits of your work and bring in solid support from as many sectors of the community as possible.

It is easy for me to identify three major issues, to throw out some ideas, personal memories and reflections. I could have gone on to talk about other issues such as diversity, youth employment, aging and mobility. Your priorities will need to be identified by the community, in consultation with your funders and community partners, and verified by the rigour of research.

This means remembering the first principles in the history of community social planning and volunteerism – that it is about being community driven. And it is about the courage to take a stand on issues, which you identify.

These are only a few reflections about the past and random thoughts about moving into the future. Again, I want to congratulate and thank CDH for your continuing work and hope you can build on your history as you continue to adapt to the future.

 

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Vol. 19, #2 - Health Care In Canada: What Makes Us Sick?


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December 2013


In 1843, Charles Dickens wrote "A Christmas Carol." Most of us remember Ebenezer Scrooge and his visits from the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. It is the deep resonating voice of the Spirit of Christmas Present that makes me reflect on Christmas 2013. The dialogue between the Spirit and Ebenezer begins:

Spirit: Will you profit from what I have shown you of the good in most men's heart?

Ebenezer: I don't know, how can I promise?

Spirit: If it's too hard a lesson for you to learn, then learn this lesson (he opens his cloak to reveal two small destitute children)

Ebenezer: Spirit, are these yours?

Spirit: These are man's, they cling to me for protection from their fetters. This boy is ignorance, this girl is want. Beware them both, but most of all beware this boy.

Ebenezer: Have they no refuge, no resource?

Spirit: Are there no prisons, are there no workhouses, are there no prisons, are there no workhouses...

In 2013, some one hundred and seventy years later, the Canadian Medical Association has given a powerful message to Canadians in their report, "What Makes Us Sick?" They argue that poverty is the biggest barrier to good health; that it is the main issue that must be addressed to improve the health of Canadians. It seems ironic that on the eve of the Holiday Season, when families come together to celebrate, share good company over delicious foods, that Charles Dickens' Spirit of Christmas Present is still with us.

Joey Edwardh

Executive Summary

Throughout the winter and spring of 2013, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) conducted wide-ranging consultations to gather input on Canadians’ views on the social determinants of health. Public town hall meetings were held in Winnipeg, Hamilton, Charlottetown, Calgary, Montréal and St. John’s and were accompanied by an online consultation at www.healthcaretransformation.ca.

The process was framed around four questions aimed at determining what factors beyond the health care system influence health, what initiatives offset the negative impact of these determinants, what governments and health care providers should be doing to address these social determinants, and how equal access for all to the health care system can be achieved.

In every phase of the consultation, four main social determinants of health were identified by participants:

  • income
  • housing
  • nutrition and food security
  • early childhood development

Several other social determinants of health were mentioned, such as culture, the environment, education and health literacy.

Participants stressed that society, governments and health care providers all have an obligation to address such problems as poverty, inadequate housing and nutrition.

Because the health of indigenous peoples in Canada was seen as being particularly influenced by the social determinants of health, the CMA held a town hall meeting to address the challenges facing Aboriginal people and communities.

Several themes from the town hall meetings were summarized by CMA President Dr. Anna Reid:

  • Poverty is the most important issue and must be addressed.
  • Poverty can cause multiple morbidities and even influence early childhood neurologic development.
  • Mental health issues remain “the elephant in the room” and underlie many of the social determinants of health.
  • Governments need to be pressured to take action, but there is a clear role for citizens, physicians and communities to help deal with the problems.
  • The capacity of non-profit organizations to help is reaching the breaking point.
  • There is a link between a healthy society and a healthy economy.
  • Social initiatives need specific funding and should be viewed as investments.
  • There is a need to look at why society is willing to accept disparities.
  • Social inequities are a major cause of stress and insecurity.
  • The medical profession has the authority and voice to take leadership on these issues.
  • Canadian society has suffered from a lack of imagination, will and leadership to address social inequities.
  • The guaranteed annual income is a compelling concept and can have a positive impact on health outcomes.
  • Structural racism keeps Aboriginal people in poverty; this must be addressed to improve health outcomes for these communities.
  • The cost of doing nothing is very large, so reallocation of existing spending is important.

Based on the input received, clear areas of action have emerged:

Recommendation 1: That the federal, provincial and territorial governments give top priority to developing an action plan to eliminate poverty in Canada.

Recommendation 2: That the guaranteed annual income approach to alleviating poverty be evaluated and tested through a major pilot project funded by the federal government.

Recommendation 3: That the federal, provincial and territorial governments develop strategies to ensure access to affordable housing for low and middle-income Canadians.

Recommendation 4: That the “Housing First” approach developed by the Mental Health Commission of Canada to provide housing for people with chronic conditions causing homelessness should be continued and expanded to all Canadian jurisdictions.

Recommendation 5: That a national food security program be established to ensure equitable access to safe and nutritious food for all Canadians regardless of neighbourhood or income.

Recommendation 6: That investments in early childhood development including education programs and parental supports be a priority for all levels of government.

Recommendation 7: That governments, in consultation with the life and health insurance industry and the public, establish a program of comprehensive prescription drug coverage to be administered through reimbursement of provincial–territorial and private prescription drug plans to ensure that all Canadians have access to medically necessary drug therapies.

Recommendation 8: That the federal government recognize the importance of the social and economic determinants of health to the health of Canadians and the demands on the health care system.

Recommendation 9: That the federal government require a health impact assessment as part of Cabinet decision-making process.

Recommendation 10: That local databases of community services and programs (health and social) be developed and provided to health care professionals, and where possible, targeted guides be developed for the health care sector.

Recommendation 11: That the federal government put in place a comprehensive strategy and associated investments for improving the health of Aboriginal people that involves a partnership among governments, non-governmental organizations, universities and Aboriginal communities.

Recommendation 12: That educational initiatives in cross-cultural awareness of Aboriginal health issues be developed for the Canadian population, particularly for health care providers.

The full report “Health Care in Canada: What Makes Us Sick?” can be found at http://www.cma.ca/advocacy/what-makes-us-sick.

 

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Vol. 19, #1 - Do We Know Who We Are? Limitations Of The 2011 National Household Survey (NHS)


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November 2013


The release of the much anticipated income data from the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS) in September has placed a chill over the planners and providers of social services, municipal services and economic development strategies. Good information is essential for the development of responsive and efficient social and economic infrastructure. Tragically, many of the concerns about the impact on the integrity of the Statistics Canada data as a result of the Government of Canada replacing the mandatory long form census with a voluntary National Household Survey have proven true (See Community Dispatch Vol. 18, No. 5). This Community Dispatch analyzes the limitations to the recently released data on income, homeownership and shelter cost of Canadians. The information is critical in understanding issues of income security and inequality across our land, province and communities. How do we answer the question: Do we know who we are?

Joey Edwardh

This Community Dispatch focuses on the limitations of the income data from the National Household Survey especially in data quality, data comparability and low income measures.

Data Quality

Due to the change in data collection methodology from a mandatory census to a voluntary survey the non-response rate of the NHS is significantly higher than those of the previous long form census. At the national level, the NHS Global Non-response Rate (GNR)1 is 26.1% compared to 6.5% with the 2006 long form census. In Ontario, the County of Peterborough has a high non-response rate of over 38%. A high non-response rate implies low data quality.

In addition to an overall lower response rate, certain population groups are less likely to respond to the survey such as high and low income individuals, Aboriginals, newcomers and visible minority groups. At this point, there is no way to determine their respective response rates. In order to maintain a high level of data quality, Statistics Canada suppresses data release in geographic areas with a non-response rate higher than or equal to 25% in previous censuses. However, given the high non-response rate and the associated non-response bias2 of the NHS, Statistics Canada raised the data suppression threshold from 25% to 50%. In doing so, data are released for more geographic areas but at lower data quality.

"We're concluding it [the NHS income data] pretty much is garbage," said Professor David Hulchanski, University of Toronto.3

The map shows the geographic distribution of the 2011 NHS Global Non-response Rate (GNR) by census tract4 for Halton Region. Although there is no census tract with a GNR over 50%, there are many areas (shaded in dark brown) with non-response rates equal to or over 25% (suppression threshold for previous censuses). Almost two-thirds (63%) of the census tracts recorded non-response rates equal to or over 25%. The map can serve as a reference point for data quality when interpreting NHS data by census tract in Halton Region.

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Data Comparability

Although the 2011 NHS provides a snapshot of the income composition in Canada including income sources, government transfers, income redistribution and income by family types, the data should not be compared with those from previous censuses and other similar sources.

Previous long form censuses include usual residents in collective dwellings (lodging or rooming houses, hotels, nursing homes, hospitals, staff residences, jails and so on) and persons living abroad whereas the NHS target population excludes them. The census and NHS represent two different populations.

In fact, Statistics Canada warns users to use caution when comparing income estimates from the NHS to other household income surveys, administrative data or earlier censuses.5 The methodology of how the information was collected, the concepts used and response patterns can affect the comparability of income information.

One cannot establish reliable trend lines from previous censuses to see if Canadians are better or worse off in terms of their incomes. The data gap created between 2005 and 2010 (income data are collected a year prior to the census) precludes any assessment of the impact of the economic recession in 2008. This also includes potential impact of any government economic action plan.

"...the lack of comparability between the 2006 census and the 2011 NHS will make it very difficult for researchers and analysts to judge to what extent our social programs blunted the impact of the Great Recession on the incomes of many middle-class and working families..." said Andrew Jackson, Packer Professor of Social Justice at York University and senior policy adviser to the Broadbent Institute.6

Low Income Measures

In previous censuses, Statistics Canada employs Low Income Cut-offs (LICO) as a measure of low income. It is an income threshold below which families or unattached individuals spend 20% more than average on food, shelter and clothing needs. LICO thresholds are also set at income levels by family size and size of community.

For the 2011 NHS, instead of LICO, Statistics Canada chose the after-tax Low Income Measure (LIM-AT) as a measure of low income. Individuals are defined as having low income if the after-tax income of their households fall below 50% of the median adjusted household after-tax income in 2010.

While LIM is an important measure used broadly internationally, it is important that researchers have access to data flowing from both measures; LIM and LICO.

Low income estimates from the 2011 NHS compared to previous censuses show markedly different trends than those derived from other surveys and administrative data such as the Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics (SLID) or the T1 Family File (T1FF).7 As such, Statistics Canada stated that the NHS low-income estimates are not comparable to census-based estimates produced in the past.

The data gap on low income between 2005 and 2010 will hinder work on poverty reduction in Halton's local areas and neighbourhoods.

Conclusion

"The main finding of the NHS is that, with weaker ability to track change or measure a growing portion of society, we're losing sight of the Canada we're becoming." said Armine Yalnizyan, Senior Economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.8

Given the problems associated with data quality and comparability, the usefulness of the income data from the NHS is severely limited. Improper use of the data can lead to erroneous conclusions, faulty comparisons, spurious debate and, ultimately, unwise decisions.

At Community Development Halton, we will continue to assess other data sources to meet the data needs of CDH and our community partners.

In the meantime, CDH asks that the federal government reinstate the mandatory long form census for 2016 and beyond.

 


1. GNR combines the complete non-response (household) and partial non-response (specific questions) into a single rate

2. Community Development Halton, 2011 National Household Survey (NHS), Community Dispatch, Vol.18, No.5. June, 2013 – non respondents tend to have different characteristics from respondents. As a result, there is a risk that the results will not be representative of the actual population.

3. Grant, Tavi. 2013. Canadian income data 'is garbage' without census, experts say.
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/without-census-data-on-canadian-income-garbage-experts/article14701515/

4. A Census Tract (CT) is a relatively permanent area with a population range of 2,500 to 8,000 and the greatest possible social and economic homogeneity.

5. Statistics Canada, Income Composition in Canada, National Household Survey, 2011, Cat. No. 99-014-X201100

6. Jackson, Andrew. 2013. Even a bad survey cannot blind us to income inequality. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/economy/economy-lab/even-a-bad-survey-cannot-blind-us-to-income-inequality/article14251936/

7. Statistics Canada, Persons Living in low-income neighbourhoods, National Household Survey, 2011, Cat. No. 99-014-X2011003

8. Yalnizyan, Armine. 2013. National Household Survey provides blurred look at housing.
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/economy/economy-lab/national-household-survey-provides-blurred-look-at-housing/article14271791/

 

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Produced by Community Development Halton
860 Harrington Court
Burlington, Ontario L7N 3N4
(905) 632-1975, (905) 878-0955; Fax: (905) 632-0778; E-mail:
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.