Jan 17 2013

by Mark Cabaj, Tamarack – An Institute for Community Engagement

The idea of “policy change” pops up regularly nowadays in Pathways for Changeconversations where people are doing whatever they can to dramatically strengthen their communities. They share a sense that public policies – e.g. income security policy for seniors, policies designed to manage the pace of oil sands development, regulations that determine what drugs are covered (or not) by public health plans – can yield the deep, broad and durable results people desire.

Yet for all the increased focus on changing public policies, many advocates are unclear about precisely how to go about it. In her resource, Pathways for Change, Sharon Stochowiak helps de-mystify the policy change process by laying out six common theories or pathways for policy change. These include:

  • Large Leap Theory - Like seismic shifts, significant changes in policies occur when the right contextual conditions are in place (e.g., the battery of new policies and regulations to reduce the practice of drinking and driving that emerged in response to pressure for action by police services, politicians and the courts).
  • Coalition Theory - Policy change happens through the coordinated activity of a range of individuals with the same core policy brief (e.g. When a coalition of agencies encouraging a city to adopt an urban food policy).
  • Policy Windows - Policy changes occur when advocates are able to effectively define a problem, possible solutions, and/or shape or take advantage of the contextual factors that encourage “action” on the problem (e.g. the recent “window” to regulate gun ownership in the United States that emerged after the horrible incidents of gun violence).
  • Messaging & Frameworks - Policies change when advocates frame or present issues and policy options in a way that reflects the worldview and preferences of decision-makers (e.g. encouraging a Provincial Government concerned about a tight labour market to support the policies that strengthen early learning and care programs as way to encourage more parents to participate in the workforce).
  • Power Politics (Power Elites Theory) – Policy changes are more apt to occur when advocates develop relationships and work with those in positions of power and influence (e.g. working with oil and gas companies to develop policies that balance resource development and environmental sustainability).
  • Grassroots (Community Organizing Theory) – Policy change happens when those people directly affected by an issue work together to address that issue, including pressuring decision-makers to change specific policies (e.g. residents of an inner-city neighborhood organizing to pressure a municipality to change a policy that encourages suburban traffic to move quickly (and dangerously) through their streets).

For each theory, Stochowiak provides a short account of its underlying assumptions, a visual account of the typical activities and outcomes related to the theory, and some points on the practical applications of the theory by advocates.

The six theories laid out in this brief are not comprehensive (there are more ways to change policies than these six) nor are they mutually exclusive (they can be woven together). However, they are helpful to advocates of policy change in a variety of ways:

  • They sharpen a group’s thinking about which approach best suits their particular context and guides their planning once they settle on what they feel may work.
  • They can be used to help communicate their overall approach to others who would want to understand – and perhaps support – their work.
  • They offer a framework to monitor and evaluate their policy change activities and outcomes.

Changing policies is a tricky and unpredictable business. Stochowiak makes the compelling case that having a good theory of change can make the enterprise more robust, manageable and improve advocates’ probabilities of success. And in the high stakes game of community-building, where every little bit helps, the document Pathways for Change is a welcome resource for would-be change makers.

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Dec 05 2012

The City of Toronto launched its 2013 budget process on November 29. In this post, you will find information about how to get involved, the key dates, and useful news articles and resources.

Want to make your voice heard?

  • Sign up to make a deputation to the Budget committee on December 10 and 11. You can sign up now by adding your name to the deputation list and/or submit a written deputation at buc@toronto.ca or by calling 416-338-5851.

Useful news articles

Useful resources

1. City of Toronto Budget documents

Latest information

Operating Budget

Capital Budget

 2. Additional information from the community

Social Planning Toronto (SPT)

Commitment 2 Community

Wellesley Institute

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternative

3. Key dates

  • November 29, 2012: Budget Committee Launch
  • December 3-6, 2012: Budget Committee Review – 2013 Capital and Operating Budgets
  • December 10 & 11, 2012: Budget Committee Public Hearings
  • December 12 & 17, 2012: Budget Committee Wrap-Up
  • January 8, 2013: Budget Committee Final Wrap-Up
  • January 10, 2013: Special Executive Committee considers 2013 Capital and Operating Budgets
  • January 15-17, 2013: City Council considers 2013 Capital and Operating Budgets


Aug 14 2012

by Sylvia Cheuy, Tamarack – An Institute for Community Engagement

When Barack Obama, a community developer by training, became the President of the United States, he created The White House Council on Community Solutions to advance collective impact in communities. Earlier this month, the Council released its final paper, Community Solutions for Opportunity Youth, a fascinating report with solid recommendations for how communities can be more effective at “putting every young person on a clear path to economic opportunity.”

A representative from the Council, Paul Schmitz, will join us as a key thought-leader at the Communities Collaborating Institute 2012: Innovating Together.

Today, 6.7 million American 16-to-24-year olds – roughly 1 in 6 in this age group – are disconnected from both school and jobs. Research shows that connecting young people to the labour market early is critical for shaping their skills, attitudes, and outlook on life. It also impacts far beyond youth themselves. Research by Columbia University/Queens College, CUNY found that in 2011 U.S. taxpayers shouldered more than $93 billion to compensate for lost taxes and the direct costs to support disconnected youth, and that amount will grow to more than $1.6 trillion over their lifetime.

The Council’s report reflects conversations with more than 350 youth and community leaders across the country and confirms that youth have energy and aspirations. They recognize their responsibility to develop solutions with local leaders that improve their lives, benefit their communities, and help youth nationwide. To acknowledge their untapped potential, the Council chose to refer to this population as Opportunity Youth.

Speaking about the White House Council and its focus on youth, Patty Stonesifer, Chair of the White House Council, said, “Across the country, citizens and local leaders are combining their resources to achieve needle-moving change on a range of complex issues – from reducing violence to increasing graduation rates – and changing what’s possible for their communities. By applying the same focus and discipline toward supporting opportunity youth, we can dramatically change the trajectory of their lives, as well as our economy and society.”

The Council identified some key principles and recommendations that Canadian youth and community leaders can also benefit from.

Three fundamental principles were identified as central to effectively address the needs of opportunity youth:

  1. Young people are key to the solution – Opportunity youth have informed views of what works for them and their peers.
  2. All sectors must unite to address the challenge - To see dramatic, measurable progress, families, communities, schools, employers, nonprofits, and the government must pull together in the same direction to provide the diverse range of services needed.
  3. Policies and funding must be data-driven – Policy and funding decisions need to be guided by accurate data about opportunity youth and effective interventions to ensure the most effective use of limited funding.

The Council’s recommendations focus on four key strategies to significantly reduce the number of opportunity youth and make even more substantial progress toward putting all young people on a path to prosperity. The four strategies are:

  1. Drive the development of cross-sector community collaboratives – These collaboratives use a common approach and embody a core set of characteristics to solve a range of social issues, including supporting opportunity youth.
  2. Create shared national responsibility and accountability for opportunity youth – Coordinate and share rigorous data to shine a national spotlight on who these young people are, what they need, and what they are capable of doing.
  3. Engage youth as leaders in the solution – This ensures that relevant, high quality, and increasingly effective programs and resources for opportunity youth are being created and supported.
  4. Build more robust on-ramps for employment for opportunity youth – These initiatives need to be designed to meet the needs of communities and young people by linking education and training to local jobs.

At a summit hosted by the Council to release this report, several national organizations announced new collaborative initiatives to support the report’s strategies. Two include:

  • The Spark Opportunity Challenge – a crowd-sourcing competition for young people to propose their own visionary, yet viable solutions to create jobs, build and enhance skills, and bring about real change for opportunity youth.
  • The Aspen Forum for Community Solutions & the Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund will spotlight communities that are successfully pulling together to move the needle on a community challenge, providing national and local leaders with the knowledge, tools and resources needed to launch a successful needle-moving collaborative, especially those focused on reconnecting opportunity youth to school and work.

With an emphasis on what’s possible through collaboration and the value of community-led solutions, the Council believes that implementing its recommendations will lower the number of opportunity youth by a minimum of ten percent. This, they acknowledge, “will lead to significant progress toward putting all of our young people on a path to prosperity.”

The Council’s participation on our recent Communities Collaborating Institute shows how ideas know no borders and sharing innovative, community-led initiatives benefits us all.

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Jul 17 2012

“Social innovation is both a destination – the resolution of complex social and environmental challenges – and a process – devising new approaches that engage all stakeholders, leveraging their competencies and creativity to design novel solutions.”

- Tim Brodhead, 2011

By Al Etmanski (writing for Tamarack – An Institute for Community Engagement)

Social innovation: What is it? Why is it currently garnering such interest? And what’s needed to enable it to flourish? These are among the many questions explored by the BC Social Innovation Council (originally known as the BC Advisory Council on Social Entrepreneurship). The Council’s final report, Action Plan Recommendations to Maximize Social Innovation in British Columbia (PDF), culminates a comprehensive province-wide process with a set of recommendations and suggested framework to enable social innovation to flourish in British Columbia. The Council and its work also inspire others in the growing field of social innovation.

What is Social Innovation?

The Council’s discussion paper, Together: Respecting Our Future (PDF), defined social innovations as “ideas, products, services, processes, statutes, resources, protocols, and technologies that solve a social problem while generating new social relationships, partnerships, collaborations, connections and financing.” It also acknowledges that, around the world, social innovation has emerged as a “frame of reference for action to address existing and emerging social, financial and environmental challenges.”

In an earlier discussion paper, Taking Care (PDF), the Council stated that social innovation is beyond the scope of a single idea, organization or program, and means being intentional about:

  • Cultivating and supporting new approaches that work;
  • Aligning existing expertise and experience in new ways;
  • Using the expertise and resources of all sectors (business, community and government);
  • Adopting an entrepreneurial, business oriented approach to achieving social impact; and
  • Linking innovations with structural, institutional and systemic change.

Social Innovation: Why Now?

Interest in social innovation has grown, in part, from the awareness that our society’s traditional approaches to addressing complex social issues, are neither sustainable nor responsible. Traditional social safety nets are reaching their limit, and yet the programs they support are not getting the results we want and need. At the same time, changes in the economy are challenging us to find new ways to pay for, deliver and transform the public services. It is clear that transformation is needed; but how that transformation should look is far from clear: there are no simple solutions.

The Council’s social innovation process included dialogue sessions with diverse stakeholders focused on what could be put in place to enhance and increase citizens’ capacity to take care of each other in the future. The key question for this work was: How can we use social innovation (and its corresponding tools of social enterprise, social media, open source, smart collaborative networks, and social finance) to enable a resilient British Columbia in 2020?

Supporting Social Innovation to Flourish

The Council’s unique composition of tri-sector co-chairs, elected official and public service blend, political leadership and a spirit of non-partisanship had never before been tried in BC. In a recent blog, I as one of the Council’s three co-chairs (from the business, government and community sectors) used an Emily Carr quote to describe the Council’s structure: “perfectly ordered disorder, designed with helter skelter magnificence.” 

From the outset the Council was committed to modelling the spirit and value of working collaboratively by bridging faulty assumptions, traditional boundaries, misunderstandings and past grievances. This has given us a common appreciation for our challenges. And I believe that this approach is one of the reasons the Council’s recommendations already have momentum behind them – with alliances, resources and commitments coalescing around most of the recommendations.

The job to shepherd the Council’s recommendation to implementation has been handed to a newly created successor, Partners for Social Impact. This group will welcome additional individuals, groups, institutions and companies to this work and will no longer be advisory to government. Instead the BC government is committed to join other members as an equal contributing partner.  British Columbia now has the opportunity to make something magnificent of the Council’s perfectly ordered disorder.

Related links:

Jun 14 2012

by Sylvia Cheuy, Tamarack – An Institute for Community Engagement

Paul Schmitz, CEO and founder of Public AlliesWe at Tamarack are thrilled that a representative from The White House Council on Community Solutions will be joining us as a key thought-leader at the Communities Collaborating Institute 2012: Innovating Together.

The White House Council for Community Solutions was established by President Obama in December 2010 to share creative ideas and collaborative approaches for building healthy communities across America. In developing its approach, “The White House Council decided to look beyond individual programs showing success with limited populations and instead look at where communities are solving problems together and moving the needle in a way that improves results for the whole community.” The Council’s decision to accept our invitation to the CCI 2012 reflects their desire to engage a global network of peers in sharing its work.

The Council’s delegate to the CCI 2012 is Paul Schmitz, CEO and founder of Public Allies, an organization whose mission is to advance new leadership to strengthen communities, nonprofits and civic participation and demonstrate the conviction that “everyone can lead, and that lasting social change results when citizens of all backgrounds step up, take responsibility, and work together.” He is also a faculty member of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute at Northwestern University, blogs on leadership for the Washington Post, and is the author of Everyone Leads: Building Leadership from the Community Up.

Paul’s work has garnered considerable recognition and praise. He was selected as a Next Generation Leadership Fellow by the Rockefeller Foundation, was recognized by the Nonprofit Times as one of the 50 most powerful and influential non-profit leaders in America, and is a recipient of Fast Company magazine’s Social Capitalist Award for innovation.

Recently Paul co-authored Needle-Moving Community Collaboratives: A Promising Approach to Addressing America’s Biggest Challenges, an article published by The Bridgespan Group. This paper begins by recognizing that, “In a climate of increasingly constrained resources, those solutions must help communities to achieve more with less. A new kind of community collaborative – an approach that aspires to significant, community-wide progress by enlisting all sectors to work together toward a common goal – offers enormous promise to bring about broader, more lasting change across the nation.”

It then reviews a number of successful cross-sector collaborative across the U.S., and synthesizes the core operating principles, key success factors, and supportive resources these collaboratives need to fulfil what the authors identify as the following primary roles: convening, facilitation, data collection, communications and administrative support.

We welcome Paul as the latest member of the 2012 CCI: Innovating Together Learning Community and look forward to learning more with him in the weeks and months to come.

Related links:

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May 22 2012

by Mark Cabaj, Tamarack – An Institute for Community Engagement

Tamarack has provided regular and comprehensive coverage to the Vibrant Communities initiative since it began in 2002. And why not? It was a grand experiment (2002-2011) by a group of urban collaboratives from across Canada and three national sponsors to significantly reduce poverty through comprehensive and multi-sectoral efforts that yielded significant results and lessons.

The results include concrete reductions in poverty. Over a dozen local poverty reduction roundtables contributed to 256 initiatives that have generated 439,435 benefits to 202,931 low income households. The same groups were involved in scores of systemic and policy changes and improved the local awareness and commitment to reduce poverty over the longer term.

The lessons included how to work in new ways: working across sector boundaries, engaging low income and business leaders, working comprehensively on poverty’s root causes and embracing a learning-by-doing approach that encourages risk and innovation. These insights – and many more – are captured and shared in a variety of reports, books and podcasts that are available on the Vibrant Communities Canada website.

key-numbers-chart-tamarackThe learning continues. The work of local Trail Builders – and the mining and distilling of their results and learning – was made possible thanks to a large and diverse array of national supports. This included generous multi-year grants; hands-on coaching from seasoned experts; an ambitious research and policy agenda; a pool of tools and techniques; a larger number of tele-learning calls exploring new practices and change stories; regular peer calls between communities; a variety of face-to-face learning events; a comprehensive website; and a constant series of electronic newsletters. Local communities and national sponsors invested a great deal of time, money and energy in developing and using a sophisticated “architecture” of supports rarely seen in other national efforts.

What difference – if any – did it all make? What are the lessons for supporting other local efforts to tackle complex issues? These are the questions that Jamie Gamble of Imprint Consulting Inc. explores in the soon-to-be released second (and last) installment of the Vibrant Communities evaluation: Inspired Learning: An Evaluation of Vibrant Communities National Supports.

Throughout 2011-2012, Jamie and his team reviewed program files and interviewed the local “users” of these supports to understand how they worked and how – if at all – they influenced the activities and outcomes of local groups. Their findings are captured in a fifty-page report that covers the following:

  • A description of each of the Vibrant Communities supports and how they worked
  • A summary of the ever-evolving “architecture” of how these supports worked together
  • Four case examples of how Trail Builder communities used different supports
  • A general assessment of the use and value of each support
  • An exploration of what supports worked for whom and when

Based on these findings, Gamble draws an important conclusion: it may not be necessary to provide such a robust, elaborate and expensive constellation of supports to all local efforts tackling complex issues (e.g. poverty, homelessness, high school graduate rates); however, it was critical in the case of the Vibrant Communities initiative which operated with the concurrent objectives of: (a) providing support to local groups so that they were able to generate concrete reductions in poverty; (b) mining and distilling their results and findings to share with others; and (c) encouraging other communities and the policy makers and funders that support them to adopt this approach to tackling poverty.

Gamble’s recommendations to national intermediaries, funders and communities are useful to communities and organizations involved in the next iteration of the Vibrant Communities – Cities Reducing Poverty – and for anyone else who dreams of “moving the needles” on the most complex issues of our time.

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May 22 2012

Ratna Omidvar, Bruce Kuwabara and Charles PachterAt a recent Canadian Club event Rex Murphy delved into the stories of three outstanding Canadians – Ratna Omidvar, Bruce Kuwabara and Charles Pachter.

You can watch video of the entire event.

For the key comments and messages from the three Order of Canada recipients, read the tweets we captured from the event:


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Mar 28 2012

By Paul Born, President, Tamarack – An Institute for Community Engagement

I have long been a student of community. I am curious about people’s varied definitions of it and how the sense of belonging to something beyond oneself, while at times a burden, can serve as a source of inspiration for generosity and shared action. Often, people’s definition of community includes a specific physical place where one lives or works, a place whose well-being is linked to that of your own. Innovation – finding new ways of thinking about and addressing long-standing issues – is another concept I have studied for some time. Throughout much of my adult life, my work has focused on the intersection between community and innovation: nurturing new approaches to address the social challenges that exist within communities by working together. This is community innovation.

Community innovation is not a new concept however. To respond effectively to today’s growing ecological and economic chaos, the need for every community to strengthen its capacity to invite, host and sustain community innovation is a growing imperative. A recent editorial published in the Vancouver Sun made this point well. It stated, “Finding solutions to our communities complex challenges is beyond the scope of a single entity. And, rather than one singular approach or plan, a multitude of ideas that hold the promise over time of solving some of society’s most intractable and vexatious problems will need to be generated, refined and implemented. That’s why the emergence of a movement – let’s call it the Collective for Social Innovation – aims to bring together people from different sectors with big ideas on how to tackle the most difficult problems society faces.” This same editorial also points out that the ability to work collaboratively is “easier said than done.”  Among the reasons given: finding common ground may be difficult; ambitious goals have to be set against stressed budgets and available time; and, measuring outcomes is not always straightforward.

Since 2006, we at Tamarack have hosted the Communities Collaborating Institute (CCI) with the aim of helping leaders from various sectors and communities to enhance their capacity to initiate, lead and sustain community innovation. This week-long learning event offers participants an opportunity to come together; learn from one another and thought-leaders in this field; and, find a range of resources and tools to support successful innovations within their own communities. The fact that the past several CCIs have been over-subscribed confirms that the CCI has become the premier learning event of its kind in Canada.

Work being led and championed now by CCI alumni – who draw on and have contributed to a growing body of knowledge for effective community innovation – demonstrates the effectiveness of multi-sector collaboration in addressing the complex social issue of poverty.

Here are just two examples:

  • Abbotsford, BCVibrant Abbotsford collaborates with existing poverty reduction efforts and focuses on efforts that will contribute to moving people from poverty, including: employment and entrepreneurship; housing; education and the personal development financial assets; building social connections and health activities. They also champion efforts that build local understanding about poverty. Most recently they have successfully started a working group in partnership with the City of Abbotsford to begin the development of a city wide poverty reduction strategy.
  • Halton, Ontario - The Halton Poverty Roundtable (HPRT) recently launched its community plan and secured three years of funds to support their continued collaborative effort to reduce the cost of poverty in Halton. Its priority focus areas are: housing, healthy families, and income security. The HRPT believes that poverty hurts Halton and that every citizen can be part of the change.

While the work championed by these initiatives is somewhat different, they share a common commitment to community engagement, multi-sector collaboration and collaborative leadership to address the complex issue of poverty. These are fundamental ingredients for effectively incubating and sustaining community innovation.

If you are interested in enhancing your capacity to lead and host such work, we hope you will consider attending the 2012 CCI: Innovating Together from October 1- 5, 2012 in Kitchener Ontario. Our list of thought-leaders continues to evolve however we are very pleased that the following dynamic individuals have confirmed:

  • Margaret (Meg) Wheatley is one of the most respected writers, speakers, and teachers of leadership and systemic change of our time. Meg has been a major inspiration to the Communities Collaborating Institute and we’re thrilled to be welcoming her in person for the first time to share her ideas and engage with learners at the CCI.
  • Tim Brodhead is an inspirational leader and innovator who is recognized as one of Canada’s great champions for collaborative community change.
  • Al Etmanski is an author, advocate, and one of Canada’s most important social entrepreneurs embracing the importance of innovating together.
  • Michael Jones is a Juno Award Nominee pianist and composer (12 albums) and leadership educator who will inspire our minds with his words and our souls with his music.
  • Joe-Anne Priel may just be one of Canada’s most passionate civil servants. As the General Manager of the Community Services Department, Joe-Anne oversees a budget of over $350M and full-time staff of 1752.
  • Jenny Kain is a community innovator having worked to advance new ideas with the City of Edmonton for over 20 years.
  • Alan Broadbent is one of Canada’s most influential social visionaries and philanthropists. As a business leader, his work in social policy, poverty reduction and collaborative leadership has generated unprecedented national and international outcomes.

We hope you will join us and our fellow thought-leaders at the 2012 Communities Collaborating Institute so that, together, we can accelerate our communities’ capacity to effectively “innovate together” and find new ways of addressing the complex social challenges facing us by working together.

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(Originally published in Engage!, Tamarack’s monthly newsletter)

Dec 30 2011

Ratna OmidvarWe are so very, very excited to congratulate Ratna Omidvar on being appointed a Member of the Order of Canada!

We think this is a great opportunity to reflect on some of Ratna’s recent thoughts and insights about her experience coming to Canada, and her hopes and dreams for our country.

For those of you who may be new to Ratna, here’s a short bio:

Ratna Omidvar is president of Maytree, a private foundation that promotes equity and prosperity through its policy insights, grants and programs. Under Ratna’s leadership, Maytree has been recognized for its commitment to developing, testing and implementing programs and policy solutions related to immigration, integration and diversity in the workplace, in the boardroom and in public office.

Two recent initiatives have been the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) and DiverseCity: The Greater Toronto Leadership Project. Internationally, Maytree is best known for the Cities of Migration project.

Ratna serves as a director of Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance (formerly Toronto City Summit Alliance), the chair of the Board of Directors of TRIEC, and a director of Connect Legal.

In 2006, she was appointed to the Order of Ontario and, in 2010, the Globe and Mail profiled Ratna as its Nation Builder of the Decade for Citizenship.

Last year, Ratna gave the 4th annual June Callwood Lecture at the Toronto Reference Library. Her speech, “A Canadian in the Making,” was of a very personal nature and she chose to write four letters to Canada:

  • Exile
  • Endurance
  • Awakening
  • Redemption

“As I prepared for this year’s lecture, I thought about the thirty years since my arrival in Canada, and how much Canada and I have changed,” explained Ratna. “How much we both are a work in progress…. I’m going to tell you my story in Canada… My story is no different than that of the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who choose to make Canada their home. We all have a starring role in the same reality show.”

Read more (PDF) and watch Ratna describe her journey from exile to belonging, from refugee to one of leading social activist creating opportunities for a better Canada.

YouTube Preview Image

While Letters to Canada chronicles much of Ratna’s life in Canada, she hasn’t stopped reflecting, wondering and contributing to our country.

Recently, Ratna Omidvar expanded on her hopes for Canada when she spoke about immigration, integration and inclusion at the second Martin Luther King lecture organized by the Koerber Foundation in Hamburg.

Titled “The Next Dream,” Ratna noted that it is now more and more unlikely in countries such as Canada to witness open acts or expressions of racism. But systemic barriers to inclusion still exist. While much has been accomplished in the battle for equality, Dr. King would agree that much still needs to be done. Ratna discussed how one important way to overcome these barriers is to focus on, talk about and learn more about how immigration impacts us positively. That is the only way to get past one’s inherent fear of the new, different and foreign.

Martin Luther King lecture – listen:

Read the full text of her lecture online.

In 2012, Ratna’s call to action to all of us in Toronto, and beyond, is to focus on our mutual hopes and dreams, to connect more with each other, to invest in our communities. She asks us all to really focus on the hard but rewarding work of inclusive community engagement.

“So my hope for 2012 is for all of us to get a tad sticky and to put our fingers in the glue.”

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Sep 28 2011

With the tax credit/”foreign workers” story featuring strongly in the news these past weeks, immigrant and employment issues have certainly come to the forefront of this election already.

Maybe it’s caught your attention and you want to dig a bit deeper.

We do recognize that the interests of our diverse Canadian population extend well beyond the specific area of immigration integration platforms, especially in areas of health, housing and anti-poverty. With this post, we seek to provide brief insights into issue areas that impact and are impacted by our work in Ontario.

Typical poll process - Ontario election 2011We encourage you to read all party platforms so you can cast an informed vote.

(please note, many of the PDFs linked to below are quite large, they make take some time to open/download)

Liberal Party

The Liberal Party Platform is available in English and 21 other languages and in PDF format.

Quotable quotes:

“Immigration is another Ontario advantage. The quicker we engage the skills newcomers have when they arrive, the quicker they will succeed. We’ll create a tax credit for business to give our highly skilled newcomers the Canadian work experience they need.” (page 25)

“Immigration is vital to Ontario’s success and we’re proud to be Canada’s No. 1 destination for immigrants. Given the importance of attracting the best workers – those with skills that are vital to our economic success in the future – Ontario Liberals will demand the same control over immigration that the federal government has granted Manitoba, British Columbia and Quebec.” (page 51)

Additional issue coverage (pages refer to the PDF):

  • Poverty reduction – page 47
  • Work, employment, education – page 14
  • Health – page 30

More details about the No Skills Left Behind Training Credit.

They’ve also outlined two additional platforms:

Conservative Party

Their platform is available on their website and for download in PDF format.

Quotable quotes:

“We will create more opportunities for newcomers to Ontario. We will make Ontario a magnet for the world’s best and brightest by reducing barriers for potential new Canadians, particularly for people who settle in Ontario’s small towns.  To ease our newcomers’ transition we will improve transparency of foreign credential recognition, and create a tax credit for employers who sponsor language training.” (page 12)

“We will increase residency placements for medical students from Ontario who have pursued world-class medical training outside Canada and want to return home to practice.” (page 19)

Additional issue coverage:

  • Social assistance – “We will require welfare recipients to be residents of Ontario for one year before collecting benefits.” (page 30 in the PDF)
  • Jobs plan (also on page 7 in the PDF)
  • Health (also on page 16 in the PDF)

They’ve also developed a Changebook North, also available in PDF format.


Their platform is available on their website and in PDF format for download.

No specific mention of immigrants or newcomers.

Additional issue coverage (pages refer to the PDF):

  • Work and Jobs – page 20
  • Health – page 28

Green Party

Their platform is available on their website and in PDF format for download.

No specific mention of immigrants or newcomers.

Additional issue coverage:

Questions for candidates, or for you to think about as you consider each party’s platform

You may attend a candidate forum/debate. You may not. Regardless, some organizations have created some great questions on specific issues we think are important. Reviewing them gives you questions to keep in mind as you read party platforms.

Additional useful sites:

For general news, information and resources about the election, we recommend these sources:

How do I vote?

Elections Ontario has the information you need, including voter information in 34 languages.

Have we missed anything? Let us know in the comments below.

(photo from Elections Ontario)

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