Ontario has a two-speed economy: Toronto and Ottawa are creating employment and opportunity, while the rest of the province is, on average, seeing stagnant employment growth. This is a difficult but not impossible problem to solve — and failing to solve it would have significant economic and political consequences.

There are real differences between Toronto/Ottawa and the rest of the province. One is that, due to their size, the two cities’ economies are more diversified than those elsewhere in the province. Our two regions — Toronto/Ottawa and the rest of Ontario — are roughly the same size when it comes to population and employment numbers. In October 2002, an estimated 3,045,700 people worked in Toronto and Ottawa, while 3,044,900 worked in the rest of the province. Data on employment by CMA goes back to 2001; since then, Toronto and Ottawa have seen a dramatic increase in net new jobs, but the rest of the province has experienced little growth.

A 74-year-old man spent his final hours last week in a spot where he had spent much of the last years of his life: at a nook in a Vancouver Tim Hortons.

Witnesses said the man, Ted — whose last name is not known — may have been slumped at his table, unresponsive, for several hours before he was noticed.

In the city with the most expensive houses in Canada, 24-hour restaurants have become a means of survival for many people. Advocates and experts say that Ted’s death is an indictment of a system that has failed to provide shelter for the city’s most vulnerable.

“Fast-food places take the place of the shelters that we don’t have,” said longtime homeless advocate Judy Graves.

It’s an unfortunate reality of our current electoral system that political parties regularly form majority governments with only forty percent or less of the popular vote. This means Doug Ford could become Premier of Ontario on Thursday while receiving fewer votes than Andrea Horwath’s NDP. How is this perverse outcome possible, you might ask? It’s because Conservative voters are more evenly distributed across key ridings than their opponents. The NDP vote is more concentrated in certain places. This could very well allow Ford to garner more seats in the legislature, even though substantially more Ontarians vote for the NDP.

We cannot allow this to happen.

With budget top of mind for Ontario voters, it’s time to talk about who’s winning and who’s losing in our economy. The evidence couldn’t be clearer: the divide between the rich and poor continues to widen. And many of us who are doing well simply have no clue how poor our neighbours are.

Or maybe the problem isn’t that we don’t know, it’s that we think living in poverty is a lifestyle choice. We blame people who are poor for shoddy budgeting or getting themselves into bad situations.

At Community Food Centres Canada, we know this couldn’t be further from the truth…

Tent cities are not the ultimate solution to a housing crisis but play an extremely important role, says a Vancouver lawyer who has fought on behalf of homeless people in that city.

A homeless camp allows vulnerable people to be together for emotional support and safety, provides community and makes it easier for social service agencies to find and help them, said Anna Cooper, with Vancouver-based Pivot Legal Society, which works alongside marginalized communities.

“Tent cities are also playing an extremely important role in harm reduction right now, while we’re in the midst of a national overdose crisis,” she said.

Andrea Horwath’s NDP is at the top of the class when it comes to dealing with the health impacts of poverty, according to a report from an alliance of anti-poverty health-care workers in Ontario.

The New Democrats earned a B+ in the Health Providers Against Poverty election report card, while the Green Party of Ontario was given a C+ and the Liberals a D+. The Progressive Conservatives received a failing grade because their platform met “only a small proportion” of the authors’ criteria. The report was initially released last week and then updated over the weekend to accommodate the late-arriving PC platform.

Last month, Prince Edward-Lennox & Addington Social Services (PELASS) completed its participation in Ontario’s homeless enumeration, the first province-wide count of its kind in Canada.

Through the assistance of 20 services providers in both counties including food banks, health providers and other community services, more than 100 questionnaires were completed by those considered homeless or precariously housed.

Questions on the survey included participants’ current living conditions, history and reasons for homelessness, health issues and more. The information collected over the week is being collated and presented to the province, municipal governments and any local service providers interested in the final report.