"Homelessness in Canada"
Toronto Star: Canada ‘needs a plan’ on poverty, says campaign group
- OR WOULD CANADA EVER HAVE A PLAN?
A national campaign says the federal government must urgently implement anti-poverty legislation
By: Sara Mojtehedzadeh Work and Wealth reporter, Published on Tue Feb 03 2015
A national campaign supported by over 600 social justice groups says Ottawa needs to urgently legislate a federal anti-poverty strategy to improve the lives of 4.8 million low-income Canadians.
The Dignity for All Campaign, coordinated by the not-for-profit organizations Canada Without Poverty and Citizens for Public Justice, released poverty-fighting platform on Tuesday to parliament’s All-Party Anti-Poverty Caucus. It is aimed to serve as a policy blue-print for political parties ahead of federal elections expected this fall.
“We really do want those politicians that are keen on these issues and about trying to raise them to have yet another tool in the tool box to be able to bring these issues forward especially as party platforms get established,” said Joe Gunn, executive director of Citizens for Public Justice.
The campaign’s strategy is informed by five years of consultation with experts, campaigners, and members of the public. It addresses what it sees as six key areas in reducing poverty: income security, health, housing, food security, early childhood education.
“We need a plan. It needs to be a legislated plan that can be monitored and there can be accountability through the House of Commons,” said Gunn.
Recommendations for federal government include increasing the maximum National Child Benefit payments from around $3600 to $5,600 and developing a universal child care program. According to the anti-poverty movement Campaign 2000, such measures could reduce the child poverty rate in Canada by 15% at a cost of just $174 million in extra funding.
The platform said the government should make it easier for Canadians to access Employment Insurance. It argues that EI entitlements continue to be premised on full-time employment under one employer, despite the fact that the number Canadians in precarious work has increased by nearly 50 percent over the past two decades.
The campaign also highlights the growing number of Canadians who are in employment but still can’t make ends meet – the so-called “working poor”.
Hariette McLauchlin, president of Canada Without Poverty’s board of directors, spent decades as a single mother in poverty, despite having a Master’s degree in social work and steady employment.
“People come to poverty through a number of different doors and its complex. For me, there were a number of different things in place. I needed more support for my children. I needed better housing, transportation and so forth. And there was none.”
Provincial strategies to tackle poverty are already in place across most of the country, with the exception of British Columbia.
But Anita Khanna, who works for Family Service Toronto and is the national co-ordinator of Campaign 2000, said the federal government is a “missing partner” in more local efforts to help low-income Canadians.
“We need this key player at the table to make a concerted effort against poverty.”
*Until the mid-1990s, Canada’s tax-benefit system offset more than 70 percent of income inequality. By 2011, it offset under 40%.
*Between 2009 and 2013, the number of Canadians in temporary jobs grew at 2.5 times the rate of permanent employment
*Less than 40% of unemployed workers qualify for EI benefits
*Canada’s income security system ranks 25th out of 30 developed (OECD) countries
*The federal and Ontario governments are estimated to lose between 10 billion and 13 billion dollars a year due to poverty
Sources: OECD, Metcalf Foundation, Canadian Association of Labour Media, Centre for the Study of Living Standards
SIDEBAR: OTHER KEY RECOMMENDATIONS
*Create a National Housing Strategy and invest at least 2 billion dollars a year
*Create a universal National Pharmacare Program to provide free or low-cost prescription drugs
*Develop a National Right to Food Policy and increase investment in food security
*Establish a federal minimum wage and work with provinces to establish living wage policies of at least $12/hr tied to inflation
*Invest an additional 2 billion dollars in the Canadian Social Transfer to provinces to support poverty reduction
*Lower eligibility age for old-age entitlements from 67 back to 65