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Bold ambition for child and family poverty eradication

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2018 Report card on child and family poverty in Canada
Publication Date: 
20 Nov 2018
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Introduction

The promise of a new beginning inspires much joy and hope when a child is born. For too many parents, this hope is quickly clouded with worries about affording today’s necessities – rent, healthy food, childcare and transit. Sadly, many are also pessimistic about whether their child’s generation will be better off than their own.

Despite Canada’s enormous wealth, over 1.4 million children live in poverty with their families. Stress, anxiety, stigma, hunger, poor nutrition and hopelessness have profound effects on their life chances and can reverberate over time within families, communities, cities, and indeed the country. The historic release of Canada’s first Poverty Reduction Strategy (CPRS) in 2018 is a new starting point in the fight against poverty, but it is not as ambitious as required, given the gravity of the problem. There is considerably more work to do to ensure poverty reduction does not skip yet another generation.

In contrast to 1991, when Campaign 2000 began issuing report cards on child and family poverty, the challenges faced by low- and middle-income families are well documented. Today, families contend with the growing income and asset gap, widespread precarious, part-time work and dismally inadequate social assistance rates. Low incomes leave too many families hungry, compromising their nutrition and forcing them to rely on food banks. The shortages of affordable, quality housing contribute to poor health and growing demand for space at homeless shelters and long commutes to work that force parents to spend time away from their children. Without employer bene ts, access to vital healthcare supports, such as medication, dentistry and physio are limited. These systemic inequities and discrimination based on race, immigration status, gender, disability and sexual orientation intersect with poverty to seed social exclusion and deepen inequality in Canadian society.

In advance of the 30th year of the all-party commitment to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000 and the federal election in 2019, our spotlight is on the central role of universal childcare in the eradication of child poverty. The lack of affordable, high quality childcare robs children of valuable learning environments and keeps parents, mainly women, out of the workforce, education and training. Without childcare, parents cannot lift themselves out of poverty and improve their living standards.

It is unfortunate that on the eve of the 30th year since the all-party resolution, the new CPRS will leave Canadians waiting until 2030 for a 50% reduction in poverty. For people in poverty and those supporting them, a strategy that plans to leave nearly 3 million Canadians in poverty after more than a decade of effort is cold comfort.

While the current federal government has made important investments against poverty, we cannot be content with doing more than previous governments if we are still not doing enough. The CPRS is an important new starting point in Canada’s battle against poverty - but it is not yet the strategy the country desperately requires. The case for more immediate action is clear: child and family poverty are bad for our health, bad for the economy and bad for society. Let us not look back at 2018 and say we should not have been silent in the face of such a limited strategy. We must raise our concerns clearly, articulately, vigorously, and responsibly.

Campaign 2000 calls for more ambitious poverty reduction targets and shorter timelines as well
as a costed implementation plan that shows how poverty reduction targets will be achieved. This implementation plan must include four elements, boosting family incomes through adequate income transfers, intervening in the labour market to create and maintain good jobs that move the worker out of poverty, providing high quality, accessible public services, and supporting community building in low- income communities. We commend the government on the Canada Child Bene t (CCB), but note that regular review is needed to ensure that the CCB is meeting poverty reduction targets, given changing economic circumstances and demographic realities. As well as improving income transfers, the government must focus on universal childcare. Only this model will avoid the ghettoization and stigmatization of poor children.

Accountability, community involvement, a human rights approach and ongoing investments are also fundamental to the CPRS’ success. Canada requires a strong CPRS so that poverty eradication can finally stop being tomorrow’s promise and become today’s reality.

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Entered Date: 
20 Nov 2018
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