Major poverty reduction study calls for Ottawa to lead

“Poverty reduction is the right thing to do and it is also smart economics.” NDP’s Tony Martin

New Democrats are lauding a landmark, three-year study into a national poverty reduction strategy tabled in Parliament and calling on the Conservative government to listen to a chorus of Canadians and act on its recommendations.

“This report is a road map for a just and inclusive society. The only obstacle left is the political will to ensure that no one is left behind in Canada,” said New Democrat Poverty Critic Tony Martin (Sault Ste. Marie) who proposed the study in 2007. “Six provinces have anti-poverty laws or plans that are beginning to make a difference. However, solving poverty is a national issue and the Harper government needs to act.”

The focused strategy proposes a new poverty reduction fund, federal leadership in partnership with provinces, territories, cities and Aboriginal governments, and a consultation process to launch a plan within two years, to be updated afterwards every five years.

“Poverty reduction is the right thing to do and it is also smart economics,” said Martin. “The cost of poverty – in health care, criminal justice, social services, lost productivity, lost opportunity – is a cost we cannot afford any longer.”

Key recommendations include:

  • Increase the Canada Child Tax Benefit and supplement;
  • A long-term national housing and homelessness strategy;
  • Measures to help the most vulnerable – refundable Disability Tax Credit, ease EI qualifications; increase adult literacy; increase and index GIS for seniors, implement early learning and child care strategy;
  • Major help for Aboriginal People for housing, education and social services; elimination of the two per cent cap on federal funding;
  • An expanded National Council of Welfare role to resource the strategy and help develop a suite of indices to measure poverty and the strategy’s progress.

Recent reports factoring in Canada’s recession indicate 3.9 million people are poor, a poverty rate of 11.7 per cent or one in nine. This includes 797,000 children and over 700,000 working poor, with higher numbers in Aboriginal, disability, unattached and northern populations.

Already acting on one key recommendation, he has worked with civil society allies to introduce An Act to Eliminate Poverty in Canada (C545) to ensure an ongoing federal responsibility for a poverty strategy.

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