With the holidays upon us, and the election going on hold, it’s bonus time for Bay Street CEOs of both the Liberal and Conservative persuasion.
But it’s bogus time for too many of us. The National Anti-Poverty Organization (NAPO), estimates that 4.7 million Canadians live in poverty today, including one in six children (15.6 per cent). More than 50 per cent of female lone parents are poor.
Ed Broadbent, the veteran NDP MP, retires from Parliament next month. He’ll leave public life disappointed that successive Liberal governments have failed to adopt a real poverty reduction strategy. Despite all-party agreement to his 1989 resolution to end child poverty by the year 2000, his dream to see child poverty ended in Canada remains just that – a dream.
The growing gap between rich and poor is also a racialized one, and politicians have known this for years. Much higher rates of poverty face Aboriginal peoples, recent immigrants and persons with disabilities. An estimated 1.2 million youth are living in poverty and are in danger of falling into a life-long poverty trap.
The gap between rich and poor is increasing yet the Liberals or the Conservatives refuse to tackle it.
We need a multi-faceted comprehensive strategy to end poverty in Canada. Such a strategy would improve the lives of marginalized groups by setting the federal minimum wage at $10 an hour and indexing it to the cost of living.
It would improve the EI system by reducing qualifying hours to 360 and increasing benefits. It would provide targeted employment and training programs for marginalized youth. It would increase the Canada Social Transfer to $10 billion over the next three years supported by accountability and welfare rights legislation. It would also reduce students’ fees for post-secondary education.
We need to make poverty history both domestically and internationally. Canada’s overseas development assistance funding is still below par in comparison to many European countries.
The Martin Liberals have yet to reach the target of 0.7 per cent of gross national income (GNI), a commitment that was first made many years ago. The Canadian Council for International Cooperation reminded the government of its committment [PDF download] to a 15 per cent increase in aid until the year 2015, which would bring Canada to the 0.7 per cent target.
The NDP budget bill in the spring of 2005 added $250 million in development assistance for the 2006/07 year. The federal government would only have to add an extra $5 million next year and $300 million in 2007/08 to get on track. This is a fraction of the amounts promised in corporate tax cuts (another bonus for Bay Street).
The Liberals’ record on poverty is clear. They keep it going. And the Conservatives’ policies would only increase it. If either party were actually inclined to resolve to make poverty history, let’s hope it is a resolution that would be kept.
Supposedly, the spirit of the season is one of giving. Time then for the Liberals to give a damn about poverty, or for voters to give them the boot on Jan. 23.
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