Adequate federal transfers can help reduce poverty across the country

VancouverSun.com – business
July 21, 2011.   By Laurel Rothman And Adrienne Montani

The premiers’ meeting taking place now in Vancouver provides a vital opportunity to deal seriously with critical issues related to the Canada Social Transfer and the Canada Health Transfer – two major federal funding programs that touch the lives of all Canadians.

The CST supports the provinces and territories in their efforts to reduce and eventually eradicate poverty in Canada.

Services for children, including early childhood education and care, and income support programs for economically vulnerable people, certainly rely on federal funding to accompany provincial or territorial money.

The CST support for post-secondary education, delivered by colleges and universities, helps to develop Canada’s talent pool and prepare our young people for the labour market. Publicly funded and delivered health care services – like your family doctor, the local hospital and community health centre – depend on predictable funding from the CHT (note that health care analysts credit the current CHT agreement with shorter waiting times for high-demand surgery and achieving improved access to health care services).

As we move toward 2013-14, when the current multibillion-dollar CST and CHT will expire, we want to emphasize that these public investments are mutually reinforcing and substantially contributing to our national economy.

These transfers contribute to our social and economic infrastructure so more Canadians can continue to raise their families, hold down jobs or run their businesses.

These transfers go a long way in minimizing the impact of poverty on the lives of millions of people. In an era when health care expenditures are assuming ever-greater proportions of provincial and territorial budgets, it is important to note that poverty eradication is a highly effective cost-containment strategy.

Simply put: Adequate transfers equals reduced poverty; equals better health for all.

Both the CST and CHT are essential investments that can achieve poverty reduction and eventual eradication. Adequate, predictable, accountable and sustained federal transfers are required in areas critical to poverty eradication, including, but not limited to, affordable housing, early learning and child care, child benefits, extended health coverage [drug, dental, vision], and training.

The persistence of poverty in Canada means that far too many adults and children experience chronic cycles of hunger and hardship. Unaffordable housing means that limited food money is used to pay the rent.

Too frequently, adults and families find themselves homeless and relying on emergency or transition supports. Deprivation is the fate of one in three low-income children whose parents work full-time.

Disproportionately high levels of poverty afflict aboriginal people, persons with disabilities, sole support mothers, racialized minorities, and recent immigrants.

Federal transfers also help mitigate the detrimental effects of our current economy on low-income people.

On behalf of all Canadians, we urge the premiers to vigorously re-negotiate enhanced CST and CHT agreements that support publicly funded and administered health care, child care and public housing systems.

It appears that the federal government is considering bilateral agreements with individual provinces and territories instead of maintaining the Canada-wide approach of previous agreements.

We urge the premiers to collaborate and secure adequate, predictable, accountable and sustained federal transfers of funds that are a priority for all of us in Canada.

Laurel Rothman works at Family Service Toronto and is the national coordinator of Campaign 2000. Adrienne Montani is provincial coordinator, First Call: BC Child & Youth Advocacy Coalition

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