Canada fails in its promise to end child poverty

TheStar.com – Opinion/Editorials – Editorial Campaign 2000 reports that, almost 25 years after MPs voted to end child poverty, there are even more poor kids in Canada.
Nov 27 2013.   Editor

Few parliamentary actions have been so well-intentioned yet produced so disappointing a result. Almost a quarter-century ago the House of Commons unanimously voted to end child poverty by the year 2000. But more children are living in a low-income household than in 1989, when Members of Parliament made their optimistic pledge.

About 967,000 Canadian kids — one in seven — live in families that fall under Statistics Canada’s “low-income measure,” according to an annual report released by Campaign 2000 on Tuesday, the anniversary of Ottawa’s historic pledge. When that bright promise was made, there were 912,000 kids in poverty.

The burden is not equally distributed. Four in 10 indigenous children are considered poor. And, as reported by the Star’s Laurie Monsebraaten, 38.2 per cent of Ontario children cared for by single mothers are being raised in a low-income environment.

While government has failed to keep its commitment, non-profit organizations and private donors are stepping in to try to fill the gap. The Daily Bread Food Bankannounced bold targets for its holiday food drive on Wednesday, hoping to raise $2.5 million and a million pounds of food.

To put that challenge in perspective, the Toronto organization’s holiday drive raised just over 555,000 pounds of food in 2012. Daily Bread’s goal this season is high, but the need is great. More than a million people turned to food banks in Greater Toronto last year.

The agency especially needs canned fruits and vegetables, tinned fish, tomato sauce, peanut butter, baby food and formula, powdered milk, beans, rice and pasta. Donations can be made at fire halls and participating grocery stores. What’s given is shared by 170 agencies that deliver 200 food bank and meal distribution programs.

But non-profit groups, and generous donors, can’t end poverty alone. They can only hope to ease its sting a bit. The rest is up to government. Campaign 2000, a coalition of labour and anti-poverty groups, is urging Ottawa to draft a practical, nation-wide strategy to finally eliminate poverty. It would need to include an affordable housing plan, since so much of poor people’s income goes to just keeping a roof over their heads.

Queen’s Park could make a great many lives easier by boosting the minimum wage, increasing the Ontario Child Benefit, and delivering a much-needed $100-a-month increase for singles on welfare.

With more determination and a stronger commitment to change, governments could yet deliver on a promise made to the poor that has become so painfully overdue.

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