Child poverty levels under fire
TheStar.com – News/Ontario/parentcentral.ca – Child poverty levels under fire
November 25, 2009. Tanya Talaga, Queen’s Park Bureau
One in nine Ontario children lives in poverty, and the Liberal government should not be waiting to invest $2.5 billion to help poor families, says a new report card.
Last December, the Ontario government committed to an ambitious anti-poverty strategy, promising to improve the lives of 90,000 children between 2008 and 2013.
But according to the most recent statistics – from 2007 – the proportion of the young living in poverty in the province hasn’t changed much in the past two decades. And advocates fear the rate is probably higher today because of the recession that hit Canada last year.
“The rate of misery for kids is high and rising,” Armine Yalnizyan, a senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, said at Tuesday press conference to release the 2009 report card on child poverty in the province.
The report card was prepared by the Campaign 2000, a national coalition of 120 anti-poverty organizations.
The report’s release marks the 20th anniversary of the unanimous House of Commons’ resolution to end child poverty in Canada.
Still, in that time there has been little progress, said Yalnizyan. “We have gone from one in nine children living in poverty to one in nine children living in poverty,” even though there was a decade of rapid, blockbuster growth.
“So, economic growth apparently isn’t enough to change the rate of child poverty in this country,” she said, adding that a dedicated anti-poverty strategy “is not something just a bunch of progressives or left-wing analysts would like to see.”
“This is something good for the economy and will actually prevent us from going further into a recession or dragging out the recession.”
Premier Dalton McGuinty defended his government’s progress in fighting poverty on Tuesday.
Despite a record $24.7 billion deficit this fiscal year, the government is moving ahead with full-day learning for 4- and 5-year-olds at an eventual cost of $1.5 billion.
“Experts on poverty will tell you one of the most important things we can do to address poverty over the long term is to ensure kids get the best possible start in education,” said McGuinty. “A good start makes for a strong finish.”
The Liberals have also accelerated the Ontario Child Benefit, increasing the benefit to close to $100 per child a month, he said.
Children and Youth Services Minister Laurel Broten said the province is taking stock of its progress over the past year and will present its annual report next week.
There are about 257,000 children living in poverty in Ontario.
Jacquie Maund, coordinator of Ontario Campaign 2000, says about one-third of them come from working-poor families.
Maund’s group has proposed steps, costing about $2.5 billion, to prevent and alleviate poverty. Among them are more money for social assistance, an increase in the minimum wage, a new housing benefit for low-income tenants and raising the child benefit to a maximum of $125 per month.
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