Definition of poverty stalls federal committee – Canada – Definition of poverty stalls federal committee
April 16, 2008
Joanna Smith, Ottawa Bureau

OTTAWA–The federal government should hurry up and define poverty so it can move on to doing something about it, said witnesses at a parliamentary committee laying the foundation for a national poverty strategy yesterday.

“The well-being of low-income Canadians is not influenced by whether or not they are poor,” Richard Shillington, a senior associate with economic research company Informetrica Ltd., said later. “It’s influenced by government programs that are there to help them.”

The House of Commons human resources and social development committee is studying the issue with an eye to developing a national poverty plan. It’s hearing from groups and individuals from across the country.

There was some frustration expressed at its third public hearing yesterday as witnesses discussed the pros and cons of different poverty measures, urging the government to pick one and get to work.

“It looks like we have been trying to define poverty out of existence instead of doing something about it,” committee member New Democrat MP Tony Martin (Sault Ste. Marie) said in an interview.

He remained optimistic that the “all-party, non-partisan” committee could break this semantic cycle and come up with a plan, which would require federal government approval before coming into effect.

Topics ranged from the cost of prescription drugs to the absence of banks and credit unions in low-income neighbourhoods, but centred on the role the federal government should play in reducing poverty.

The parliamentary committee is scheduled to meet again tomorrow.

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