Federal Budget Fails Citizens in Poverty

National Anti-Poverty Organization
Media Release: February 27, 2008

Ottawa – An ideological fixation on tax cuts by the Conservative government has little if anything to offer the over three million Canadians living in poverty, says the National Anti-Poverty Organization (NAPO). In a statement in response to Tuesday’s announcement of the federal budget, the Ottawa-based group graded the budget with an “F” for failure to offer meaningful assistance to low-income Canadians.

“As in 2007, the word ‘poverty’ in the Canadian context is mentioned once in the budget,” says Robert Arnold, NAPO’s President. “Contrast that with dozens and dozens of references to ‘tax burden’ and ‘tax relief.’ It is as if the Harper Conservatives believe that poverty is non-existent in this country. They would appear to care more about padding the fortunes of the wealthy than offering immediate and lasting support to the poor.”

The budget shows that individuals earning $15,000 per year can expect $215 in reduced taxes in 2008-09, while those earning $150,000 will pay $3,265 less in taxes.

“The budget contains a few commendable measures such as $110 million for mental health demonstration projects, and an exemption to allow seniors who collect the Guaranteed Income Supplement to retain more of their earnings if they are in the workforce,” says Rob Rainer, NAPO Executive Director. “But otherwise, the budget is virtually silent in helping to address poverty in Canada. There is zero, for example, for affordable housing and for child care spaces, two of the most pressing needs of low- to middle-income families.”

Mr. Rainer says that the Conservative focus on tax cuts contrasts with solid evidence that higher tax countries, such as Sweden, on balance enjoy stronger economic performance and quality of life than lower tax countries.

“This year’s budget bears the title of ‘Responsible Leadership.’ But the Harper Conservatives missed yet another opportunity to demonstrate real leadership on the poverty file,” says Mr. Arnold. “A National Anti-Poverty Act that specifies targets and timelines for reducing and eventually eliminating poverty is needed, backed by a comprehensive pan-Canadian strategy with full public accountability. The Harper Conservatives cannot legitimately claim ‘responsible leadership’ until they make the elimination of poverty one of their highest priorities for Canada.”

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For more information: Robert Arnold (250-595-6871); Rob Rainer, Executive Director (613-789-0096; 819-661-9895 cell). Founded in 1971, the National Anti-Poverty Organization envisions poverty’s eradication in Canada by 2020 through the exercise of political will, corporate social responsibility and community engagement.

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