Hot! Harper government won’t act on anti-poverty plan

TheStar.com – news/Canada
Published On Mon Mar 07 2011.    Heather Scoffield, The Canadian Press – Ottawa

The federal government has no plans to act on an exhaustive House of Commons plan to fight poverty.

The Commons human resources committee took three years to assemble 58 recommendations that would have given Ottawa a key role in efforts to help the poor.

The report called for a new federal transfer payment to complement provincial anti-poverty programs. It also pushed for a national housing strategy.

But in her formal response to the report, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley says Ottawa is already doing what it takes to fight poverty.

She says the government has bolstered the labour market and invested in housing through its Economic Action Plan.

“Our Conservative government believes that the best way to fight poverty is to grow our economy and get Canadians working,” Finley’s spokesman summed up.

Ottawa’s role in fighting poverty is focused on giving Canadians the skills they need to be self-sufficient and then using tightly defined government programs to target barriers they can’t overcome on their own, Finley’s response says.

It goes on to list various programs the government has established over the last few years to help people prepare themselves for the job market and make ends meet.

“The best long-term strategy to combat poverty is the sustained employment of Canadians and the government is making significant investments toward this goal,” the response concludes.

But Finley’s reply does not specifically address any of the 58 recommendations from the MPs.

“I think it’s an abdication of responsibility,” said Mike Savage, the Liberal human resources critic. “It’s the federal government saying ‘it’s not our problem.’”

The committee devoted 63 meetings over three years to hear from 260 different witnesses, said Tony Martin of the NDP.

“This answer is a slap in the face to all those folks.”

The committee was told repeatedly that federal leadership is essential in dealing with poverty so that a diverse array of community and provincial programs can be made more effective, Martin said.

The MPs also heard that better federal funding for affordable housing would be the key to helping many impoverished communities, he added.

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