Ottawa axes National Council on Welfare
TheStar.com – news/canada/politics – Federal budget 2012:
Published On Fri Mar 30 2012. Laurie Monsebraaten, Social Justice Reporter
Anti-poverty groups are shocked, but not surprised, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty axed the National Council of Welfare in Thursday’s budget.
The independent, federally-appointed body was created by an act of Parliament in 1969 to advise the minster of human resources on poverty in Canada.
But since the Harper government was elected in 2006, it has ignored the council’s research and advice on how to address growing income disparity across the country, activists say.
“If the government actually heeded the council’s advice, they’d be saving a whole lot more than the $1 million per year they have been spending on the council,” said Rob Rainer of Canada Without Poverty.
A spokesperson for Human Resources Minister Diane Finley said the $1.1 million council and its eight Ottawa-based staff are being cut next year to reduce duplication.
“Many non-governmental organizations . . . provide quality independent advice and research on poverty-related issues,” said Alyson Queen.
“We continue to take poverty issues very seriously, investing in skills, training and support for families to ensure every Canadian has the opportunity to fully participate in the economy,” she added.
However, Rainer and others said their organizations rely heavily on the council’s “excellent” research to inform their work.
The council’s annual report on welfare incomes in Canada is the only comprehensive analysis of social assistance across the country and how it interacts with federal benefits, he said. The council has also produced authoritative reports on child care, child benefits and low incomes in Canada.
Its latest report, “The Dollars and Sense of Solving Poverty,” released in August, showed that it would cost $12.6 billion to give some 3.5 million poor Canadians enough money to live above the poverty line. However, the economic and social consequences of poverty cost Canadians twice as much, the report found.
“So, I guess we don’t want to know anything about poverty or how to solve it,” said NDP MP Olivia Chow (Trinity—Spadina).
“Without the information, no one will be able to report on how many people this Conservative government is leaving behind,” she added. “It’s called out of sight and out of mind. And don’t get in the way.”
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