Poverty advice ignored

TheStar.com – comment/editorial – Poverty advice ignored
June 23, 2008

It was released with little fanfare, but the first annual report of the federal chief public health officer resonated with one clear message: Reducing child poverty will improve the health of all Canadians while reducing the overall costs to society.

“Health inequalities are fundamentally societal inequalities that we can overcome through public policy and individual and collective action,” Dr. David Butler-Jones said in his report last week. He noted that every dollar invested in the early years saves up to $9 in future spending on the health, welfare and justice systems.

He urged governments to examine their income redistribution programs and their investments in early childhood development and to devise targeted programs to support children in low-income families.

His was the latest voice calling for action to improve our dismal child poverty record. Canada’s child poverty rate ranks us 19th among 26 nations with 872,000 children, or 13 per cent, living below Statistics Canada’s low-income cut-off. That is the same rate as in 1989 when the House of Commons unanimously voted to eradicate it by 2000.

Butler-Jones wants to engage all Canadians in a dialogue around his report. But no press release on it was issued to the media and no news conference held, and the report was tabled without comment in the House of Commons by a backbench Conservative. This does not bode well for government participation in the dialogue.

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