Poverty costs us all

WellandTribune.ca – archive
Dec. 16, 2011.    By Dave Johnson/Tribune Staff, Port Colborne

“Whether it’s poor health, crime, a loss of productivity, any number of things … it costs us dearly,” says Lori Kleinsmith, health promoter at Bridges Community Health Centre.

“Politicians may say poverty is not on the radar. They say constituents are too worried about jobs and the economy; those are valid things, but most people don’t recognize what poverty costs us.”

Kleinsmith says many clients of the health centre have lived in poverty conditions and Bridges staff have seen what it’s done to them.

“More needs to be done. Advocacy is part of what we do and we’re trying to mobilize people around this issue.”

Kleinsmith says that’s why Bridges is piggybacking on a Dignity for All’s campaign to draw more attention to poverty and get support for Bill C-233. The private member’s bill calls for the elimination of poverty in Canada.

It’s the second time the bill has been before Parliament; a version of it died last year in the House of Commons.

“Since then, the Senate has come out with a report and the National Council of Welfare came out with a report called The Dollars and Sense of Solving Poverty. That report lays out an economic rationale for eliminating poverty and it has the evidence behind it.”

Kleinsmith says an economic argument for eliminating poverty is something that can be brought before all levels of government in Canada.

“Over the last 30 years, even when the economy has been at it best, we still had 10% of the population living in poverty. With the recent recession, the numbers are higher than that.”

And while many people think of those living in poverty as people who are homeless or on welfare, one in three people living in poverty have jobs and an education.

“Living in poverty has nothing to do with having a job or education. Poverty is a complex issue and action needs to be taken on all levels.”

Though various levels of government put money toward reducing poverty, it’s not enough. Most of the approaches taken, says Kleinsmith, are Band-Aid solutions.

“They never really go far enough for true change to happen.”

What needs to happen, she adds, is an investment approach.

“We either pay now or pay later.”

With Canada not having a federal poverty reduction strategy, there is a real need for collaboration between the provinces and federal government, she says.

“It’s too big of an issue for anyone to take on on their own. There is a role to be played at all levels when it comes to reducing and addressing poverty.”

Even at the local level, policies, like an increase in taxes, can affect people who are living in poverty.

Kleinsmith says if there was an overarching national poverty reduction policy, it could set goals and timelines and keep track of progress being made.

“Politicians need to hear from constituents that poverty is an issue and something needs to be done,” she says.

Kleinsmith has shared the petition with a number of her contacts and hopes others can do the same.

Bridges has a copy of it online — www.bridgeschc.ca — that can be printed. The petitions, with a minimum 25 signatures, can be taken to local MP offices or dropped off at Bridges in Port Colborne at 177 King St. For more information on Dignity for All, see www.dignityforall.ca. To see the National Council of Welfare’s report, check www.ncw.gc.ca/l.3bd.2t.1ils@-eng.jsp?lid=433.

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