Making poverty a priority

Posted on in Social Security Debates

TheStar.com – Opinion/Readers’ Letters
June 27, 2015.   Moses Shuldiner / Richard Ring

Your editorial lavished praise on Toronto’s new 20-year anti-poverty strategy. I was troubled that the incidence of poverty in our city has doubled since the 1970s despite the heroic efforts of many private and public initiatives to alleviate this condition.

In 1988 there was an all-party resolution in the House of Commons to end child poverty in Canada by the year 2000. This led to the formation of Campaign 2000 to bring about this goal. Yet here we are in 2015, and child poverty has increased.

Perhaps poverty reduction is a dead-end strategy. I propose that poverty should be eliminated. A guaranteed annual income (GAI) would ensure that no citizen had to endure the hardships and indignities of poverty. We already have a system for tracking annual income and making payments to individuals as needed — Revenue Canada.

Our present system of income supports and the cost of administration could be better used to fund the GAI. Studies in Canada and the U.S. have shown that people on GAI have decreased health care costs (they can afford to pay for treatment of acute conditions before they become chronic), pursue educational opportunities and often become taxpayers.

Poverty is not a moral condition, but a defect in the economic distribution system. Isn’t it simpler to change that distribution system than make a multitude of grand gestures that have a long history of failing to correct the situation?

Moses Shuldiner, Toronto

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It was shocking to learn that 29 per cent of the children in Toronto live under poverty conditions. Particularly so since some 25 years ago, all MPs in Ottawa were celebrating their unanimous agreement that child poverty was to be eliminated by the year 2000.

As we get closer to the federal election, there has been a deafening silence from all the political leaders, while the middle class gets all the attention. When more and more children and their families have to rely on food banks for daily survival, it should surely be an issue for voters to raise with the candidates.

Successful poverty reduction plans elsewhere have always involved the participation by the national government. A recent example was a five-year plan agreed on by the coalition government of Sweden. It resulted in a 60 per cent drop in child poverty, which went from 3.2 per cent to 1.3 per cent. All levels of government cooperated.

We are shamefully behind many countries. Surely we should demand better as we have a chance to do in the next few months. The Toronto plan and many others deserve federal and provincial help.

Richard Ring, Grimsby

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