Toronto should not be tops in child poverty

Posted on October 14, 2015 in Social Security Debates Opinion/Editorials – A new report says Toronto has the highest percentage of children living below the poverty level among 14 major cities in Canada.
Oct 13 2015.   Editorial

As Toronto city council received the final version of a proposed poverty-busting 20-year plan on Tuesday, it also received a stark reminder of why one is so desperately needed.

Sadly, Toronto is the child poverty capital of Canada, according to a new report that finds 144,000 children in the city are living in need.

Given Toronto’s population, it might not be surprising that it would have the most children living in poverty. But that’s not why it holds this embarrassing title. Nor is it just because the cost of living is higher here and wages don’t go as far.

It’s because out of 14 major cities, Toronto has the highest percentage of children – a stunning 28.6 per cent – living below the poverty line.

That is both distressing and unacceptable. And it makes it all the more important for Toronto to move forward on a strategy to create a prosperous city for all by 2035.

The city is off to a good start. In 2015 it spent $25.9 million on reducing poverty, including free transit for children under 12, new shelter beds for the homeless, more student nutrition programs, after-school programs and child care subsidies. Meanwhile, Deputy Mayor Pam McConnell told the Star’s Laurie Monsebraaten she hopes the city will double that spending to $50 million in 2016, and that with federal and provincial allocations Toronto could be investing $100 million to fight poverty next year.

As usual, numbers don’t paint a picture of the face of child poverty. But they are shocking nonetheless. For example, of the city’s 140 neighbourhoods, 18 have child poverty rates above 40 per cent, while in Regent Park it’s 63 per cent.

And it isn’t getting better. The report notes the poverty rate for children is “stuck” at the 2007 level, and has been getting worse since 2010.

So why is Toronto’s rate so high, when a city such as Quebec City’s is only 9 per cent? Partly it’s because of the high number of newcomers to the city. “Poverty rates are highest in the most racialized and diverse neighbourhoods,” notes Michael Polanyi of the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto. And partly it’s the trend toward precarious and part-time employment in the city. The recent Vital Signs report found less than half of the workers in the GTA and Hamilton have permanent, full-time jobs with benefits.

As a result, many live below Statistics Canada’s After-Tax Low-Income Measure of $39,912 for a two-parent family with two children under age 16.

While the child poverty report’s findings are discouraging, there is now well-founded hope that city council will support the anti-poverty plan in November that will begin to give these children new hope. And that is a glimmer of good news on a sad front.

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One Response to “Toronto should not be tops in child poverty”

  1. Kimberly says:

    I was quite upset to learn that Toronto is the CAPITRAL of child poverty in Canada. It is so sad to know that a place I love to call home is the capital of one of the biggest issues that I take to heart. It upsets me that I have been so oblivious to this issue even though I claim to be an activist when it comes to issues like child poverty/ homeless youth. I have been so caught up with my own life trying to get my degree to get to where I want to be so I can help solve issues like this that I have completely ignored with what is happening in the now.

    Even though this article gave me such a negative impact it was comforting to see that the social welfare system is willing to spend $25. 9 million to resolve the child poverty in Toronto. However, it upsets me that this article claims that the poverty rate in a place I call home has not been improving by much. Quite frankly, it has been getting worst since 2010. I am truly upset with how oblivious I was about the child poverty rate. These are the issues that I take to heart and truly one of the reasons why I am in a social work program. To end the phenomenon of poverty and homelessness. After knowing this statistic about home I intend to start change in Toronto after my post-secondary education.


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