July 21st, 2017

Taking action on poverty

By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on February 15, 2017.

The Liberal government is putting the wheels in motion for the planned development of a national Poverty Reduction Strategy.

Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, unveiled on Monday two initiatives to support the creation of a strategy, with one of them aimed at giving Canadians from coast to coast a say in the process of reducing poverty.

The nation-wide consultation process will a Poverty Reduction Strategy engagement website, including discussion forums and online town halls. The plan is to complement the online input by holding roundtables with provincial, territorial and municipal governments; Indigenous organizations; businesses; community organizations; academic experts and Canadians who have experienced poverty.

Besides the consultation process, the other initiative is creation of a ministerial advisory committee on poverty. The committee, according to a news release, “will act as a sounding board and a forum for in-depth discussion on issues related to poverty reduction. Specifically, the committee’s role will be to discuss and test ideas generated in the public consultations and provide independent expertise and advice on issues…”

Another aspect of the Poverty Reduction Strategy that was announced in September – the Tackling Poverty Together (TPT) research project – is already examining the impact of federal poverty reduction programs locally in six Canadian communities.

In announcing the new initiatives, Duclos said, “Poverty is a complex issue that affects more than three million Canadians.”

That’s a lot of Canadians – approximately nine per cent of the population, according to statistics. The news release noted that single people aged 45 to 64, single parents, recent immigrants, Indigenous people and people with disabilities are more likely to experience poverty.

The organization Canada Without Poverty estimates the poverty numbers as even higher – 4.9 million people, or one in seven. The group also says that between 1980 and 2005 the average earnings among the least wealthy Canadians fell by 20 per cent. In addition, nearly 15 per cent of elderly single Canadians live in poverty.

Poverty is an issue that needs serious examination and discussion. Canada Without Poverty estimates it costs Canada between $72 billion and $84 billion annually. The charitable organization also points out that the World Health Organization has called poverty the single largest determinant of health, leading to illness as a result of poor nutrition, inadequate shelter, greater environmental risks and less access to health care.

Canada’s Poverty Reduction Strategy sounds like a good idea – if it produces concrete plans that actually succeed in reducing poverty.

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