In 1989, the House of Commons unanimously resolved to eliminate poverty among Canadian children by the year 2000. At the start of 2005, 1.2 million Canadian children, or nearly one in six, are still poor. Most of these children are members of families where one or more of their parents are working. Here some disparate statistics that should make every Canadian wake up and smell the coffee.
- The child poverty rate has been stuck around 18% of the population since 2000, despite the economic growth in this country
- Inequality between the rich and poor has deepened despite economic growth. Canada's top 10% of the richest families with children had average incomes that were more that 13 times higher than the bottom 10%
- The number of children living in poverty has risen 20% since 1989
- 41% of food bank users in 2004 were children.
- Child poverty rates for Aboriginal, immigrant and children in visible minority groups are more than double the average for all children.
- Child poverty rates among children with disabilities are 27.7%
These are shameful statistics. We need to do better.
Public concern over child poverty in Canada has consistently been ranked a priority issue, along with health care and education, both of which can affect the rate of child poverty. Significant resources have been devoted to healthcare and education, and yet the challenges remain the same. During this election, there has been an increase in public concern about gun crime and youth violence in some parts of Canadian cities notoriously poverty stricken. We have also been shocked recently by the continued deplorable living conditions on First Nations reserves.
An effective plan to address child poverty needs to be tied to healthcare, education, housing and work/labor opportunities. Research and common sense has shown time and again that there is a link between a healthy start in life and the long-term impact on the well-being of children is clearly established. If the rate of child poverty was significantly reduced, this country could see a reduction of health care costs over the long term. Offering an equal playing field from birth for all children is essential to promoting progressive economic growth........the key to equity.
What needs to change?
An action plan that could make a real difference, and would utilize the 40 billion dollar surplus that the Liberal government is stashing for a rainy day. The minimum wage and the consideration of an income supplement program must be seriously considered. Affordable housing, so that families are not spending more than a quarter of their wages on rent, must be provided. Early intervention and "Headstart" programs as well as "well child" clinics need to be implemented across the country.
The numbers are not going to change, unless we start taking responsibility for the innocents of this country who have no voice. Investment now means psychological, physical, economic and productivity growth in the long run. Is there a party that is willing to think outside of the "4 year mandate window" to make a long term investment?
1 in 6 children.........................we must do better