“When it is acceptable for 2 families to have as much wealth as the poorest 11 million Canadians, poverty will be at an unacceptable level.” — Larry Brown, NUPGE President
Ottawa (17 Oct. 2017) — As we mark International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, it’s time to think about what a plan that would end poverty in Canada would look like. 4 years ago anti-poverty activists launched ChewOnThis!, a campaign for a federal anti-poverty plan. The campaign is based on the fact that without federal government action, it is not possible to eliminate poverty.
Even though Canada is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, 4.8 million Canadians live in poverty. Each month, 860,000 people have to rely on food banks to get enough to eat. At the same time, the share of wealth held by the richest Canadians continues to grow.
“When it is acceptable for 2 families to have as much wealth as the poorest 11 million Canadians, poverty will be at an unacceptable level,” said Larry Brown, President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE).
Dignity for All plan shows what is needed
The Dignity for All plan shows what is needed to eliminate poverty in Canada. Some of the proposals provide a sense of how much the federal government still has to do if it is committed to eliminating poverty. Those figures also provide useful points of comparison to what governments are actually doing.
For example, the plan suggests that at least $2 billion a year needs to be spent on housing and help for people who are homeless, if people are going to have adequate housing. That’s double what the federal government recently announced.
The plan also calls for a $2 billion increase in the Canada Social Transfer. There is no indication this is even being considered by the federal government.
No way to eliminate poverty without increased federal spending
It’s estimated that federal funding for social assistance is 25 per cent lower than what it was in the early 1990s. Just to get back to where we were in the early 1990s would take an immediate funding increase of $2.57 billion a year. If cuts that were made to other services people need to get out of poverty were included, that figure would be far higher.
That fact is important to remember when how to eliminate poverty is being discussed. Right wing think tanks are still trying to claim that governments are “throwing money” at poverty.
“The reality is the federal and many provincial governments have viciously cut services and programs the most vulnerable people in our community need to get out of poverty,” said Brown. “While other measures are required, an important part of eliminating poverty is repairing the damage that’s been done over the last 25 years.”
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE