Anti-Poverty caucus seeks non-partisan consensus
By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News
OTTAWA (CCN) — Ottawa’s All-Party Anti-Poverty Caucus (APAPC)
continues to search for non-partisan solutions — but it won’t
“Government programs can make a difference if we design them right,” she
Though Charlton would like to see greater tax fairness, she acknowledged
higher taxes were not likely to find all-party support. She praised a
Tory program, however, that helps the working poor rise out of poverty
as one example of a program all parties support.
APAPC co-chair Liberal Senator Art Eggleton decried the fact one in 10
Canadians lives in poverty and one out of four are children. Poverty
costs Canada about $30 billion, according to a recent study, he said,
with health care costs alone consuming about $7.5 billion.
“The social welfare system treats the symptoms, but leaves the
disease untouched,” he said.
It is less expensive to give someone a home and support services than
to leave him or her on the street, he said because street people drive
up hospital costs through use of emergency rooms. They can also end up
costing the justice system money, he added.
“We know the facts; we know the answers,” said the former
Toronto mayor and Liberal cabinet minister. “Why isn’t something
Eggleton also raised concerns about growing income inequality
that is affecting not only the poor but also the middle class, calling
the gap a threat to Canada’s social cohesion.
Conservative Senator Don Meredith, who is APAPC treasurer,
said he grew up poor in Jamaica, arriving in Canada at the age of 12.
He lived with his family in social housing in the tough Jane-Finch area
of Toronto. He credited his family, religious faith and hard work in “overcoming
adversity and finding success.”
“This is not about partisan lines,” he said. “It is
about the lives of Canadians.” He stressed entrepreneurship, job
creation and reaching at-risk youth.
Geraldine King, a young First Nations woman, said intergenerational poverty
had become normalized to the extent she did not realize she was poor
until peers started making fun of her when she reached aged seven or
eight. She thought going to food banks and wearing second-hand clothes
from a bin was something everyone did.
She credited a federal program with helping her get out of poverty. A
new employment insurance rule allowed her to resign from her lower paying
job to seek more training through attending university while still receiving
ei benefits. This program helped her survive her first year in university.
After that she qualified for bursaries and scholarships. King said she
was lucky to find out about the program because systemic barriers keep
people like herself from finding out about them, especially those without
computer access or living in First Nations communities.
Linda LeBlanc, an anti-poverty advocate who raised two children on and
off social assistance, depending on her health or employment status,
spoke of the isolation and marginalization she experienced.
Many poor people cannot leave their homes, for lack of money and transportation,
disability issues, or pregnancy or small children, she said. Being poor
means constantly jugging, never knowing what is going to come at you.
Though many say the best social program is a job, without
supports like housing, child care and transportation, the job will not
do much good, she said. Then there are many who can’t take a job
even if the supports are in place.
LeBlanc said the best consultants on poverty are those who have lived it, but they often cannot find the money to attend meetings like this.