It's a start

  • December 11, 2008
{mosimage}Faced with a surefire deficit next year, it took considerable courage for the Liberal government in Ontario to stick to its commitment to tackle poverty. The poor are the most voiceless of all of us, and least likely to vote. It would have been easy for Premier Dalton McGuinty to dispense with this promise, as he had with other more contentious promises in the past. Remember “no new taxes”?

On Dec. 4, Deb Matthews, Minister of Children and Youth Services, announced her government’s commitment to lift 90,000 children from poverty by 2013. It involves doubling the Working Income Tax Benefit to $2,000 and increasing the National Child Benefit Supplement to $1,200 per child. There will also be an increase in the Ontario Child Benefit and extra millions to help children leaving foster care and beefing up its Youth Opportunities Strategy to help kids in poorer neighbourhoods get summer jobs and training. (See our story on Page 11.)

Though focused on children, it is also about reducing poverty for the parents as well. It makes little sense to tackle one age group without helping those they depend on most.

It is, as usual for these affairs, complicated and dependent for its success on numerous other factors, not least the introduction of full-day kindergarten for four- and five-year-olds, a strategy that has both pros and cons. It also requires a growing economy and more help from Ottawa — both rather unlikely in the near term. Success is not a certainty.

But the plan sets a target and includes strategies and financial commitments. These are all major accomplishments and much needed. The current economic crisis is going to hurt all of us, but those at the bottom of the income ladder will find it even more painful. In this case, government is starting to do what it needs to do — and what it should.

100 deaths

To one of our soldiers in Afghanistan, one comrade’s death is just as tragic as another. It’s another friend, brother or sister, husband or wife, father or mother, son or daughter lost to war. It is just as senseless and just as painful as every other one.

So the marking of the 100th death among Canadian troops in Afghanistan Dec. 5 means something less for them than it means for the rest of us. But the rest of us need this marker, as artificial as it is. We need to be reminded, visibly and forcefully, that our involvement in Afghanistan comes with a great price.

We also need to question, once again, why we are there and what good our sons and daughters are doing.

We also need to pray — for the dead, for their families and friends, for the Afghan people, for our nation. Pray for peace and an end to suffering and war.

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