Poverty cuts recommend by 4 of 5 Canadian leaders

By 
  • October 3, 2008
{mosimage}TORONTO - The Make Poverty History coalition of more than 1,000 individuals, churches, unions and organizations complains that the Conservative Party is missing in action on poverty issues.

Make Poverty History managed to get four of the five national party leaders to answer specific questions on poverty reduction leading up to the Oct. 14 federal election. The video of those interviews is available at www.makepovertyhistory.ca/ontherecord .
Conservative leader Stephen Harper would not agree to be interviewed on the subject, and members of Harper’s staff told Make Poverty History their  questions were “too specific.”

Anne Marie Jackson, program director for the Jesuit Forum for Social Faith and Justice, isn’t surprised the Conservatives turned down Make Poverty History. She’s tried looking for Conservative proposals on poverty at the party’s web site.

“It takes a while to find anything about poverty,” she said.

Poverty ought to be a bigger issue for any party that claims to care about the economy, said Jackson.

“There’s an economic cost of poverty in Canada,” she said. “If you can’t get people on the basis of loving your neighbour or the common good, then at least on the basis of good economics you’ve got to deal with poverty.”

According to the conservative C.D. Howe Institute about 3.4 million Canadians, about 11 per cent of the population, are living below the poverty line, or the Statistics Canada Low Income Cut-Off. Campaign 2000 has analysed Statistics Canada data and concluded 800,000 Canadian children live in poverty.

“I don’t know why this isn’t an important election issue,” said Jackson. “It bloody well should be. It’s a disgrace, the poverty levels in Canada.”

Conservative party platform promises on poverty include a commitment to spend the $2 billion earmarked by the previous Liberal government for affordable housing. The party has also proposed tax cuts for senior citizens and tax credits for people who stay at home to care for disabled family members.

The New Democratic Party’s biggest anti-poverty promise is its child-care plan, including 220,000 subsidized day care spaces over four years. NDP Leader Jack Layton also wants a $10-an-hour minimum wage nationally.

The Liberal platform commits to reducing the number of poor by 30 per cent over five years and cutting child poverty in half over the same period.

The Greens are promising to re-engineer the tax system to create a “guaranteed livable income.”

Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe claims poverty reduction reflects Quebec values and that a Bloc presence in the House of Commons will push the poverty agenda.

Canada’s Catholic bishops identified the preferential option for the poor as a guiding principle for Catholic voters in their Federal Election 2008 Guide. They urged voters to ask candidates, “Do the political parties promote access to safe, affordable housing for low-income families? Do they offer real solutions to the problems of child poverty and increasing food costs?”

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