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Skip GST cut, use cash to fight child poverty: report

 

The Canadian Press

 

November 26, 2007 at 12:19 PM EST

 

OTTAWA — A social action group is calling on the federal government to cancel the next one-percentage-point cut to the GST and divert the money toward efforts to eliminate child poverty.

 

In releasing its annual report Monday, Campaign 2000 said the level of child poverty in Canada has not improved since 1989, despite repeated promises by governments to tackle the issue.

 

“Eighteen years after the 1989 all-party resolution of the House of Commons, the child poverty rate is exactly the same,” said the report, which received endorsements from all three federal opposition parties.

 

“Some important initiatives in child benefits, early-learning and child-care services and affordable housing were started. Some of these have been stalled and others have been rescinded.

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“It is time for Canada to adopt a poverty-reduction strategy that will honour the commitments to children and their families.”

 

The group says 788,000 children — 11.7 per cent of children in Canada — live in poverty, despite a growing economy, a soaring dollar and low unemployment.

 

Government undertakings have lacked specific targets, timetables and other specifics, undermining political will to take effective action, the group said.

 

The Conservative government has opted to cut the GST and implement billions of dollars in corporate tax cuts while Canada has failed to honour numerous commitments to children: — the unanimous, all-party resolution in the House of Commons, calling for an end to child poverty by 2000.

 

— the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child ratified by Parliament and all provinces by 1999, recognizing an adequate standard of living for children.

 

— the Early Learning and Child Care Agreements signed by the federal government and all provinces in 2005 that laid the foundation for a universally accessible system.

 

— an agreement among first ministers and First Nations leaders in Kelowna in 2005 that promised to improve quality of life for First Nations, Métis and Inuit children and their families.

 

Quebec is the only province where child poverty rates have been consistently declining since 1997, the report said, partly because of a package of family-support benefits implemented in 1997.

 

Despite the province's booming economy, Alberta's child-poverty rate has fluctuated between 14 and 15 per cent since 1999, the group says.

 

British Columbia remains the province with the highest child-poverty rate, at 23.5 per cent.

 

“There are too many working-poor families in B.C. who are unable to get jobs with sufficient pay, hours and benefits to lift them above the poverty line,” the report says.

 

Indeed, the group says jobs are not always the answer — 41 per cent of impoverished children in Canada live in families where at least one parent works full-time all year.

 

“More parents are working, but they're still poor,” the report says, calling for increases to the minimum wage. “Full-time work at minimum wage is not an escape from poverty.

 

“The economy is growing, but prosperity doesn't benefit everyone equally.”

 

Child care is a critical element of poverty reduction, it says, and notes that affordable housing leaves more money for food, clothing, school supplies and transportation.

 

And the group says the risk of living in poverty is higher in First Nations and recent-immigrant communities.

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