It’s been 25 years since federal politicians voted to end child poverty by the year 2000.
But 14 years into the 21st century there has been no significant change in Alberta, according to the 2014 Report Card on Child and Family Poverty in Canada.
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Public Interest Alberta’s report — No Change: After 25 years of promises it is time to eliminate child poverty — agreed.
The non-profit group says 143,200 children in Alberta lived below the low-income measure in 2012, which represents 16.2 per cent of all children and is very similar to 1989’s 16.4 per cent.
With Alberta’s massive population growth, there are also 28,670 more children in poverty than in 1989.
Public Interest Alberta’s Bill Moore-Kilgannon said one reason for the lack of results is cuts to programs that help people out of poverty.
Moore-Kilgannon said a comprehensive child-care strategy, child tax benefit and affordable housing are all key components in pulling families out of poverty.
“If we don’t deal with poverty it actually ends up costing our economy significantly in terms of increased health expenditure, increased crime rates, etc.,” said Moore-Kilgannon. “So we pay one way or another…. It’s time to invest in things that make a huge difference.”
5-year plan to end child poverty?
The Alberta government promised in 2012 a five-year plan to end child poverty. Moore-Kilgannon hopes the current government under Premier Jim Prentice will once again make that commitment.
Despite Alberta’s strong economy, the report also showed that income inequality has increased faster than the national average. The top one per cent of Albertans saw income gains of over 60 per cent since 1982 while the bottom half of income earners only saw a gain of 3.4 per cent.
Patricia Beaudry, a single Calgary mother with two children at home, is one of many Alberta living below the poverty line.
She first went on social assistance 26 years years ago when she became pregnant with her first child at the age 18. Since that time she hasn’t seen any change in the way Canada deals with family poverty, although “the amount has gone up a bit.”
“I am so grateful the assistance is there,” she said. “It’s not their fault I’m in the position I am in.”
Beaudry said the day she gets her social assistance it’s already gone.
“It’s a struggle just knowing I have to go out the door. Is my stroller going to work? Do I have enough healthy food?” said Beaudry. “It’s a struggle because even though my kids get what they need, I don’t.”