With the holidays upon us, and the election going on hold, itís bonus time for Bay Street CEOs of both the Liberal and Conservative persuasion.
But itís bogus time for too many of us. The National Anti-Poverty Organization (NAPO), estimates that 4.7 million Canadians live in poverty today, including one in six children (15.6 per cent). More than 50 per cent of female lone parents are poor.
Ed Broadbent, the veteran NDP MP, retires from Parliament next month. Heíll leave public life disappointed that successive Liberal governments have failed to adopt a real poverty reduction strategy. Despite all-party agreement to his 1989 resolution to end child poverty by the year 2000, his dream to see child poverty ended in Canada remains just that Ė a dream.
The growing gap between rich and poor is also a racialized one, and politicians have known this for years. Much higher rates of poverty face Aboriginal peoples, recent immigrants and persons with disabilities. An estimated 1.2 million youth are living in poverty and are in danger of falling into a life-long poverty trap.
We need a multi-faceted comprehensive strategy to end poverty in Canada. Such a strategy would improve the lives of marginalized groups by setting the federal minimum wage at $10 an hour and indexing it to the cost of living.
It would improve the EI system by reducing qualifying hours to 360 and increasing benefits. It would provide targeted employment and training programs for marginalized youth. It would increase the Canada Social Transfer to $10 billion over the next three years supported by accountability and welfare rights legislation. It would also reduce studentsí fees for post-secondary education.
The Liberals' record on poverty is clear. They keep it going. And the Conservativesí policies would only increase it. If either party were actually inclined to resolve to make poverty history, let's hope it is a resolution that would be kept.
Supposedly, the spirit of the season is one of giving. Time then for the Liberals to give a damn about poverty, or for voters to give them the boot on Jan. 23.