A December 8th media release from the Senate of Canada:
Ottawa (December 8, 2009) – A major Senate report tabled today is declaring that Canada’s system for lifting people out of poverty is substantially broken and must be overhauled.
“We began this study by focusing on the most vulnerable city-dwellers in the country, those whose lives are marginalized by poverty, housing challenges and homelessness.” stated Senator Art Eggleton, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology’s Subcommittee on Cities. “As our research evolved, so too did our frustration and concern as we repeatedly heard accounts of policies and programs only making living in poverty more manageable – which essentially entraps people."
The recommendations in the report, In From the Margins: A Call to Action on Poverty, Housing and Homelessness, are the summation of a two-year cross-country study. Committee members heard testimony from more than 170 witnesses, including people living in poverty, several of them homeless, as well as universities, think tanks, provincial and local governments and community organizations.
Based on the findings of this extensive study, the Committee’s first and fundamental recommendation is that Canada and all provinces and territories adopt the goal of lifting people out of poverty. Included among the vast range of measures recommended by the Committee to realize this core goal are the coordination of a nationwide federal-provincial initiative on early childhood education; the development of a national housing and homelessness strategy; and the creation of a basic income floor for all Canadians who are severely disabled.
The Working Income Tax Benefit (WITB) is an existing government program that the report highlights as bearing real promise because it gives people the pure incentive to get a job. To strengthen the WITB’s capacity to help Canada’s poor, the report recommends that the federal government commit to a schedule of long-term planned increases to bring recipients to the Low Income Cut-off line – as opposed to managing in poverty.
“According to 2007 numbers from Statistics Canada, we spend $150 billion dollars each year in federal and provincial transfer payments to individuals, excluding education and health care costs. So how is it that there are still millions of Canadians weighed down by poverty?” asked Senator Hugh Segal, Deputy Chair of the Subcommittee. “The Committee’s recommendations demonstrate the crucial difference between spending, and spending wisely. By breaking the cycle of poverty once and for all, we will be investing in human empowerment – which will drive the health and prosperity of our cities and yield benefits for all of us.”
The report and more information about the Committee is available at: http://senate-senat.ca/cities-villes-e.asp.
Elizabeth La Forest