The rate of child poverty in Canada is the same as it was in 1989, an advocacy group reported Monday while calling on the federal government to skip a planned GST cut to help tackle the issue.
As Campaign 2000 released the results of its annual report card on child poverty at a news conference in Ottawa, it called for the federal government to cancel the next one percentage point GST cut and use the money instead for efforts to eliminate child poverty.
The report saysthat, in 1989, the House of Commons unanimouslyresolved to end child poverty.
Eighteen years later, despite a 50 per cent increase in the size of the economy, the child poverty rate remains unchanged at 11.7 per cent in 2005, according to the report,citing after-tax income data from Statistics Canada.
When income was measured before income taxes, the number rose to one in six children, or 16.8 per cent.
"Child poverty is a national shame," New Democrat MP Olivia Chowsaid atthe news conference.
"We have to decide as a country what comes first— is it corporate tax cuts or is it defeating child poverty? You can't do both," she said, adding that in the past six years, corporate tax cuts havecost$56.5 billion in revenue.
Child poverty not 'equal opportunity'
Even full-time work at minimum wage is not an escape from poverty, the group said.
Forty-one per cent of all low-income children in 2005 lived in families where there was at least one person with a full-time, all-year job, the report says.
The reportalso said there are disproportionately high rates of child poverty among families facing barriers of systemic discrimination.
"Child poverty is not equal opportunity," said Ann Decter, the group's national co-ordinator.
Nearly half of all children in recent immigrant familieslive below the poverty line, the report says, citing the 2001 census.
One of the most economically vulnerable groups is single-mother families,thereports says, with one in two of these familiesliving in poverty.
Families of non-European descent have rates of one in every three children living in poverty, according to 2001 statistics.
British Columbia rates worst
All provinces except for three had child poverty rates in the double digits, the report says, with British Columbia having the highest rate followed by Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
The report noted declining numbers in Quebec since the provincial government implemented a plan to reduce poverty in 2004.
In 2006, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador introduced a poverty reduction plan, but the report says it's too early to assess the impact.
About 44 per cent of Canada's low-income children live in Ontario, the report says.
Ottawa needs detailed plan
Campaign 2000 is pushing for Ottawa to establish a detailed plan on how to tackle the issue in the future.
Some of the measures they propose include:
- Raising the minimum wage Canada-wide to $10 per hour.
- Increasing federal work tax credits to $2,400 per year.
- Investing federal dollars in social housing.
- Raising theNational Child Benefit Supplement to create a full child benefit for low income families of $5,100 per child per year.
The group would like to see child poverty reduced by 25 per cent over the next five years and by 50 per cent over the next decade.