Alberta urged to develop plan to eliminate poverty
Twenty years after a unanimous House of Commons resolution to end child poverty in Canada by 2000, one in 12 children in Alberta still live in poverty, the lobby group Public Interest Alberta said Tuesday.
"We certainly have the capacity to move beyond our current patchwork system of supports and implement a strong comprehensive elimination strategy," said Bill Moore-Kilgannon, executive director of Public Interest Alberta.
"In six other provinces in Canada, they are setting real poverty reduction targets and timelines. If they can do that in six other provinces, then we can certainly do that here in Alberta."
The report was written by Jim Gurnett, former executive director of the Mennonite Centre for Newcomers.
It was based on seven public forums across Alberta to discuss how to cope with poverty.
"In recent times, things are getting worse not better for many of the people that are struggling with economic poverty," Gurnett said.
"The current situation is not acceptable, the current situation is not necessary. Not only should something be done, but something must be done, and that a strategy, an integrated co-ordinated approach, is vital to being able to do this."
Gurnett said there are innovative and imaginative programs available to those in poverty, such as the early childhood development program at the Bissell Centre in Edmonton. Three of Gyslaine Clarke's six children make use of the program.
"It's not easy being a single mom, but with programs like this, I cannot stress enough how much it has made a difference in my life," Clarke told the news conference.
Clarke said the Bissell program gave her important personal time, and gave her kids a sense of belonging.
"There's somebody out there that cares and we do matter, and I guess that's what's important to me and my kids," she said.
The release of the report coincides with similar events across the country. And Moore-Kilgannon said the federal government seems to be listening.
"We are excited to have just found out a couple of hours ago that the federal government just passed a new resolution that is committing the federal government to actually establish a full poverty-elimination strategy," Moore-Kilgannon said Tuesday.
The goal for Public Interest Alberta is to persuade the province to develop a plan to tackle poverty that could be in place within a year.