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.


Bill Moore-Kilgannon, executive director of Public Interest Alberta, says the province should at least match anti-poverty efforts in other provinces. ((CBC))

The group, along with the Edmonton Social Planning Council, released a report Tuesday called We Must Do Better: It's Time to Make Alberta Poverty Free.

"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."


Jim Gurnett wrote the report, which calls for a co-ordinated, integrated approach to eliminating poverty. ((CBC))

The report recommends Alberta establish a provincial child tax benefit of at least $1,100 per child, similar to what is offered in Ontario. The provincial benefit would add to the existing federal child tax benefit.

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.


Gyslaine Clarke says the early childhood program at the Bissell Centre has made a huge difference to her and her children. ((CBC))

"It's not just about putting food on the table," Clarke said. "I would love to get my kids into programs as well, that they can do as well, like other kids can."

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.