With just days left in the municipal election campaign, a City of Edmonton-led committee is trying to get poverty on the agenda.

Allan Undheim

Committee co-chair Allan Undheim said poverty costs Albertans $7 billion a year in health-care and crime expenses. (CBC)

The Edmonton Poverty Elimination Steering Committee, which includes 26 governmental, non-profit and private entities, has set a goal to eliminate poverty in the city by 2024.

Among the figures released by the group:

  • Twice the number of Aboriginal Edmontonians are poor versus the rest of the population.
  • Two-thirds of Canadian newcomers experience low income for at least three years.
  • One in five people in single-parent households lived in poverty in 2011.

"How fortunate we all are to be living here in an economy that is doing quite well relatively speaking. It's really unacceptable that we have that many people who are struggling just to live day to day," said Allan Undheim, co-chair of the committee.

On Thursday, which marks the UN International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, the committee launched a website with responses from candidates in Edmonton's mayoral and school trustee race. They were asked, if elected, what they would do to support the effort to eliminate poverty in Edmonton within a generation. Only 41 of 119 — about one-third — of the candidates responded.

By next spring, the committee plans to develop specific strategies to, among other things, help raise the incomes of poor families, assist children in poverty and change social perceptions of people who live in poverty.

City council will then be asked to approve the plan.

The strategy has received the endorsement of two of the front-runners for Edmonton's next mayor, Kerry Diotte and Don Iveson.

"In a city as prosperous as ours, we can do better. it will take a generation but it's good work worth doing," said Iveson.

"I'm committed to that action plan because it's so vital," added Diotte.

Karen Leibovici, another front-runner for mayor, said the city's plan needs to align with other plans, including the province's Poverty Reduction Strategy.

"Let's take the concrete pieces of strategy and start to enact that."