Calgary

As child poverty spikes, conference aims for solutions

A major conference gets underway Thursday in Calgary about how to end poverty in Alberta.

A major conference gets underway Thursday in Calgary about how to end poverty in Alberta. 

The meeting comes one day after a report found the number of Alberta children living in poverty rose from 53,000 in 2008 to 73,000 a year later.

The report — prepared by several advocacy groups, including Public Interest Alberta — is called "In This Together: Ending Poverty in Alberta."

Kelly Ernst, a senior program director at the Sheldon Chumir Foundation said tax returns from 2008 show a distinct economic divide in Alberta.

"Alberta is becoming increasingly a very economically polarized place, with a very small group of people making large sums of money and then a very large portion o f people — more than 53 per cent — making lower than the low-income cut off," he said.

Researcher Bill Moore-Kilgannon agreed. He said almost half of the children living in poverty are from homes where at least one parent works full time.

"The stereotype that all Albertans are rich, and that, yes, we’re all doing really well, is just that, a stereotype," said Ernst.

Co-hosted by the YWCA of Calgary and the Action to End Poverty in Alberta initiative, the meeting in Calgary was organized to push for coordinated policy action to end poverty in Alberta.

Caroline Magna, a single mother of five children, works part time as a janitor to supplement her welfare payments.

But she said making ends meet is getting tougher. "Trying to find a place that's even going to help you lately, it's almost impossible. Everybody either doesn't have the funds or they just can't do it," she said.

A separate report released on Wednesday by Campaign 2000, a national advocacy group, said in the past 20 years Canada has made no significant improvements in family poverty.

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