Saturday, November 10, 2007

Dion reveals poverty reduction goal

The policy sounds good but the devil will be in the details. Nothing much is spelled out except for the goals. As the article mentions the war on poverty is longstanding although there has been some reduction in overall poverty. In 1989 the government resolved to eliminate child poverty by 2000 but neither party managed to do that. If as many resources were devoted to the war on poverty as are devoted to the war on terror we might be closing to winning the war on poverty.

Dion reveals party's `bold goal' - Canada - Dion reveals party's `bold goal'

If re-elected, his party pledges to cut the number of children living in poverty by 50% within 5 years

November 10, 2007
Susan Delacourt
Ottawa Bureau

The federal Liberals are declaring their own war on poverty with what they're calling a "30-50 plan" to radically slash the number of poor Canadians within five years.

Liberal Leader St├ęphane Dion says if his party is returned to power, it will cut the number of Canadians living below the poverty line by at least 30 per cent within five years and the number of children living in poverty by 50 per cent in the same time span.

"This is a bold goal, and we intend it to represent the strongest government action in a generation," Dion declared yesterday.

The Liberals are saying the goal means a reduction in the number of children in poverty from the current 778,000 to about 390,000, and cutting the number of Canadians living in poverty to about 2 million, down from the current estimates of 3.4 million.

Precise details of how they intend to deliver on this promise will have to wait until the election, but Dion gave assurances yesterday he would be able to make real cuts in poverty while also cutting taxes – and that it will all be fully accounted in the Liberals' campaign platform.

Dion came to the GTA to throw the Liberals' weight into the anti-poverty battle, making his announcement at the Learning Enrichment Foundation, a community centre in York that provides child care, job and language training to people in need.

He arrived in Toronto just a day after Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave a speech in which he encouraged people to look at the brighter side of the economy – the boom in employment figures, for instance, despite problems with the rising dollar and deep losses in the manufacturing sector.

Dion shot back yesterday that there are "3,400,000 reasons" for Harper to pay attention to poverty as well. He was referring to Statistics Canada's figures on the number of Canadians living below what's known as "low-income cutoffs" or LICO – in essence, the poverty line, though none is formally recognized in Canada.

"Poverty today is a reality that mocks and undermines the prosperity known by most of our people in Canada," Dion said.

"The lack of real social inclusion, the loss of dignity from not being able to participate in society, is a moral challenge we cannot ignore."

Bob Rae, former Ontario premier and Liberal leadership contender, told reporters yesterday that the anti-poverty announcement represents a real beginning in the party's intention to put solid policy on the table to fight the Conservatives.

Rae believes that Conservatives are vulnerable on the social-policy front and that Liberals won't woo just left-wing voters with a war on poverty, but also people who voted Conservative in the last election.

"I think there are a lot of Conservatives, quite frankly, who are offended by the right-wing approach of Mr. Harper," Rae said. "I think what's happened to the Conservative party is that there's been a reverse takeover of the Conservatives by a kind of group of Reformers and other right-wingers."

The evidence of this, he said, is found in the Conservatives' ouster of Mark Warner, the candidate who was supposed to be fighting Rae in the next election in the riding of Toronto Centre. Warner was dumped by the party's national council because he was talking too much about social and urban policies.

"I think there are a lot of traditional Conservatives, like Mr. Warner, who was my opponent, who are offended by that approach," Rae said.

This isn't the first time, however, that federal politicians have committed themselves to fighting poverty – all parties pledged in the Commons back in 1989 to eliminate child poverty by 2000, and neither the Conservative government, in power then, nor the Liberals, who succeeded them, followed through.

Dion insisted yesterday that some progress had been made – the percentage of Canadians living in poverty declined from 16 per cent in 1996 to 11 per cent in 2005, he said, and that the poverty rate for single mothers had dropped from 56 per cent in 1996 to 33 per cent in 2005.

Ann Decter, national co-ordinator of the Campaign 2000 organization, was on hand yesterday for the Dion announcement and greeted it with extremely cautious optimism. She wants to see specifics on what the Liberals' plans are with respect to income support, minimum wage, affordable housing and how they plan to do this while cutting taxes.

"We need to see where's the flesh on the bones really. I've got the matches out, to hold (their) feet to the fire. Certainly, the direction is very welcome," Decter said.

By way of specifics, Dion is promising to create something called the "making work pay benefit" – an improvement, Liberals argue, on the Conservatives' "working income tax benefit," which supplements the wages of the working poor. But while the WITB kicks in only after someone has earned $3,000, Liberals say they will pay it out on every dollar earned.

The Liberals also are vowing to improve the child-tax benefit by "expanding and improving" it.

Dion said the Liberals were partly inspired by former British prime minister Tony Blair and a speech he gave on combating child poverty in 1999. These days, he said, there are 700,000 fewer children living in poverty in Britain than there were when Blair made his speech. The key, said Dion, is making promises that can be measured.

"Specific targets allow the electorate to know when something has been a success. They also give a very clear idea of when their politicians have failed them."

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