Monday, September 27, 2010

National end Poverty? Never

By Louis Monsebraaten, Social Justice Reporter, Toronto Star, September 26, 2010
The Senate report, entitled: In from the Margins: A Call to Action on Poverty, Housing and Homelessness, says a staggering 3.4 million Canadians are trapped in poverty by government social programs that are “substantially broken.”

Among the report's 74 recommendations is a call for Ottawa to set a goal of “poverty eradication” and to work with the provinces to create a national child-care system, a federal housing strategy and to ensure income support for people on welfare meets the poverty level.
The report also recommends developing a national income support program for the disabled, increasing the National Child Benefit to $5,000 by 2012 and boosting the Working Income Tax Benefit so those in low-wage jobs can escape poverty.
Whenever one hears about another initiative in Canada to "eradicate poverty" by the federal government, one is reminded of the unanimous bill passed, at the urging of then NDP leader Ed Broadbent, and only in the last few years has he noted his regret that nothing was ever accomplished.
Honourable intentions, lipservice, speak-easy words without real accountable action...and the costs of what we are not doing is far higher, one suspects, than really doing something like a guaranteed annual income for all Canadians. Canadians, on this issue, have been tinkerers, tweeking at the periphery of the core issues of poverty without really addressing those issues at their core. We prefer to "treat the symptoms" rather than eliminate the "disease."
It is like the old story about a man finding some children at the bottom of a waterfall who began furiously trying to haul them all out, when another came along and said, "I'm going to the top of the waterfall to see why they are falling in!" We prefer to work hard, like beavers actually, at the bottom of the waterfall, to climbing up the rocks to discover why they are falling in, so that we might prevent that.
Everyone knows that this is a system skewed to the powerful, to the rich, to those whose name and history bring them comforts, and education and healthy meals, and healthy lifestyle our attitudes, in our taxes, in our peacemeal "assistance" programs and in our detachment from the people who are obviously at the bottom of the income, education and health ladder.
It is as if there are pockets of third world Canadians among our communities, and because they are spread out, trying to hide themselves from the glare of the eyes of the "first world" who live at or near the top of the ladder, we are not obliged to extend a national, committed and non-patronizing hand "up."
Canadians hate whatever they designate as laziness, lack of ambition, and sloth. And we also believe, collectively, that if "they would only get up off their asses and get a job, they would not have to live like this!"
And that comletely denies the depth of their poverty...because it is a poverty of spirit, and a poverty of body, and a poverty of expectations, and a poverty of perceived options, and a poverty of family traditions and history, and a poverty of good food and good food preparation skills, and a poverty of good exercise awareness and a poverty of healthy friendships...and that would mean supportive friendships....
And the depth of this deprivation will not be turned around by a few meetings that tweek a few tax rules or add a few dollars to the"national child benefit."
Eliminate poverty...and enrich the life of the country in that direction, not only fiscally, because it would certainly accomplish that end but also socially and culturally. Such an accomplishment would reduce health care need and costs, and reduce the need for prisons, and reduce or eliminate the need for social assistance. But most importantly, it would dramatically alter the self-perception all Canadians have of our country for the better.
And it is an achievable goal. And it is not rocket-science.
And it will never receive the kind of attention it (and the people affected) deserve in my lifetime or in the lifetime of my grand children.
No one can be truly surprised by this report from The Star's Carol Goar less than one week from the date of the above report.
By Carol Goar, Toronto Star, October 1, 2010

They braced for a disappointment, but the brush-off was more callous than they anticipated.
This week, the government delivered its response to the Senate’s 2009 report, In From the Margins: A Call to Action on Poverty, Housing and Homelessness.
It rejected every one of the report’s 74 recommendations. It ignored the senators’ evidence that Ottawa is spending $150 billion a year on social programs that merely perpetuate poverty. It concluded with these all-too-familiar words: “The best long-term strategy to fight poverty is the sustained employment of Canadians.”
The glimmer of hope that anti-poverty activists, people with disabilities and overburdened charities had nursed since last December when the Senate’s social affairs committee released its comprehensive plan to eradicate poverty, went out.
“The government has turned its back on low-income people in Canada,” said Campaign 2000, a national coalition of children’s advocates that has been working for 19 years to keep Parliament’s resolution to end child poverty by the year 2000 on the national agenda.
“The government seems unwilling to make any commitment to work with the provinces to develop a poverty elimination plan for Canadians,” said Citizens for Public Justice, a faith-based network of 1,500 people dedicated to creating a society in which everyone can live in dignity.
“What we got from the government of Canada was: Get a Job,” said a bitter Tony Dolan, who chairs the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, many of whose members can’t work.

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