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October 8, 2015

CANADA: Social Groups Call for Federal Strategy to Eradicate Poverty

Anti-poverty activists gathered at Parliament Hill on Tuesday morning to draw attention to the country’s most vulnerable citizens — a group they say has been largely ignored during this federal election.

Similar groups took part in a simultaneous rally in more than 50 communities across Canada to call for a national anti-poverty plan.

As part of the annual Chew on This event, organizers handed out brown paper bags containing literature and a symbolic apple to spotlight the fact that 900,000 Canadians rely on food banks each month.

“I think everyone knows that two words dominated the beginning of the election, and the two words were ‘middle class,'” said Leilani Farha, executive director of Canada without Poverty. “A word that didn’t get mentioned, of course, was the word ‘poverty.'”

Yet poverty, she said, is at the centre of the issues each party has been highlighting, from the economy and health to low-wage jobs and income security for seniors.

“People in living in poverty are obviously part of the electorate and obviously should be part of the discussion and debate, and it hasn’t happened,” said Farha.

The suggested national strategy would address income and food security, housing, health, employment and early childcare education under one umbrella.

Darlene O’Leary, socio-economic policy analyst with Citizens for Public Justice, said 4.9 million Canadians, or one in eight households, live in poverty, which she said is too high for a wealthy G7 country.

“We know certainly the statistics are much higher when it comes to indigenous communities,” O’Leary added.

Ottawa Centre candidates were on hand, including incumbent Paul Dewar of the NDP, Liberal Catherine McKenna and the Green Party’s Tom Milroy, and said they’d support a national strategy if elected.

“I think it’s an amazing campaign and it takes a comprehensive approach to a lot of the issues that we’ve already talked about as a party, whether it’s addressing affordable housing, food insecurity or our Canada child benefit,” said McKenna.

Milroy said the Green party will address poverty “by offering a guaranteed livable income” along with an affordable housing and social housing strategy.

Dewar said that for an effective anti-poverty plan, some pieces of the puzzle need to be added.

“We’ve actually said we’ll close the loophole presently available to CEOs where they can write off their salary through stock options,” said Dewar. “And we would close that loophole — it’s about a half a billion a year — and we would put it directly in child poverty. So it’s direct investments to help people suffering from poverty.”

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