I was in San Francisco this week and spoke with pride about Canada's work to end poverty. I may have spoken too boldly. There is something about being in U.S. that makes me want to emphasize how progressive Canada is and share how much more advanced our social agenda is. My behaviour might be likened to a younger brother coming home to visit his more accomplished older brother and provide an update about his year away.
What I said was that Canada is in the final stages of ending poverty. That the end of poverty is inevitable in Canada and I expect to see the end of economic poverty in my life time. I know you have either now burst into laughter at my statement or just written me off as a lunatic.
I get it but going to America brings something out in me... I'll tone it down next time for sure but then I got to thinking – though my statement is far too bold - can we at least celebrate some pretty amazing events in the last few years? Honestly more great poverty reduction policy has occurred in the last two years then I have seen in much of my life time. Here are some examples.
- The Federal government is working on a bold national poverty reduction strategy and have consulted widely. We have an amazing minister and dedicated team on this including a citizen advisory council.
- Ontario and Alberta have announced the $15 minimum wage. BC will follow and I predict a national sweep (every Province) within 3-5 years. This is a massive transfer of wealth. It could mean an increase of $5,000 - $10,000 more a year for low income workers.
- We are testing a Guaranteed Income in multiple cities in Canada. All levels of Government are genuinely interested.
- The city of Hamilton sold a utility for more than $50 million and decided to spend every dollar on ending poverty.
- Talking of cities - Cities Reducing Poverty just signed it's 60th member - yup Vancouver just joined.
And I have not even spoken about increases in child tax benefit, free tuition for low income University students in Ontario, a massive increase of awareness and a commitment to supporting the emerging vision to end poverty in aboriginal communities and Maytree's new focus on rights based poverty reduction.
What have I missed?
So yes, I spoke boldly but imagine if this is the start of a much larger momentum and some ideas that are percolating already find root? Like…
- The $5 a day for great daycare becomes a national commitment.
- A national strategy to support single parents with a bold new program ensuring the well being of children and job training and placement for adults.
- Food banks recommit themselves to closing and change their mission toward food security.
- Housing commitments grow and there is a massive expansion of affordable housing units.
- The social economy becomes a huge platform in the new poverty reduction strategy creating a mushroom of jobs in the "caring" fields.
- Ending economic poverty is as simple as ensuring affordable housing, healthy food and the ability to earn a living becomes a right for Canadians.
None of this seems unattainable to me. Certainly, if we can create a national health system and in turn create one of the great health care systems in the world then to ensure 3 million Canadians will not live in poverty is not out of reach.
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