By SooToday.com Staff
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
TONY MARTIN, MP
New Democrats urge government to eradicate poverty
Tony Martin cites Sault poverty report as Parliament debates his motion
OTTAWA - Twenty years ago, on November 24, the leader of Canada’s New Democrats Ed Broadbent, sounded the alarm bell on the tragedy of child poverty in Canada.
Since then, every day in the House of Commons and out in the communities across Canada, New Democrats have been working tirelessly to push for an end to poverty for all.
It is now 2009, and there is still much to be done to eradicate the scourge of poverty in Canada.
This is a collective failure and shows a lack of political will on the part of successive governments.
Today the House of Commons debated a motion from New Democrat Poverty Critic Tony Martin.
“We are committed to build a Canada that will include everyone, a Canada that leaves no one behind," New Democrat poverty critic Tony Martin said. "It is time to keep the promise, to make Canada poverty free."
Martin cited the Sault Ste. Marie Community Quality Improvement Beyond Compassion report released this fall that “if poverty is reduced, education levels will rise, improving the community's workforce and supporting economic development. With lower poverty and higher education levels will come overall improved health of citizens.”
The report notes the impact of poverty is felt by the entire community.
“For 20 years there has been a lack of political leadership to reduce child poverty - that’s a national shame and tragedy," said New Democrat Child Poverty Critic Olivia Chow. “New Democrats have a plan; we need a government with political will to make it a reality so children can grow up in a poverty-free Canada."
In Canada, only one in five children has access to early childhood education and care and the country does not have a universal food program for kids.
Martin has traveled across Canada to push for a national plan to make Canada poverty-free.
The New Democrat platform includes a higher investment in Canada Child Tax Benefit, an increase to the minimum wage, making Employment Insurance fair so unemployed workers can access them, building affordable housing, establishing a public and universal non-profit and high quality early childhood education and care services.
This year, 2009, also marks the 20th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Martin’s speech in Parliament today
Mr. Speaker, today we mark the 20th anniversary of the unanimous resolution by Parliament in 1989 to eradicate child poverty by the year 2000.
In the motion passed last week by the Parliamentary committee I serve on, we honour that anniversary.
We note the urgency of action to eliminate poverty.
I believe we honour the mover of that motion, Mr. Broadbent, my party's former leader, as well as the poverty activists making a difference in our communities and MPs who back then had the will to want to tackle that daunting challenge.
What I believe they lacked then and what we need now is a concrete plan to make it happen.
In 1989 we had the collective will, the values, the conviction to do so.
What we lacked - a critical omission - was a concrete plan to make it happen.
Why is this so?
Canada is ranked close to last in UNICEF and OECD reports on the welfare of children.
We spend the least on early childhood education and care.
We spend little for families and not much to make sure our children grow up healthy and smart.
We are the only industrialized nation without a national affordable housing strategy.
Only one in five children has access to early childhood education and care.
We do not have a universal food program for kids.
Our minimum wage has not gone up much and neither have child tax benefits or funding to support aboriginal children.
We need to collectively commit again to build a Canada that will include everyone, a Canada that leaves no one behind.
Regardless of our politics, I believe there is consensus to do just that.
Indeed, for a wide range of social, economic and spiritual principles across the spectrum, there is motivation and reason to do so.
While the barriers are many, I meet Members of Parliament in all parties who understand the common sense of having everyone in their communities having equal opportunities to be productive members.
People want that.
In these tough times, in our ridings, when a new employment opportunity arises, we also see the enormous lineups for people wanting to work.
And, in the Food Banks Canada Hunger Count 2009, even when you find a job, when it does not pay enough, there is no escape from poverty - one of five food bank users had employment.
The Campaign 2000 report notes four of every 10 poor children belong to families where a parent works.
That figure was less in the 1990s.
Let us remember the statistics being released today are drawn from 2007 numbers, that is, before our recession.
With so few covered on EI, with welfare rolls increasing, with the recession recovery slow, it is reasonable to conclude low income poverty numbers are higher now and will grow higher in the next year.
We need national leadership.
We have seven provinces starting poverty plans.
But the provinces do not have the capacity to generate the revenue to move recession victims out of poverty
We cannot fail this time.
We know we can make an extraordinary difference in this country, for all who are left behind, or excluded from our communities, because of living in poverty.
For two years now the Parliamentary HUMA committee following adoption of my motion has undertaken a major study of the federal role in poverty reduction.
With our imminent travel west we will have heard from witnesses on the incumbent need for national leadership.
This is about justice, not charity.
This is about human rights.
We know internationally, and in other countries, freedom from poverty is a human right.
Not so in Canada.
We are coming to recognize as well the economic arguments - the true cost of poverty and excluding so many from being productive members of our society, and the savings in the field of health, education, criminal justice to eliminate poverty.
A report just released in Sault Ste. Marie from the Community Quality Improvement assessed the external costs of poverty; I quote “if poverty is reduced, education levels will rise, improving the community's workforce and supporting economic development. With lower poverty and higher education levels will come overall improved health of citizens.”
The report notes the Impact of poverty is felt by the entire community.
Mr. Speaker, for our children, for our families, for all, for a lasting legacy to our country, It is time to keep the promise, to make Canada poverty free.