Hungry for solutions

On November 24, 1989, the Canadian Parliament voted unanimously to eliminate child poverty in Canada by 1999. That warm, fuzzy goal probably swayed a few votes.

On November 24, 1989, the Canadian Parliament voted unanimously to eliminate child poverty in Canada by 1999.

That warm, fuzzy goal probably swayed a few votes.

Guess what happened.

Nothing.

Tuesday marks the 20th anniversary of that date.

Guess what’s happened.

Well, let’s examine that for a minute.

Today, there are more than 600,000 children in this nation who live below the poverty line. We say more than 600,000 because aboriginal children are, for some reason, not counted in those statistics.

These youngsters, and their parents, lack food, shelter and clothing. Sometimes their parents cannot even muster bus fare. Job hunting these days is tough, but it’s especially daunting if you can’t ride the bus. Or pay for a sitter.

Bottom line, despite the sentiment from our politicians, is that not much has changed in 20 years.

Hungry children are not a priority. They don’t contribute to the economy.

GM does.

In June, the failed industrial behemoth hit a bad patch. It received $10.6 billion in federal grants to keep it afloat. It’s future is still far from certain.

When a young Canadian family hits a bad patch, what does society do to keep it afloat?

What sort of bailout do Canada’s impoverished children qualify for?

Not much.

Canadians often balk at redistributing wealth to their poor neighbours.

Did we mention the large automakers received $14.4 billion in assistance this year?

Carmakers create jobs. Hungry children don’t. Or so many Canadians believe.

But that’s not necessarily true. Those children represent a huge well of potential for the nation. A reserve that is hobbled because it lacks basic necessities.

There are simple ways to curb child poverty.

Canada has decreased poverty among the elderly through the Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement.

The nation provides reasonably well for those at the end of their lives, but does little for young families trying to get themselves established.

They represent the majority of Canada’s poor.

It’s time to consider adapting programs that have worked for carmakers to the poor.

It is time to use our senior support programs as a template for helping the nation’s poorest citizens.

It’s time for a national childcare program. Such a system would support single parents and ensure impoverished children receive enough food.

Canada is a wealthy nation.

It has the resources to eliminate child poverty.

It just lacks the will.

And that reflects poorly on us all.

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