by Bill Thomas, Colette Acheson& Charlotte Hrenchuk
On October 19, 2015, we will be voting to end poverty in Canada.
Why, among all of issues in this federal election, have we decided to cast our vote with poverty in mind? Because there are 4.8 million reasons to end poverty – the number of people fighting to make ends meet in Canada.
In a country as rich as Canada, it is unimaginable that one in seven people are struggling to keep a roof over their heads, put food on the table and cover basic necessities that are guaranteed as part of Canada’s international human rights obligations.
Here in Yukon, we know that affordable housing, food insecurity and access to early childhood education as well as the income gap between the public and private sectors put many people at risk. We also know that single parent families, women, First Nation people and new Canadians are more likely to face the challenges that come with living in poverty.
Poverty hurts our health care system. The costs that we put to addressing the symptoms of poverty amount to $7.6 billion a year. That’s 20 per cent of all health care spending. The Public Health Agency of Canada has said that the key to ending the load on the health system is investing early, and that $1 invested in the first few years of a low-income person’s life can save up to $9 in future costs to health and the criminal justice system. Right now, we are paying a high financial (and human) cost to sustain our already broken system.
Poverty is bad for our economy. The reality for most people is that having a job doesn’t mean you have money to put back into the economy. People living in households with one worker account for 39.1 per cent of Canadians living in poverty. Jobs that are part-time, precarious or low-paying are growing. According to Statistics Canada, as of July 2015, the economy lost 17,300 full-time jobs, but added 23,900 part-time ones. Without sufficient revenue from employment, how are people in Canada to put money back into the economy when they barely have enough to pay for rent, childcare or food?
Child poverty rates in Canada are shameful. Over 1.3 million children live in poverty in Canada. That’s one in five children who don’t get a fair start. The Whitehorse Food Bank, on average this summer, served about 1,250 individuals which included about 650 families. That means that about one-third of the current food bank clientele are children.
On September 1, the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition joined a Canada-wide campaign to bring people’s attention to poverty. And given that we are in the midst of both a federal and municipal campaign, we invite community members to attend and support the following events in September:
* Pick up your sign and buttons at the francophone centre at 302 Strickland between 9 and 5 p.m. or call 334-9317 to arrange a drop off.
* Participate in a Seeing for Yourself tour – local agencies will host tours where you can learn more about the successes and challenges they face. Call Colette at 334-9272 for more information.
Across the country Canadians will have the chance to tell candidates, “I will vote to end poverty.” We will have the opportunity to tell our politicians that we want action: we want a national anti-poverty plan. There are more than 4.8 million reasons to end poverty in this country. Please join us in ensuring all candidates are ready to take action if elected as our MP.
Bill Thomas, Colette Acheson and Charlotte Hrenchuk are co-chairs of the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition.