Nearly one in six Alberta children live in poverty, report finds
Despite a 25-year-old federal motion, child poverty rates have remained steady since 1989.
A new report on child poverty in Alberta was released last week on the 25th anniversary of a unanimous all-party House of Commons motion calling for the elimination of child poverty by the year 2000. The report, released by Public Interest Alberta (PIA), the Edmonton Social Planning Council and the Alberta College of Social Workers, found that 143,200 Alberta children are living below the poverty line.
This number amounts to approximately 16.2 per cent of Alberta children. In 1989 the rate was 16.4 per cent but with population growth, the current rate amounts to nearly 29,000 more children living in poverty in Alberta compared to 25 years ago. Nationally, child poverty rates rose from 15.8 per cent to 19.2 per cent in the same 25-year period.
The report also shows that income inequality in Alberta has increased faster than the national average, with the top 1 per cent of earners seeing an increase of more than 60 per cent in real incomes since 1982, while the bottom half of income earners saw a gain of just 3.4 per cent.
PIA Executive Director Bill Moore-Kilgannon says that a combination of living wage policies, public service investments and the re-establishment of a progressive income tax would help Alberta address its poverty issue.
“With close to 60 per cent of children living in poverty having at least one parent working full time, full year, we need to be considering living wage policies that will ensure that people working full time are not living in poverty,” said Moore-Kilgannon.
On a national level, the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) has also pushed for addressing child poverty issues through its support of the Keep the Promise campaign
(www.keepthepromise.ca). Young people from across Canada attended a town hall with members of Parliament in Ottawa on Nov. 18 and 19 to discuss child poverty and to learn about how they can advocate for other children and youth. Association President and CTF Vice-President Mark Ramsankar was there.
“In a national survey of teachers, the issue of child poverty came second just after child mental health as priorities for CTF advocacy,” Ramsankar said. “Teacher voices are calling on the national and provincial governments to commit to meaningful action to resolve child poverty.”
Ramsankar noted that 57 of Alberta’s Progressive Conservative MLAs were elected in 2012 on a promise to eliminate child poverty in Alberta by 2017. ❚
The report, No Change: After 25 Years of Promises, It’s Time to Eliminate Child Poverty, is available on the Public Interest Alberta website at www.pialberta.org.