Wednesday, Sep 14, 2005
Study: Canadian poverty rising despite economic boom
(CBC) - An international study says inequality and homelessness are rising in Canada - despite a sustained economic boom and repeated federal promises to cut poverty.
Poverty is rising among children and new immigrants, the middle class is finding it increasingly difficult to afford education and housing, and there are 250,000 Canadians living on the streets, says the study by Social Watch, a coalition of 400 non-government organizations from 50 countries.
The study was released Wednesday in New York. It is global in scope, and its Canadian section was written by an economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).
The economist, Armine Yalnizyan, wrote that a weak Canadian government has consistently cut taxes for the well-off rather than investing in social services.
"We're worse of [sic] now than we were when we wrote the 1948 declaration of human rights," she said in an interview.
"There's more people waiting for food and shelter and education today."
"We're swimming in resources; what's going on?"
Yalnizyan said the figure of 250,000 homeless comes from a 2002 report by the Commons finance committee.
Among findings cited in the study:
- Between 1997 and 2003, Canada's economy was the fastest-growing among G-8 countries, increasing 55 per cent in real terms.
- Federal spending stands at 11 per cent of the economy, down from 16 per cent in 1993-94 - well below historic averages. Recent increases in spending have not offset the deep cuts of the 90s.
- Only 38 per cent of unemployed workers receive government benefits, down from 75 per cent in the early 90s.
- More than $1.7 million households live on less than $20,000 a year, and most are precariously housed. They do not own their own homes and spend more than 30 per cent of their income on rent.
- Cuts to post-secondary education and deregulation of fees have doubled or tripled tuition costs.
- Despite repeated promises, there is no national child care program.
Yalnizyan said Ottawa has focused overwhelmingly on economic growth, dramatically limiting its role, and transferring money to the provinces without accountability or conditions.
"Even when it was a majority it was a weak government, but now it is a minority that is a weak government confronted by deep regional friction."
The statistics make a mockery of Canada's promises at the UN summit in Monterrey, Mexico, five years ago, she said.
"Social programs are in more jeopardy than they were 10 years ago, and perhaps in more jeopardy than they were 40 years ago, and yet we've got vastly more resources."
Social Watch was founded to monitor commitments made at 1995 UN summits in Copenhagen and Beijing. The Canadian affiliate is funded by the International Development Research Centre, a federal agency.
© the CBC, 2005