Prince Edward Island Report Card on Child and Family Poverty, 2016

Summary: 

Each year there are scores of brave people who let us know that life is difficult and that they are struggling because their income is insufficient to meet their needs. Some are seniors who live at home and whose pension is insufficient to make basic repairs on their home to say nothing of their heating costs and need for affordable food. Single mothers tell us of their struggle and how they use the Food Bank and Soup Kitchens to supplement their meagre income. Community and church agencies constantly hear about the hardships many individuals and families are experiencing. Prince Edward is a rural province with a limited transportation system. This adds to the hardship of people getting to the grocery store, the doctor and other necessary appointments. Improvements in transportation are too slow and victims of this slowness are many. This year the provincial government is building a by-pass around a town outside of Charlottetown. It is perceived to be unnecessary. The cost of the by-pass is $65 million just to speed up traffic. This money spent on poverty eradication would lift most people in this small province out of poverty and save the province at least $100 million a year in the direct cost of poverty.

Much progress has been made throughout the year in unearthing the facts and helping people to understand the enormity of the child and family poverty problem. The biggest progress is that the problem can no longer be hidden. We know there are answers and that eradication of poverty is doable. The biggest obstacle is government tardiness in spite of several federal resolutions to eradicate child poverty and a provincial promise to establish a Poverty Eradication Strategy. The first federal resolution in 1989 aimed to eliminate poverty among children by the year 2000. In 2009 it resolved to end all poverty and in 2015 it repeated its promise to end child poverty. The goal is long past and the situation is worse. Now, Canada is being disgraced around the world for its neglect of children in poverty, of which aboriginal children bear the biggest burden. It is shocking to know that 60 percent of First Nations children living on reserves live in poverty.

The federal government has taken a positive step toward alleviating child and family poverty by increasing the Canada Child Benefit (CCB). Its Fall Economic Report states that it wants to reduce child poverty by 40 percent by 2017. i It also promises to closely monitor the number of children in poverty. It is unclear which poverty measure they are intending to use. The CCB was calculated using the Low Income Cut-off After-tax (LICO-at) but there are problems with that measure as it doesn’t give a clear picture of the extent of poverty. The CCB is a good start but far from adequate. Provincial governments are not keeping pace with the federal poverty reduction process. In this province there is little if any evidence of the political will that is needed to adequately tackle poverty. The Low Income Measure (LIM) sheds light on just how 3 serious a problem we face. It is encouraging that the LIM is being recommended as Canada’s official poverty measure. Adopting the LIM after-tax would be of great assistance in tracking poverty.

According to 2013 statistics, the child poverty rate for PEI was 18.2 percent. It declined in 2014 to 17.8 percent, slightly below the Canadian average of 18.5 percentii but the poverty rate for children under 6 years stood at 21.5. In light of this we continue to use the theme Lingering Too Long. But Why? We continue to ask why governments are taking so long to act?

Publication date: 
Nov 2016
Author: 
MacKillop Centre for Social Justice with PEI Coalition for a Poverty Eradication Strategy
Publisher: 
MacKillop Centre for Social Justice with PEI Coalition for a Poverty Eradication Strategy
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