May 31, 2013
The Put Food in the Budget campaign organized a unique event to recognize World Hunger Day on Tuesday May 28.
The Put Food in the Budget campaign has learned over the course of our campaign that hundreds of thousands of people are hungry at every stage of life in Ontario because their income is too low. They don’t have enough money to pay the rent and buy food.
Front line workers from public service unions and student, worker and volunteer associations told an audience of high school students about people they serve that do not have enough income to provide nutritious food to their families.
The over-riding message from these stories is that people in Ontario now can literally be ‘Hungry for Life’. ‘Hungry for life’ has two meanings. Young people in high school are on the brink of beginning their adult lives. We all want our young people to thrive and to be hopeful about the future. We want them to be ‘hungry for life’ – we don’t want them to feel hopeless or to fear the future. In workshops this afternoon we will talk about the reality of poverty in Ontario, and talk about how together we might ‘unveil opportunities for hope’.
Diego, a student in the audience, responded to the panel’s presentation by saying ‘We all need to eat, food is a human right.’
The Ontario government does not have a serious strategy to end poverty in Ontario. The proposed welfare reforms in the recent Ontario budget are neither fundamental nor far-reaching as some would have us believe. The current rates for social assistance and the current minimum wage in Ontario ensure that people in Ontario with low incomes will continue to starve.
Premier Wynne’s proposed welfare reforms are inadequate. Premier Wynne must
‘Put Food in the Budget’ by raising social assistance rates and raising the minimum wage to ensure people have enough money to buy healthy food without relying on food banks.
The Toronto Star published two articles on the Put Food in the Budget event.
You can read them here.
Canada isn’t living up to its potential or its reputation when it comes to societal issues like poverty, government and inequality, according to the Conference Board of Canada.
The group gave Canada a ‘B’, good for a 7th place ranking out of 17 developed countries, but it said the “middle-of-the-pack” ranking leaves room for improvement.
Getting an ‘A’ at the top of the rankings were the Scandinavian nations (Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland) as well as the Netherlands and Austria. At the bottom were Japan and the U.S., both getting a ‘D’ ranking.
Income inequality the biggest challenge
Inequality was a major factor in Canada’s low ranking, according to the report. Canada ranked a ‘C’ on both income inequality and the gender income gap.
Many studies have pointed to the rise of income inequality in Canada over the past 30 years. The top 10 per cent have seen their average income rise 34 per cent, while the bottom 10 per cent have seen their earnings rise just 11 per cent. The report says income inequality is cause for concern, especially in education.
“Better education is a powerful way to achieve growth that benefits all,” writes Brenda Lafleur, the report’s author. But if the cost of education in Canada continues to rise, “it is very hard for the child of poor parents to do well.”
However, Canada still maintains a great level of income mobility, ranking ‘A’. Compared to other countries, there isn’t a very strong relationship between a family’s economic background and how much their children can expect to earn.
In Canada, just 19 per cent of a family’s disadvantage is passed on, while that is 47 per cent in the U.S. and 50 per cent in the U.K.
High poverty rates
Linked to inequality is Canada’s high poverty rate, which ranks among the worst of the 17 countries the report looks at.
Canada’s child poverty rate is 15.1 per cent, up from 12.8 per cent in the mid-1990s, earning a ‘C’ ranking – only the U.S. ranked lower. Working-age poverty was 11.1 per cent, up from 9.4 per cent in the late 1990s – the ‘D’ ranking Canada received was the same as the U.S. and Japan.
The Conference Board calls Canada’s rate of child poverty “unacceptable,” and says action needs to be taken.
“Poor children do not eat well, do not learn well and have low chances of escaping poverty when they grow up,” Lafleur said.
The role of government
In reducing inequality and poverty, the report finds that the Canadian government has proven quite effective.
The study notes that due to the tax system and transfers to the poor, income inequality is 27 per cent lower than it otherwise would be, and without government benefits and taxes, poverty rates would be 23 per cent, compared to the current 12 per cent.
However, the political system didn’t get a free pass. Voter turnout and confidence in Parliament were both rated ‘C’.
No ‘kinder, gentler nation’
Lafleur calls the report “myth-busting” of the idea of Canada as a “kinder, gentler nation,” saying that self-image is “based largely on a narrow Canada-U.S. comparison,” and that the U.S. ranked dead last among the 17 countries ranked.
The report wasn’t without a few positive marks for Canada – the conference board highlighted acceptance of diversity and life satisfaction as strengths.
Crime was also an area in which Canada was given good marks, with lower rates of homicides and burglaries than most of the other 17 countries.
Summary report at: Conference Bd of Canada Report FEB