, Edmonton Journal
April 25, 2012
EDMONTON - Albertans can expect a fundamental reshaping of Albertas social services sector if Premier Alison Redford wants to make good on her bold election promise to end poverty in 10 years, advocates say.
Other Canadian provinces with similar poverty reduction strategies have
passed new laws, introduced new programs and changed the way they
measure success. Some boosted the minimum wage, improved early childhood
interventions, or indexed welfare cheques to inflation. Some have spent
And they have seen success. Newfoundland saw its poverty rate drop five
per cent over five years ending in 2009, Quebec saw a 2.5-per-cent drop
over the same period. During the 2008 recession, Ontario lifted 19,000
children and families out of poverty using a poverty reduction strategy.
Redford and Human Services Minister Dave Hancock havent said what
Albertas plan will look like, but advocates who have been pressing the
province to adopt such a strategy say the process of designing it will
involve dozens of groups across multiple sectors, from volunteers to
business to not-for-profits.
I think its a big undertaking, and its one that a lot of people are
ready and geared up to tackle, said Joe Ceci, co-ordinator of the
advocacy group Action to End Poverty. It will take political will not
just by one party, but by all parties, to entrench that goal in an act
There are at least four sectors that need to be at the table, it cant
just be government, Ceci said. Instead of continuing to spend on
alleviation strategies, these (poverty reduction plans) are seen as
investments that lift people out of poverty and break the cycle.
Nearly 400,000 Albertans live in poverty and 78,000 of those are
children a number that has increased 40 per cent in recent years. A
report released in February by a coalition of anti-poverty groups showed
that failure to address the root causes of poverty costs Alberta as
much as $9.5 billion each year in management costs through the health
and justice systems, among others.
Midway through the election, on April 11, Redford promised that she
would implement a 10-year plan to end poverty, making Alberta the 11th
of Canadas 13 provinces and territories to adopt a poverty reduction
Redford committed no new money to the project and has only said the
first step will be to revisit the Human Services budget using the
governments new zero-based budgeting model, which starts from zero and
rebuilds the budget program by program. She has previously said the
province will revisit Albertas minimum wage, which is among the lowest
in the country.
Human Services spokeswoman Kathy Telfer said Wednesday the governments
next steps will be determined after Redford names her cabinet and gives
the new minister a mandate. That will happen in May.
The concept of a poverty reduction strategy was first developed in
Quebec, which passed an Act to Combat Poverty and Social Exclusion in
2002. Since then, every province and territory except Alberta,
Saskatchewan and B.C. have adopted similar plans.
Five provinces have passed legislation that commits government to
continued poverty-reduction efforts, by mandating annual reports, for
example, or legislating poverty measurements.
Its an ambitious goal, and its a worthy goal, said John Kolkman of
Edmontons Social Planning Council. Im concerned, however, that there
were no financial resources allocated to achieve it. Its an extremely
ambitious target to talk about eliminating poverty and without
resources, I think its unlikely. Kolkman said his group will be
pressing the government to implement a living wage as well as refundable
tax credits for Albertas poorest families.
Certainly, consultation will be required to put in place the kinds of
measures that we know make a difference in terms of reducing poverty,
he said. Its a huge undertaking.
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