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BY ANDREA SANDS, EDMONTON JOURNAL MARCH 27, 2015
EDMONTON - The government will spend slightly more than $1 million to open three new Parent Link Centres in three communities, including Edmonton, Minister of Human Services Heather Klimchuk said during a news conference Friday at the Norwood Child and Family Resource Centre.
Klimchuk and Premier Jim Prentice visited the centre at 9516 114thj Ave., which serves more than 600 families through numerous programs, including early childhood development programs, fathers’ groups, financial literacy, home visits and other family supports.
The Norwood Child and Family Resource Centre will run the Parent Link Centre that opens in Edmonton’s core this fall. Centres will also open in Innisfail and Sylvan Lake, Klimchuk said. They offer important support for families, she said.
“Some parents feel isolated. They need to reach out. They need to talk to another parent about what’s happening and to make sure their children are raised in a positive, loving environment, and sometimes you don’t know where to turn to,” Klimchuk said.
“The premier and my colleagues and I are so committed to supporting early childhood development, and Parent Link Centres are such an important part.”
Mom of six Bobbi Felzien is currently living in a hotel and makes daily visits with her children to the Norwood Child and Family Resource Centre. Her kids are in some of the centre’s early learning programs. Felzien has access to the centre’s phone and computer. Norwood staff is helping her family find housing after a six-month struggle.
“They’re like a family and that’s what some people need,” said Felzien, 34, whose children range in age from five months to 15 years old. “All the resources here are amazing.”
During the news conference, Prentice also outlined plans to introduce a new refundable tax credit starting July 1, 2016, which is called the Alberta Working Family Supplement and was announced in Thursday’s provincial budget. He also touted enhancements to the existing Alberta Family Employment Tax Credit, which also kick in July 1, 2016.
“Taken together, these two programs are among the most generous in Canada, relative to families, working families, who are struggling to make ends meet,” Prentice said.
John Kolkman, research co-ordinator with the Edmonton Social Planning Council, said after the news conference those tax benefits will help low-income families, but should come into effect more quickly.
Also, the supports will go to working families, but not to people who receive supports such as Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped who perhaps can’t work, Kolkman said. “We’ve been pushing for a child tax benefit that did not discriminate based on source of income, similar to federal child tax benefits.”
By Dave Lazzarino, Edmonton Sun
First posted: Wednesday, January 14, 2015 02:29 PM MST
Poverty trends in Edmonton have improved in recent years, but worries are surfacing that the fallout from sinking oil prices will undo those gains.
"The first thing that comes to my mind is jobs, the loss of jobs, but also issues around rents going up and the ability for people to find affordable housing when they've lost their job," said Susan Morrissey, executive director of the Edmonton Social Planning Council (SPC), following the release of a report profiling poverty in Edmonton.
Among other statistics, the profile shows one in eight residents are living in poverty.
Breaking the totals down, one in five children experience poverty and for children with aboriginal background, the numbers are even more stark, with almost 44 per cent of kids under six living in low-income homes.
According to John Kolkman, research co-ordinator for the SPC, the trend has been improving in recent years.
"There's been a slow reduction in the poverty rate since 2000 through 2012," Kolkman said. "We've also had a really strong economy."
Kolkman explained the recent numbers only go to 2012, meaning recent events could change that trend for the worse.
"The downturn in oil prices is probably going to have both negative and positive effects," he said.
That's what worries Morrissey.
"We're concerned there's going to be cuts to programs," she said.
She said if social agencies start having to make cuts those cuts will be felt immediately by people on the cusp of poverty and the social cost will skyrocket.
"It's a lot easier and a lot less costly to be able to deal with them before they get there."
Mayor Don Iveson feels more drastic change needs to happen at the federal and provincial levels in order to turn the tables for the city's poor, calling the numbers "unacceptable."
"A society as wealthy as ours, regardless of oil prices, can include more people and ultimately all people," Iveson said.
In his speech, he pointed to a personal belief that the tax system has to be changed. When asked to expand on that, he agreed a general sales tax is likely to hurt all people, poor and wealthy alike.
"It seems to me that when we moved to the flat tax we became more regressive," he said. "I know many high-income people who would be prepared to pay a little bit more by going back to a progressive income tax."
He said a mix of solutions is needed to solve the issue of income inequality.
As for corporate tax, he said it could potentially keep companies from investing in the city, pointing instead to a progressive income tax and and a fuel tax to support provincial coffers.
Recommendations from the city's task force on poverty elimination are expected to be published in the fall.
By Dave Lazzarino, Edmonton Sun, October 8, 2014
Edmonton is finding a 'new-found sense of identity", says Mayor Don Iveson, responding to statistics on the city.
The Vital Signs report, a compilation of statistics that aim to give a snapshot of the health of the city from a variety of angles, was released Tuesday. This year the report focused on the condition of Edmonton's youth and according to the mayor it is "encouraging."
"We're finding a new-found sense of identity in our city, a confidence," said Mayor Don Iveson in reaction to some of the data presented at City Hall.
The positive numbers included a decrease in teen pregnancy from 29% in 1994 to just over 12% last year as well as a slight decrease in youth-involved crime.
But the numbers also show some less encouraging trends. Youth unemployment numbers are almost twice that of the average adult Edmontonian and half of those who do find work are making less than $15 an hour.
In a city where rent for a two-bedroom apartment is around $1,180 - $250 a month higher than the national average - and a vacancy rate of less than two per cent, that puts many in the category of working poor.
"We need housing, we need more supply of housing so there's more competition so that rents moderate, and we need more of you earning a living wage," said Iveson.
He said more employers have to see the value in paying $15 an hour as a living wage and suggested the city find a way of imposing a living wage by refusing to contract out to companies that pay any less.
"It's an ethical question to ask as an employer and a steward of public money," he said.
John Kolkman, research co-ordinator for the Edmonton social planning council, said the numbers aren't completely bleak, pointing to the hopeful attitude of youth.
"One of the things that surprised us, we did a survey of youth and we found most youth were quite optimistic about their own personal futures," said Kolkman, who helped develop the report.
He said many young people said they were involved or were interested in becoming involved in their communities.
"The opportunity is there," said Shannon Cusitar, a 26-year-old second-year social work student at NorQuest College in Edmonton. "It's not impossible."
"It is hard work and dedication but if you really want something, it is achievable."
She said young people may not realize the possibilities that are right in front of them and hopes to use her social work education to bring that message to some of the city's struggling youth.
One of those opportunities has been created by NorQuest recently when they announced the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation Hospitality Institute, which is aiming to connect young hospitality students with jobs in the growing downtown arena district.
More information for it can be found through NorQuest College at norquest.ca.
A report produced by the Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF) in partnership with the Edmonton Social Planning Council (ESPC), presents a wide range of statistics on housing, education, health, cultural diversity, voting trends, student debt and more, with a specific focus on youth.
Among the many findings, the reports shows that Edmonton's median age is 36, compared to Canada's median age of 40.6 and is the only large Canadian city that actually got younger between 2006 and 2011.
The report reveals that youth are feeling reasonably optimistic about their futures, youth are better educated, less likely to be involved in crime, and less likely to become pregnant. Youth, however, are also facing challenges; unemployment is still high, youth wages are low, and a survey of the youth found bullying and drug use to be high rated concerns.
If metro Edmonton is 100 people:
- 65 will own their own home
- 65 will have graduated from a post-secondary institution
- 34 will rent their home
- 81 will have completed high school
- 12 will live in low income or poverty
- 30 are visible minorities
- 41 did not vote federally
- 34 describe themselves as overweight
The report also reveals the attitudes and economic realities of 15 to 24 year olds.
- 65 per cent of youth agree with the statement: "I think the people of greater Edmonton area accept different cultures and beliefs."
- 68 per cent of youth feel it is important to be involved in their community while only seven percent of the general population feel that youth actually are involved in their community.
- 52.9 per cent of youth earn $15/hour or less.
- Youth cite bullying (16.3%) as the biggest concern facing them today while only four per cent of adults think bullying is an issue.
St. Albert Gazette
Published January 14, 2015
St. Albert woman hopes to raise awareness about Generation Squeeze campaign
St Albert A campaign seeking a better deal for Canadians under the age of 45 has struck a chord with a St. Albert resident.
Alex Morrison, a 27-year-old Grandin resident, recently read an article about the Generation Squeeze movement and found herself inspired to learn more.
“It really, really hit home with me,” Morrison said. So much so she’s now hoping to help raise awareness in St. Albert and the region about the campaign, which highlights the challenges faced by Canadians 45 and under.
Those challenges? Escalating housing prices, high childcare costs, salaries that haven’t gone up in step with those increasing costs, an expectation that a bachelor’s degree is now a minimum entrance requirement for many jobs and the associated student debt, and governments that spend more on seniors than they do on younger citizens.
According to statistics from Generation Squeeze, the governments in Canada spend an average of $12,000 per Canadian under 45 versus about $45,000 for every retired citizen.
The Generation Squeeze campaign is hosted at the University of British Columbia, where founder Paul Kershaw is a faculty member in the School of Population and Public Health.
Their website states they would like to increase that spending by about $1,000 per person for those under 45 while keeping spending per senior at its current level.
Morrison said she doesn’t want to take anything away from the country’s more senior citizens, but said her generation and others like it are “truly stuck between a rock and a hard place” when it comes to trying to afford a home, have a family and save for retirement.
“How can we create equity and equality in this and how can we work together to make everybody within Canada’s … lives better,” Morrison said.
More government funding for younger people would help those older generations, Morrison said, because they wouldn’t have to offer as much financial support to their children.
“It’s become almost impossible for people in our generation to develop that financial independence,” Morrison said, acknowledging the only reason she and her husband were able to afford a house for their young family was through parental aid.
“What one person made in the ’70s, two people are barely making now,” she said. Morrison said the campaign is about motivating those under 45 to start getting involved in politics so those who make policy hear their concerns.
“Not only give us a voice but add some clout to our voice and make sure what we’re saying is actually being taken seriously,” Morrison said.
John Kolkman, the research co-ordinator for the Edmonton Social Planning Council, agrees there needs to be policy work done to ensure that money is being spent effectively to support younger Canadians.
“I agree – but it’s also going to depend on how we spend,” Kolkman said.
For example, Kolkman thinks the federal Conservative government’s proposed income splitting is a misguided policy that won’t offer relief to those with modest incomes who need it most. But more funding for childcare would benefit many of the young people that are encompassed by the Generation Squeeze campaign.
That spending shouldn’t take away from seniors, he said.
Generational jealousy is not a new phenomenon, Kolkman said, and the campaign shouldn’t pit age groups against each other.
“We faced many of the same challenges,” he said of his own generation, noting each new generation seems to feel they’ve got a worse deal than those who came before.
There are some challenges for those 45 and under – housing is more expensive, Kolkman noted, though he added just how expensive depends where in Canada you live.
But while housing prices are higher, he notes the high interest rates that hindered homebuyers in earlier generations are not a problem today. “Mortgage rates are at a generational low,” Kolkman said.
BY GORDON KENT, EDMONTON JOURNAL, OCT. 8, 2014
EDMONTON - At a time when most of the developed world is dealing with an aging population, Edmonton is becoming younger.
The median age of Edmonton residents dropped slightly to 36 in 2011 from 36.1 five years earlier, according to Statistics Canada.
That makes it the youngest major Canadian city and one of the few to see less grey hair.
“In the long run, it’s really good news for the city of Edmonton,” John Kolkman, research director for the Edmonton Social Planning Council, said Tuesday.
“It means those of us who are getting a little older, there are more young people coming forward after us.”
Kolkman included the age data in a new Vital Signs report on youth issues put out by the council and the Edmonton Community Foundation.
The median age in Calgary rose to 36.4 from 35.7 over the same period, still far younger than the median 2011 Canadian age of 40.6.
A strong economy and plentiful jobs are likely the main factors drawing young people to Edmonton, although the youth unemployment rate is twice the overall average, he said.
“People move here from elsewhere who are younger than average, and they have children,” he said. “(Also), we have a higher aboriginal population, and the aboriginal population is actually a full 10 years younger, at an average of 26.”
Coun. Ben Henderson said the city has been working to attract and retain young residents, whom he said are crucial to Edmonton’s future.
They’re drawn here by the high-calibre schools and the quality of life, as well as jobs, he said.
He’s not sure what facilities will be needed for a younger population, because the older generation has similar interests in recreation and entertainment.
But Henderson already sees a better mix of age groups on Whyte Avenue, with an older crowd getting dinner early in the evening and their youthful counterparts out later.
“They’re both finding a way to use the space. It’s not either-or, which we saw 10 years ago.”
Gaspard Momba, 26, moved to Edmonton from the Democratic Republic of Congo about three years ago to join his family and improve his education.
He became fluent in English after taking language instruction for newcomers at NorQuest College, where he is now studying several high school courses.
He wants to make Edmonton his home, working and volunteering on community projects.
“In Edmonton, there’s always an opportunity. Whatever you want to do, when you get yourself connected, you can. It really is the best place.”