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  • A Profile of Poverty in Edmonton - May 2019 Update

    A Profile of Poverty in Edmonton - May 2019 Update

    Read the full report (click on the link):A Profile of Poverty in Edmonton - May 2019 Update Click to download: 2016 Federal Census Neighbourhood Summary Click to download: Map: Prevalence of Low Income After-Tax (All Ages) Click to download: Map: Prevalence of Low Income After-Tax (0 to 17) INTRODUCTION Poverty affects people from all walks of life – young, old, employed, unemployed, those Read More
  • 2019 Vital Topics - Indigenous Women in Alberta

    2019 Vital Topics - Indigenous Women in Alberta

    Edmonton Vital Signs is an annual check-up conducted by Edmonton Community Foundation, in partnership with Edmonton Social Planning Council, to measure how the community is doing. This year we will also be focusing on individual issues, VITAL TOPICS, that are timely and important to Edmonton.  This edition focuses on Indigenous Women in Alberta.   Download: Vital Topic - Indigenous Women in Read More
  • 2018 Vital Topics - The Arts

    2018 Vital Topics - The Arts

    Edmonton Vital Signs is an annual check-up conducted by Edmonton Community Foundation, in partnership with Edmonton Social Planning Council, to measure how the community is doing. This year we will also be focusing on individual issues, VITAL TOPICS, that are timely and important to Edmonton.  This edition focuses on The Arts. ARTS include a wide variety of creative disciplines including: Read More
  • 2018 Vital Topics - Senior Women in Edmonton

    2018 Vital Topics - Senior Women in Edmonton

    Edmonton Vital Signs is an annual check-up conducted by Edmonton Community Foundation, in partnership with Edmonton Social Planning Council, to measure how the community is doing. This year we will also be focusing on individual issues, VITAL TOPICS, that are timely and important to Edmonton. Watch for these in each issue of Legacy in Action, and in the full issue Read More
  • Edmonton Vital Signs 2018

    Edmonton Vital Signs 2018

    Edmonton Vital Signs is an annual check-up conducted by Edmonton Community Foundation, in partnership with Edmonton Social Planning Council, to measure how the community is doing. This year we will also be focusing on individual issues, Vital Topics, that are timely and important to Edmonton - specifically Women, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Edmonton, Visible Minority Women, and Senior Women. Each of these topics appear in Read More
  • CBC News - Living wage in Edmonton is going up but that isn't good

    CBC News - Living wage in Edmonton is going up but that isn't good

    Radio Active with Adrienne Pan Interview with Sandra Ngo, Edmonton Social Planning Council. Click here to listen to the interview   Read More
  • Media Release: Edmonton Living Wage 2018 Update

    Media Release: Edmonton Living Wage 2018 Update

    June 21, 2018 For Immediate Release Edmonton Living Wage 2018 Update Contending with Costs For the first time in 2 years, the living wage for Edmonton has risen. For 2018, an income earner must make $16.48 per hour to support a family of four, an increase of $0.17 per hour from last year’s living wage. The living wage is intended Read More
  • 2018 Vital Topics - Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity

    2018 Vital Topics - Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity

    Edmonton Vital Signs is an annual check-up conducted by Edmonton Community Foundation, in partnership with Edmonton Social Planning Council, to measure how the community is doing. This year we will also be focusing on individual issues, VITAL TOPICS, that are timely and important to Edmonton. Watch for these in each issue of Legacy in Action, and in the full issue Read More
  • 2018 Vital Topics - Visible Minority Women in Edmonton

    2018 Vital Topics - Visible Minority Women in Edmonton

    Edmonton Vital Signs is an annual check-up conducted by Edmonton Community Foundation, in partnership with Edmonton Social Planning Council, to measure how the community is doing. This year we will also be focusing on individual issues, VITAL TOPICS, that are timely and important to Edmonton. Watch for these in each issue of Legacy in Action, and in the full issue Read More
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BY KAREN KLEISS, EDMONTON JOURNAL OCTOBER 4, 2014

EDMONTON - The number of Alberta families dependent on monthly welfare cheques peaked at 40,000 in 2010 and has yet to return to pre-recession levels, new provincial figures show.

A Journal analysis of newly released provincial data shows monthly caseloads stabilized around 33,000 in early 2014, significantly higher than the roughly 25,000 monthly caseloads before the 2008 financial crash.

The figures also show single people and lone-parent families make up the bulk of households receiving income support, while more than half of all welfare recipients are those not expected to work because they have “barriers to employment” — the only category of recipients that is on the rise.

David Schneider, executive director of program policy for the Human Services department, said the steady increase in that group is mainly made up of older Albertans no longer able to do the work they did when they were younger.

“We see people who are getting older, who maybe when they were in their 30s were able to work manual, physical jobs, and be self-sufficient,” he said.

“They’ve had lots of hard work, and their bodies aren’t in the same shape.”

Schneider said the number of Albertans receiving welfare hasn’t returned to pre-recession levels in part because more people have moved to Alberta, and the figures don’t reflect that population growth. Further, welfare caseloads typically mirror the unemployment rate, but with a six-month delay.

He said most welfare cheques go to single people and lone-parent families because the province measures total household income to determine if a family qualifies for support, and Albertans in a relationship who hit hard times are more likely to be supported by their partners.

The ministry does not measure how many people apply for welfare but are turned away, Schneider said.

The Income Support Program, popularly known as welfare, is a branch of the Alberta Works program. Alberta invests just over $388 million annually to help Albertans in crisis.

Typically, a single person who is expected to work receives $627 per month in support, while a single person with barriers to employment gets $731.

A single parent with two children who is expected to work — say a single mother who has left a violent relationship — receives $1,130.

Albertans on welfare can earn up to $230 a month by working, after which additional benefits are clawed back at a rate of 75 per cent.

John Kolkman of the Edmonton Social Planning Council said the number of welfare recipients with barriers to employment is increasing because front-line caseworkers are under pressure to reduce the number of Albertans receiving Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH).

This is partly because a single person on AISH receives $1,588 per month — more than double the welfare rate — and demand has increased since Alison Redford boosted rates by $400 in 2012.

“People in the front-line agencies will say a lot of those people (who receive income supports) have profiles not dissimilar to people who are in the AISH program, and that some of them should be on AISH,” he said. “It’s really hard to live on income support benefits — they are among the lowest in the country.”

Bill Moore-Kilgannon of Public Interest Alberta said caseloads haven’t returned to pre-recession levels because the government has cut job training programs for people on welfare.

“Unless we are supporting people to get the training they need to get a job, we will continue to see people stuck in the poverty cycle,” he said.

Further, he said “these numbers only represent those who got onto the system. … Who is excluded from support? There is no shortage of people who are in crisis and unable to get help.”

Fundamentally, he said the problem is that the Tories haven’t kept their 2012 election promise to introduce a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy.

“We have to support people before they fall into poverty,” he said.

Edmonton's population reaches 877,926, Global Edmonton, August. 29, 2014

Here we grow again! Edmonton's population is up more than 60,000 in the last two years. Vinesh Pratap finds out what the numbers mean.

(This television news item was a follow-up to Mayor Don Iveson's announcement that the city's population grew by about seven percent in the past two years.)

Following interviews with two people who recently moved to the city, Edmonton Social Planning Council's executive director Susan Morrissey was quoted saying: "You can't assume that just because we are going to be in another economic growth period that everyone is going to benefit." (and following some images of homeless people... ) "It's not perfect but I do think that we are now on the (same) page and everyone is saying let's take all of these plans and put them together and address these issues that way."

 

Watch the video here.

Slav Kornik
November 26, 2013


Edmonton - A new report is calling on the Alberta government to take action on eliminating child poverty in the province.

According to the report, "From Words to Action: Alberta Can Afford a Real Poverty Reduction Strategy," one in ten children is living in poverty in Alberta.

The report suggests, in 2011, there were 84,000 - 29,800 under the age of six - living below the low-income measure.

"Premier Redford's 2012 election promise to eliminate child poverty by 2017 will not be achieved unless the words in the government's soon to be released poverty reduction strategy, will be backed up with real action and investment in programs that prevent, reduce and ultimately eliminate poverty," said Bill Moore-Kilgannon, executive director of Public Interest Alberta.

According to the numbers, employment does not guarantee a low-income family in Alberta will climb out of poverty. The report shows an all-time record 59 per cent of children in poverty had at least one parent working full time for the full year.

"The report shows that inequality is growing rapidly in Alberta so unless the government commits to targeted investments to support those who are not benefiting from our strong economy, their poverty reduction will not succeed," said John Kolkman, research coordinator with Edmonton Social Planning Council.

Public Interest Alberta, the Edmonton Social Planning Council and the Alberta College of Social Workers released the report.

The Edmonton Social Planning Council is making recommendations it believes would reduce poverty among working poor families, including: a provincial child tax benefit and increasing the minimum wage and a living wage policy for contracted services.

"The report shows that inequality is growing rapidly in Alberta so unless the government commits to targeted investments to support those who are not benefiting from our strong economy, their poverty reduction will not succeed," argues Kolkman.

Public Interest Alberta is proposing a $1 billion investment.

"In a province that collects $10.6 billion less in taxation than the next lowest taxed province, we outline how the government could raise from $1.2 - $2.0 billion by establishing a progressive tax and increase corporate taxes," said Lori Sigurdson, chairperson of Public Interest Alberta's Human Services and Poverty Task Force.

Click on the link to view the newsclip.



 

by  Meaghan Baxter, Vue Weekly

January 24, 2013

Alberta is one of the country's wealthiest provinces, with an abundance of resources and opportunities at our fingertips. However, below the surface is an issue that continues to grow, and one that prevents a staggering number of Albertans from accessing those opportunities, attaining an adequate quality of life, or even simply making ends meet every month.

Poverty reaches far beyond the traditional stereotypes of those too lazy and unwilling to work to make a better life for themselves and their families. The truth is, many of Alberta's poor are working full-time jobs year-round and are still falling short. According to Public Interest Alberta (PIA), poverty affects one in 10 Albertans.

"Poverty has risen quite dramatically with the downturn of the economy, and so there are a lot of people who are really just a paycheque away from living in poverty if they lose their job or if they get injured," says Bill Moore-Kilgannon, executive director of PIA, which is continuing to work towards a comprehensive poverty strategy and supports Action to End Poverty in Alberta.

Contributing to Alberta's poverty rate is the fact that Alberta has the second-lowest minimum wage in Canada at $9.75 per hour, just ahead of Saskatchewan, which comes in at $9.50 per hour. Moore-Kilgannon points out that this can be troublesome, particularly because Alberta also has the lowest post-secondary participation rate in Canada. While people are able to enter high-paying jobs in industries such as oil and gas without post-secondary certification, he says if they become injured and aren't able to continue that line of work, they have nothing to fall back on and have to resort to low-paying service jobs. This, coupled with the expensive cost of living in Alberta, can make it incredibly difficult to get out of poverty if a person falls below that line.

"We need, in Alberta, to do a better job of rewarding work and making work pay," notes John Kolkman, research coordinator for the Edmonton Social Planning Council. "That includes looking at how we can increase wages for low-income workers: things like minimum wage, things like earned income tax credits that basically provide a supplement to low-wage workers. There's a number of things that can be done without expending huge dollars that will nonetheless, if we do them properly, will make a significant difference to reduce poverty in the province."

On November 20, 2012—also known as National Child Day—PIA, along with the Alberta College of Social Workers and the Edmonton Social Planning Council, published Achieving the Promise: Ending Poverty in Alberta, one of many reports being released across Canada by the national coalition Campaign 2000. For the first time, the report presented data using the Low Income After-Tax (LIM AT) rather than the Low Income Cut-off (LICO), which has only been updated for inflation rather than other changes in expenditures for Canadian families. LIM AT is updated yearly, and by these standards, a family of four in Alberta earning $38 000 after taxes would be considered poor. For a single person, this cut off would be a yearly salary of $19 000.

The report highlights that of all age groups in Alberta, one of the most widely affected by poverty is children under the age of 18. The most recent figures relating to child poverty were recorded in 2010, and the data revealed that at that time 91 000 children (11.3 percent) were living below the low-income measure. The number of younger children—meaning under the age of six—was slightly higher: over one in six children (17.2 percent) under the age of six are living in low income families—or 48 200 children. However, in 2010, 51.6 percent of children in poverty lived in households where one or more persons worked full-time year round.

Children living in poverty have no choice in the matter, and Moore-Kilgannon says while each situation is different and poverty is a complex issue, it limits children in terms of their vision of self-image and their potential.

"That's unfortunate because what we need to be doing is developing the full potential of all children and yet, so much of our society is basically this user-pay model and it excludes children so much, so children living in poverty cannot get involved in things like hockey; it's just too expensive," he continues. "Children living in poverty feel that they are clearly not going to be getting the latest stuff and then they get ostracized at school, and young girls in particular can be quite cruel to each other on these things ... and that creates self-esteem issues, so there are many, many things that happen growing up in these situations and that has lasting, life-long implications."

Kolkman acknowledges child poverty is a prevalent problem in the province, but does not want to paint too gloomy a picture, as most people do not stay in poverty their entire lives. He points out past data, which shows there has been a 12-percent decrease in the number of children in poverty from 2009 to 2010, and the number of children lifted out of poverty by all government income transfers—including child tax benefits, social assistance and employment insurance—has increased to 47.2 percent. He says some families also manage to lift themselves out of poverty through career improvements or by going back to school, although this can be difficult given the cost of childcare in the province, which can be as high as $700 per month, per child, and often more expensive for infants and children under the age of six.

"But there are some who stay trapped, and I think we need to do a better job of helping them exit poverty as well. Some of it has to do with the design of some of the programs that we have," Moore-Kilgannon says, noting that reducing poverty will require some additional public investment, but there is evidence to suggest that it saves both the government and society money in the long run. "Children growing up in poverty tend to earn lower income as adults. They tend to drop out of school more, so they have lower education attainment, they tend to have greater involvement with the criminal justice system, they tend to get sick more and have greater costs in the health-care system. If we can make some strategic investments and reduce poverty, particularly among children, there are going to be some long-term benefits."

Joe Ceci, coordinator of Action to End Poverty in Alberta, says that research conducted by the organization, in terms of publishing poverty costs in 2012, indicated that 20 to 25 percent of children living in poverty remain in poverty throughout their lives. This means that while those individuals lose out economically due to being unable to attain better employment, so does the government due to less taxes being paid from those individuals who may also be receiving benefits rather than contributing to the domestic product of the province and the economy.

"That's what our work is, to try and produce some government policies, a report that will have government policies that will save Alberta money in the long run and have a better outcome for people living in poverty," Ceci says, adding that there is often not a great deal of transitional support into employment for those working to get out of poverty, and the thought of losing some of that assistance can be a deterrent for families.

Premier Alison Redford pledged to end child poverty in Alberta within five years during the last provincial election, with further measures to be taken to end poverty in Alberta within 10 years, and is being challenged to make good on her word. Redford stated at that time that the plan wasn't about giving handouts, but rather focusing on creating equal opportunity and ensuring all Albertans had the opportunity to benefit from the province's economy. Implemented under the Alberta government's newly formed Human Services, the first step was to review all government programs through result-based budgeting and determine if they are meeting the needs of Albertans. Currently, Human Services Manager Dave Hancock is developing the social policy framework, which Moore-Kilgannon says is a new policy for the whole ministry of Human Services that will include a poverty reductions strategy, but he says while the services provided by the ministry are critical, other areas, such as access to education, need to be addressed.

"I'm worried that the social policy framework is going to be more rhetoric than reality and it's not going to be backed up with any substantial investments," Moore-Kilgannon adds. "I'll be the first to congratulate them if they do, but I'm not holding my breath."

"The social policy framework is a really good first step in taking steps towards creating a provincial poverty reduction strategy, and their leadership in that regard will really help all sectors identify how they can play a role in preventing and ultimately eliminating poverty in Alberta," Ceci says of the plan, which has not yet been released.

In the meantime, Action to End Poverty in Alberta will be addressing policies to reduce poverty in Alberta with its report, Poverty Costs 2.0: Creating Policies That Save, in March.

Alberta is one of the country's wealthiest provinces, with an abundance of resources and opportunities at our fingertips. However, below the surface is an issue that continues to grow, and one that prevents a staggering number of Albertans from accessing those opportunities, attaining an adequate quality of life, or even simply making ends meet every month.

Poverty reaches far beyond the traditional stereotypes of those too lazy and unwilling to work to make a better life for themselves and their families. The truth is, many of Alberta's poor are working full-time jobs year-round and are still falling short. According to Public Interest Alberta (PIA), poverty affects one in 10 Albertans.

"Poverty has risen quite dramatically with the downturn of the economy, and so there are a lot of people who are really just a paycheque away from living in poverty if they lose their job or if they get injured," says Bill Moore-Kilgannon, executive director of PIA, which is continuing to work towards a comprehensive poverty strategy and supports Action to End Poverty in Alberta.

Contributing to Alberta's poverty rate is the fact that Alberta has the second-lowest minimum wage in Canada at $9.75 per hour, just ahead of Saskatchewan, which comes in at $9.50 per hour. Moore-Kilgannon points out that this can be troublesome, particularly because Alberta also has the lowest post-secondary participation rate in Canada. While people are able to enter high-paying jobs in industries such as oil and gas without post-secondary certification, he says if they become injured and aren't able to continue that line of work, they have nothing to fall back on and have to resort to low-paying service jobs. This, coupled with the expensive cost of living in Alberta, can make it incredibly difficult to get out of poverty if a person falls below that line.

"We need, in Alberta, to do a better job of rewarding work and making work pay," notes John Kolkman, research coordinator for the Edmonton Social Planning Council. "That includes looking at how we can increase wages for low-income workers: things like minimum wage, things like earned income tax credits that basically provide a supplement to low-wage workers. There's a number of things that can be done without expending huge dollars that will nonetheless, if we do them properly, will make a significant difference to reduce poverty in the province."

On November 20, 2012—also known as National Child Day—PIA, along with the Alberta College of Social Workers and the Edmonton Social Planning Council, published Achieving the Promise: Ending Poverty in Alberta, one of many reports being released across Canada by the national coalition Campaign 2000. For the first time, the report presented data using the Low Income After-Tax (LIM AT) rather than the Low Income Cut-off (LICO), which has only been updated for inflation rather than other changes in expenditures for Canadian families. LIM AT is updated yearly, and by these standards, a family of four in Alberta earning $38 000 after taxes would be considered poor. For a single person, this cut off would be a yearly salary of $19 000.

The report highlights that of all age groups in Alberta, one of the most widely affected by poverty is children under the age of 18. The most recent figures relating to child poverty were recorded in 2010, and the data revealed that at that time 91 000 children (11.3 percent) were living below the low-income measure. The number of younger children—meaning under the age of six—was slightly higher: over one in six children (17.2 percent) under the age of six are living in low income families—or 48 200 children. However, in 2010, 51.6 percent of children in poverty lived in households where one or more persons worked full-time year round.

Children living in poverty have no choice in the matter, and Moore-Kilgannon says while each situation is different and poverty is a complex issue, it limits children in terms of their vision of self-image and their potential.

"That's unfortunate because what we need to be doing is developing the full potential of all children and yet, so much of our society is basically this user-pay model and it excludes children so much, so children living in poverty cannot get involved in things like hockey; it's just too expensive," he continues. "Children living in poverty feel that they are clearly not going to be getting the latest stuff and then they get ostracized at school, and young girls in particular can be quite cruel to each other on these things ... and that creates self-esteem issues, so there are many, many things that happen growing up in these situations and that has lasting, life-long implications."

Kolkman acknowledges child poverty is a prevalent problem in the province, but does not want to paint too gloomy a picture, as most people do not stay in poverty their entire lives. He points out past data, which shows there has been a 12-percent decrease in the number of children in poverty from 2009 to 2010, and the number of children lifted out of poverty by all government income transfers—including child tax benefits, social assistance and employment insurance—has increased to 47.2 percent. He says some families also manage to lift themselves out of poverty through career improvements or by going back to school, although this can be difficult given the cost of childcare in the province, which can be as high as $700 per month, per child, and often more expensive for infants and children under the age of six.

"But there are some who stay trapped, and I think we need to do a better job of helping them exit poverty as well. Some of it has to do with the design of some of the programs that we have," Moore-Kilgannon says, noting that reducing poverty will require some additional public investment, but there is evidence to suggest that it saves both the government and society money in the long run. "Children growing up in poverty tend to earn lower income as adults. They tend to drop out of school more, so they have lower education attainment, they tend to have greater involvement with the criminal justice system, they tend to get sick more and have greater costs in the health-care system. If we can make some strategic investments and reduce poverty, particularly among children, there are going to be some long-term benefits."

Joe Ceci, coordinator of Action to End Poverty in Alberta, says that research conducted by the organization, in terms of publishing poverty costs in 2012, indicated that 20 to 25 percent of children living in poverty remain in poverty throughout their lives. This means that while those individuals lose out economically due to being unable to attain better employment, so does the government due to less taxes being paid from those individuals who may also be receiving benefits rather than contributing to the domestic product of the province and the economy.

"That's what our work is, to try and produce some government policies, a report that will have government policies that will save Alberta money in the long run and have a better outcome for people living in poverty," Ceci says, adding that there is often not a great deal of transitional support into employment for those working to get out of poverty, and the thought of losing some of that assistance can be a deterrent for families.

Premier Alison Redford pledged to end child poverty in Alberta within five years during the last provincial election, with further measures to be taken to end poverty in Alberta within 10 years, and is being challenged to make good on her word. Redford stated at that time that the plan wasn't about giving handouts, but rather focusing on creating equal opportunity and ensuring all Albertans had the opportunity to benefit from the province's economy. Implemented under the Alberta government's newly formed Human Services, the first step was to review all government programs through result-based budgeting and determine if they are meeting the needs of Albertans. Currently, Human Services Manager Dave Hancock is developing the social policy framework, which Moore-Kilgannon says is a new policy for the whole ministry of Human Services that will include a poverty reductions strategy, but he says while the services provided by the ministry are critical, other areas, such as access to education, need to be addressed.

"I'm worried that the social policy framework is going to be more rhetoric than reality and it's not going to be backed up with any substantial investments," Moore-Kilgannon adds. "I'll be the first to congratulate them if they do, but I'm not holding my breath."

"The social policy framework is a really good first step in taking steps towards creating a provincial poverty reduction strategy, and their leadership in that regard will really help all sectors identify how they can play a role in preventing and ultimately eliminating poverty in Alberta," Ceci says of the plan, which has not yet been released.

In the meantime, Action to End Poverty in Alberta will be addressing policies to reduce poverty in Alberta with its report, Poverty Costs 2.0: Creating Policies That Save, in March.

Dave Lazzarino, Edmonton Sun

November 26, 2013

Child poverty can be wiped out in Alberta but not without raising taxes, experts say.

A report released Tuesday by a coalition of groups working to lower poverty rates in the province outlines some of the solutions for what they are calling an unnecessary imbalance of wealth in the province.

"Alberta as a jurisdiction collects almost $11 billion less in taxes annually compared to the next lowest province. So we have a huge surplus of funding that we can access but we're choosing not to," said Laurie Sigurdson, with the Alberta College of Social Workers and one of the report's authors.

Sigurdson referred to a 2012 promise Premier Alison Redford made to end child poverty by 2017. Though numbers have lowered by about eight per cent since 2008, she said more has to be done to reach the goal of total eradication of child poverty in the next three years.

"There's still time. We have until 2017," she said. "But really serious investment in social programming has to happen."

Numbers are compiled for the entire province, but according to John Kolkman, with the Edmonton Social Planning Council, they are worst in the capital city.

"Within the province of Alberta the highest rates of poverty, even though it does fluctuate from year to year, are within the City of Edmonton," said Kolkman.

One specific area where Alberta is lagging behind the rest of the country involves families with full-time working parents.

"In 2011, an all-time record of fifty-nine percent of children living in poverty had one or more parents working full-time for full the full year," said Sigurdson.

The report details a handful of investments that could lower poverty rates if they can be paid for including a provincial child tax benefit, increased minimum wage and implementing a living wage for government contracted services.

The cost to turn those trends around, said the report, is about $1 billion.

Kolkman said corporations and individuals who are earning more should be the ones to cover the cost.

"We're not going to apologize. How can a government that is taxing Albertans $10.6 billion less than the next lowest Canadian province plead poverty and say that there isn't money? If they're prepared to make a commitment to end child poverty in five years, we think they should be held to it," he said.

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Video Feature

Global News - 1 in 6 Alberta children lives below poverty line

Read more about the Edmonton Social Planning Council report on child poverty in Alberta.

Alberta Child Poverty Report - 2018 Click to Download