HALIFAX, NS - Nova Scotia Child Poverty Report Cards have recorded changes in child poverty since 1999. Each annual card has tracked progress on the government of Canada’s 1989 promise to end child poverty. The report released today, by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Nova Scotia, is the tenth card, and is being released on the 20th anniversary of Canada’s promise to eliminate poverty by the year 2000.
The 2009 card shows progress in a number of areas but shows that the goal of ending child poverty in Canada, unachieved in 2000, remains so in 2007, the most recent year for which rates and numbers are available. The report card used after tax Low Income Cut Offs (LICO) as its key measure of poverty.
The principle news is that a significant and steady downward trend in child poverty rates has occurred in Nova Scotia. But Pauline Raven, the report card’s lead author, points out that, “This downward trend did not start until 2003 well after the child poverty rate peaked in 1997.”
The report card shows an 11.9 percent rate for 1989 (26,000 children); an 18.9 percent rate for 1997 (40,000 children) and an 8.4 percent rate for 2007 (15,000). Raven points to the decreased rate and number of children as welcome news, but cautions, “Nova Scotia cannot celebrate this achievement while 15,000 of our children – and 637,000 children when all provinces are considered – remain in the grips of deep poverty.”
Report card authors attribute the decrease of child poverty to the steady increase of tax transfers to families with children through federal and provincial Child Tax Benefits. Co-author Rene Ross says: “It is clear that the vehicle chosen by governments in 1997 to transfer income to families is an effective one and that it is crucial for governments to enhance these transfers to families to move us towards the goal of eliminating child poverty as quickly as possible.”
Co-author Lesley Frank, whose research as a doctorate candidate focuses on issues of food security, is very concerned about the depth of poverty that families continue to experience. Pointing to the rise in use of food banks across Canada, Frank says, “When a family has to make ends meet month after month with an income that is several hundred dollars below the Low Income Cut Off visits to the food bank can become necessary to basic survival.”
The report card authors continue to call for a comprehensive plan to reduce child poverty. Raven says, “There is no ambiguity in the Nova Scotia New Democratic Party’s position regarding poverty - the challenge and the power for change resides with this majority government whose constitution, from its preamble onwards notes, the abolition of poverty and the elimination of exploitation as achievable goals that must be the priority of any thinking and compassionate government.”
For further information or to arrange an interview contact: Authors: Lesley Frank (902) 582-2483 or (902)698-3653; Pauline Raven (902) 670-2949); Rene Ross at (902) 420-0103 or (902) 456-8945; or Christine Saulnier, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-NS (902) 477-1252 or 2240-0926 cell. The Nova Scotia Child Poverty Report Card 2009 can be downloaded free of charge at www.policyalternatives.ca