Blog | November 10, 2011

Advocates for poor want premier to honour promise to implement provincewide strategy

By Karen Kleiss, Edmonton JournalEDMONTON - A coalition of anti-poverty activists is urging Premier Alison Redford to keep her promise to implement a province-wide poverty reduction strategy.The groups say Alberta is one of three Canadian provinces that has not implemented a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy, and Redford's pledge - made during the leadership race - is a step in the right direction.

Advocates for poor want premier to honour promise to implement provincewide strategy

By Karen Kleiss, Edmonton JournalEDMONTON - A coalition of anti-poverty activists is urging Premier Alison Redford to keep her promise to implement a province-wide poverty reduction strategy.The groups say Alberta is one of three Canadian provinces that has not implemented a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy, and Redford's pledge - made during the leadership race - is a step in the right direction."You are not going to resolve poverty overnight, but there are real solutions," said Bill Moore-Kilgannon, executive director of Public Interest Alberta and a member of the steering committee for Action to End Poverty in Alberta, the organization that released Redford's pledge."We can show that we can reduce poverty and at the end of the day save money from the public purse," Moore-Kilgannon said."These are important policy discussions that are not happening in Alberta."Redford made the promise in response to a survey question circulated by Action to End Poverty in Alberta, Moore-Kligannon said."I view this approach as a model for effective, responsive government and I intend to apply it to poverty reduction," Redford wrote. "By having assorted government departments collaborate closely across boundaries at the provincial and municipal levels, I will provide impoverished Albertans with comprehensive assistance including housing, addiction treatment, mental health, job supports and help with schooling."It is not the first time Alberta has considered a poverty reduction strategy. In October 2010, the Tory-dominated standing committee on the economy recommended the province do so, but then-employment minister Thomas Lukaszuk told the legislature: "We have a very comprehensive package for recovery from poverty, and that's called jobs."Moore-Kilgannon said a poverty reduction strategy can reduce the burden on the public purse in several ways.For example, he said raising the minimum wage would directly reduce the daycare subsidies paid to low-income families. A higher wage would also help parents work less, reducing the social problems that sometimes arise when children are routinely left home alone and reducing the burden on the expensive policing and judicial systems.Moore-Kilgannon noted that the poorest Albertans use the health-care system far more than their wealthier counterparts, so addressing poverty directly will reduce the burden on the expensive health-care system.Finally, he said reinstating tuition subsidies for the poorest university and college students ensures more low-income Albertans get the education that can help them escape from inter-generational poverty, reducing the strain on the income-support system over the long term.In her mandate letter to Human Services Minister Dave Hancock, Redford has asked Hancock to work with other ministers to develop a social policy framework and Hancock said Wednesday that poverty reduction will form part of that work."Obviously, (the social policy framework) deals broadly with the issues that are involved in poverty," Hancock said. "Poverty is not a single identifiable thing. It's a result of a number of different social determinants, and that's what the premier has tasked me with, is designing a social policy framework that aligns government roles across ministries with the work that is being done by community agencies, municipalities as well as non-governmental organizations."Hancock said the province has committed to sitting down and talking to the anti-poverty activists to discuss the issue.Coun. Ben Henderson is the chairman of the Inter-City Forum on Social Policy, one of the organizations joining in the call to action.Henderson said the province needs to get all the players to the table."We want to make sure we're not working in silos," he said."It's about long terms goals, rather than short term. It's about creating the conditions for long-term change rather than just reacting to symptoms. It's about real reduction in the levels of poverty."

By Karen Kleiss, Edmonton Journalkkleiss@edmontonjournal.comtwitter.com/ablegreporter

This article was published in the Edmonton Journal on November 10, 2011. Read the full article on the Edmonton Journal website.