Blog | November 21, 2012

By Jason van Rassel, Calgary HeraldWith a federal government pledge to end child poverty by the year 2000 a distant memory, policy-makers are training their sights on a provincial pledge to eliminate the problem in Alberta within five years.A report released Tuesday estimates there are 91,000 children under the age of 18 living in poverty â�� creating a daunting task for Albertans and the government of Premier Alison Redford, whose election promises last April included the five-year pledge.One of the biggest issues identified by the study authors is the number of poor Albertans who have jobs.More than half of the 91,000 children considered poor have at least one parent working full time, according to Statistics Canada data from 2010.â��More than any other province, the face of poverty in Alberta is working poverty,â�� said John Kolkman of the Edmonton Social Planning Council, who co-authored the report.The report arrived at its poverty numbers using a statistic called the low income measure after tax. Under that standard, a family of four earning $38,000 or less in Alberta, after taxes, would be considered poor. A single person would make less than $19,000.The high proportion of working poor in Alberta means that raising social assistance payments isnâ��t enough to lift them above the line: wages have to increase as well, said co-author Bill Moore-Kilgannon.Albertaâ��s current minimum wage is $9.75, one of the lowest in the country, and is coupled with one of the highest costs of living in Canada.â��Part of the solution has to be on the employment side of the ledger,â�� said Moore-Kilgannon, executive director of Public Interest Alberta.However, business lobby groups such as the Canadian Federation of Independent Business have argued against a higher minimum hourly rate, saying a hot labour market has pushed wages higher on its own and any government-imposed increases will lead to job losses.Although a living wage for workers is important, Moore-Kilgannon added the government still has an obligation to assist poor families.Moore-Kilgannon said Alberta should follow a move by Ontario to introduce a provincial child tax benefit to supplement the federal one.In Ontario, the provincial benefit is paid monthly, at the same time as the federal sum.â��The administrative costs would be incredibly low and it would make a difference in the lives of many, many families,â�� he said.The study and its recommendations are particularly timely, the authors said, considering the province is putting together its social policy framework â�� a broad plan for how the government, community agencies and individuals will tackle issues such as housing and employment.The framework is scheduled to be ready for Human Services Minister Dave Hancock to review by the end of the month.â��Thereâ��s no silver bullet to end child poverty,â�� said Craig Loewen, a spokesman for Hancock.â��Itâ��s certainly a big focus of our ministry.â��By Jason van Rassel, Calgary [email protected]
Twitter; JasonvanRasselThis article was published in the Calgary Herald on November 21, 2012. Read the full article on the Calgary Herald website.