Blog | November 25, 2014

By Peggy Revell, Medicine Hat NewsTwo out of 13 children in Medicine Hat live in poverty, according to a study released Monday by Public Interest Alberta.The report comes on the 25th anniversary of the unanimous parliamentary pledge in Ottawa to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000.“It’s so sad to see in a province as wealthy as Alberta that there’s basically been no change,” Bill Moore-Kilgannon, PIA executive director, which published the study with the Edmonton Social Planning Council and Alberta College of Social Workers.The report also comes as 2017 grows closer — the year the PC party promised during the last election to have ended child poverty in Alberta.In 1989, Alberta’s child poverty rate was 16.4 per cent.As of 2012, 16.4 per cent of Albertan children lived below the low-income measure (LIM After Tax), or approximately 143,200, according to the study. Factoring in population growth, Alberta has 28,670 more children in poverty than in 1989.For Medicine Hat, the statistic is 15.3 per cent.“It’s a disgrace; it’s a disgrace for all of us,” said Medicine Hat Counc. Les Pearson, yet he isn’t surprised by the statistic since the city has the highest number of low-wage earners in the province.Medicine Hat is an “incredible and giving community,” said Pearson — citing programs like the school brown bag lunch program, Santa Claus Fund and more — but it also comes down to enough government funding to municipalities to provide the social services needed.“While we have identified the needs locally for children and their families, we don’t always have the funding to meet all of their needs,” he said, citing also the need for a living wage and affordable daycare initiatives.“The provincial government has not increased funding for family and community support services since 2009,” said Moore-Kilgannon, and in many cases municipalities have been “trying to fill the gap” by increasing their own contributions instead of cutting programs.That there are so many children living in poverty is simply “not acceptable,” said Holly Stadnicki, executive director with the United Way of Southeastern Alberta.“Especially in Alberta. Alberta is supposed to be a land of plenty, the province that does so well.”Child poverty numbers from the study confirms what research the UW has done with the Community Foundation and city, she said.“We do know that Medicine Hat has a high percentage of child poverty, and we are trying to address it with other organizations collaboratively,” she said, citing the numerous UW programs, and community programs.Data for PIA’s study comes from StatsCanada’s tax-filer data instead of the now defunct Survey on Labour Income Dynamics that was used to calculate poverty in the past, — and for which Medicine Hat was combined with Lethbridge for statistics, said Moore-Kilgannon.“Of these children living in poverty, 60 per cent had a parent working full time all year,” he said — going against the myth that these parents are just unemployed. “That doesn’t even calculate in all the children whose (parents) work 10 months out of the year and lost their job, or worked all year long but could only get a part-time job, etc.”Poverty for many people is just a divorce or workplace accident away, he stressed.“One of the key things we want get across in this report is, there are many solutions that need to be put together in a comprehensive approach but we have to stop looking at poverty as a charitable thing. If we actually prevent and reduce poverty, not only does that help those families, it actually saves the government money in other expenditures and it’s good for the economy.” Child Poverty Rates in Alberta’s Major Centres:Province-wide – 16.4 per centLethbridge – 19.1 per centRed Deer is 16.7 per centEdmonton 15.5 per centMedicine Hat 15.3 per cent.Calgary – 14.1 per centGrande Prairie – 13 per centWood Buffalo – 10.3 per centRead the story on Medicine Hat News' website