EDMONTON—A provincial network of people and organizations is calling upon the provincial, federal and municipal governments to work together with community organizations and others to develop a plan to eliminate poverty in Alberta.
A report released today by Public Interest Alberta and the Edmonton Social Planning Council entitled, We Must Do Better: It's Time to Make Alberta Poverty Free, reveals troubling new realities about growing poverty in Alberta. But it also clearly shows that with the implementation of a strong comprehensive plan that invests in the many proven solutions, we can reduce, prevent and ultimately eliminate poverty in Alberta.
“Alberta has the capacity to move beyond our current patchwork system of supports and implement a strong comprehensive poverty elimination strategy,” said Bill Moore-Kilgannon, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta. “If six other provinces in Canada can be investing in policies and programs and setting real poverty reduction targets and timelines, then we certainly can and must do better here.”
"We heard the nearly 400 people at the seven forums we held describe many innovative community initiatives that make a positive difference for people living in poverty – but they also said they cannot address the root causes of poverty without a comprehensive strategy involving governments and all community partners,” said Jim Gurnett, lead author of the report and former Executive Director of the Mennonite Centre for Newcomers.“At each forum, service providers expressed deep concerns that they cannot handle the increasing demands and reduced budgets. Instead of pulling people out of the river, we need to go up stream and prevent people from falling in.”
“Even at the height of the economic boom in 2007 in one of the wealthiest places in the world, we still had 59,000 children living in poverty,” said John Kolkman, research coordinator for the Edmonton Social Planning Council. “The latest statistics show that the recession is impacting on low-income people the hardest. One in four workers make less than $15/hour and there were net job losses of 31.2% for workers with hourly wages of less than $10/hour. Social assistance case loads are up 36% from the year before, but funding has not increased to keep pace with the greater need.”
“On the 20th anniversary of the federal parliament's commitment to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000, we need real action from all sectors of our society to make Alberta poverty-free,” said Shelley Williams, Executive Director of the Bissell Centre in Edmonton. “Bissell Centre knows it makes a difference in the lives of individuals and families, but to really make a difference in our province it is critical to have a comprehensive plan to eliminate poverty.”
The full report and the information on how to support the advocacy campaign is on the website at Public Interest Alberta's Human Services and Poverty Task Force page.
The following organizations were involved in sponsoring and hosting the seven forums around Alberta:
Alberta College of Social Workers, United Way of Central Alberta, United Way of Ft McMurray, United Way of Grande Prairie and Region, United Way of Southeastern Alberta, United Way of Calgary and area, United Way of the Alberta Capital Region, City of Edmonton, Vibrant Communities Edmonton, Vibrant Communities Calgary, Southwest Alberta Coalition on Poverty, Edmonton Community Foundation, Muttart Foundation, Bissell Centre, Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers.