One battle Chretien could still win

November 15, 2002

Letter to the Editor of the Toronto Star
by Marcel Lauzière, President of the CCSD
Published November 15, 2002
In response to
One battle Chretien could still win, by Carol Goar

It's hard to argue with Carol Goar, who offers such a lucid and accurate analysis of the steps government should take to battle systemic poverty in this country. We agree with her that top priority should be given to funding affordable housing and quality universal day care.

Goar is also right to draw our attention to the falling child poverty rate as a trend to celebrate. We strongly believe that overcoming child poverty is an achievable goal. However, we still think she paints too bright a picture.

Research conducted by the Canadian Council on Social Development (CCSD) tells a more disturbing story. Our annual report on Canadian children, released last Monday, showed that among those still unlucky enough to live below the poverty line, the depth of poverty — which is the amount of money needed to move out of poverty — has remained relatively stagnant at around $8,500 below the low-income cut-off. The new Statistics Canada data Goar refers to shows that the depth of poverty actually increased slightly over the last year.

And while income represents a snapshot of how a family is coping now, assets are considered the key to a family's future. Our report found that the assets of poor families had drastically decreased over the last 15 years. The assets of the poorest 20 per cent of couples with children under 18 went down by 51.4 per cent between 1984 and 1999, whereas that of the wealthiest 20 per cent of couples increased by 42.7 per cent. The wealth gap in this country is staggering.

As a country, we can't pat ourselves on the back when the best we can do for poor children at the height of an economic boom (1998-2000) is to reduce their poverty rate by about two per cent, see their family wealth drop significantly and charge them more for the things they desperately need.

We come up with almost identical remedies as Goar's — but stick with our somewhat bleaker diagnosis.

Marcel Lauzière
President, Canadian Council on Social Development


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