November 25, 1999
Mr Harris has resorted to an old and crafty trick of denying a problem exists so that there is no need to fix it. I can assure him that there is absolutely nothing "false" in the numbers of children living below the Statistics Canada low-income cut off that were reported in Campaign 2000's report card on child poverty. In Ontario, the low-income cut-off translates into an income of $21,760 for a single parent with one child.
However, our analysis of Statistics Canada data shows that the average poor family is living $8,265 BELOW the low-income cut-off. For a single parent with one child, this represents an income of $13,495. If Mr. Harris doesn't think this is a poverty-level income, he might try to find a decent home, buy food, clothing and other necessities for a child on $259 per week and then reconsider.
Could it be that Mr Harris understands only too well that if he were to acknowledge the extent of poverty in his province, he would have to spend money to address the problem? He has received advice, no doubt at top dollar, from no less than KPMG that in order to make a serious dent in the numbers of welfare claimants, Ontario needs approximately 34,000 more affordable child care spaces so that poor parents can get into the labour market. This would require new provincial spending on social and educational programs - completely at odds with Mr Harris's move announced last week to decrease spending on subsidized child care, among other social services.
Mr Harris has signed on to a vision statement for a National Children's Agenda with the other provinces and federal government. The federal government has indicated that it will work with him and his counterparts across Canada to develop a plan by December 2000 that would among other things, enhance early childhood development opportunities and improve families' economic security. As a beginning, Mr Harris needs to wake up to the reality that Ontario may be prospering, but 538,000 children in his province are not.
David P. Ross
Canadian Council on Social Development
Note: The Canadian Council on Social Development prepared the data contained in the 1999 Campaign 2000 report card on child poverty, using Statistics Canada sources.