Today in St. John’s Newfoundland, Premier Paul Davis hosts the summer 2015 meeting Council of the Federation. In this meeting, Premiers from across Canada will take a moment to discuss issues that they consider priorities leading up to the federal election this fall.
The Dignity for All campaign has taken this important opportunity to ask our Premiers to bring their concerns about federal responsibility on poverty to the forefront of their priorities.
Check out the full letter below. Si vous voulez lire la lettre en français, cliquez-ici.
Premier Paul Davis
Confederation Building, East Block
P.O. Box 8700
St. John’s, NL
July 15th 2015
Re: A National Anti-Poverty Strategy
Dear Premier Davis,
It is time for federal leadership on poverty.
On behalf of our over 600 organizational and 10,000 individual supporters across the country who want to see rigorous and sustained government action against poverty, Dignity for All: the campaign for a poverty-free Canada asks that you and your fellow premiers endorse our national strategy to end poverty at the upcoming Council of the Federation meeting in St. John’s.
The obligation to address poverty is not limited to one level of government; rather it is the responsibility of all public officials, from the municipal to federal level, to ensure people in Canada can live a life of dignity. A violation of human rights, poverty requires the collaboration of governments in order to help the 4.8 million individuals across Canada struggling to make ends meet.
Eliminating poverty will be a challenging task and it requires all hands on deck. Every province and territory has unique approaches to address poverty but there remains a lack of leadership at the federal level. While provinces and territories are responsible for establishing and operating programs to support housing, education and the welfare of individuals in need, the federal government has a fundamental role to play through its policy-making, legislative, tax system and redistributive powers.
This past February, Dignity for All unveiled a model federal anti-poverty plan titled Dignity for All: A National Anti-Poverty Plan for Canada. This plan presents community consensus on recommendations for six policy areas that should be included in a federal strategy: income security, housing and homelessness, health, food security, job and employment and early childhood education and care.
The recommendations set out immediate, short-term and long term needs. They include reforms such as strengthening the National Child Care Benefit, providing employment incentives for youth and populations under-represented in the workforce, reforming Employment Insurance to better reflect labour market realities, developing a National Strategy on Housing and Homelessness and the creation of 10-year Health Accord – areas that would have a substantial impact on reducing poverty and supporting local economies.
A National Anti-Poverty Plan for Canada was created over 5 years with contributions from a diverse group of academics, policy-makers, community leaders and poverty advocates. These individuals came together because of the growing importance of a comprehensive plan – that will benefit all people across Canada.
How poverty is currently dealt with in Canada is very costly for provinces and territories. For example, the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness estimated that homelessness costs the Canadian economy over $7 billion dollars. Comparatively, a national housing strategy would cost the federal government $2 billion dollars. Adopting this plan not only fulfills human rights obligations, it makes sound financial sense.
The United Nations has called on Canada to adopt an anti-poverty plan in various human rights reviews – most recently in 2013 at the Universal Periodic Review of Canada by the Human Rights Council in Geneva. We recognize that provinces and territories have had to bear the brunt of solving poverty and fulfilling Canada’s international human rights obligations in this regard. We believe that in order to eliminate poverty the federal government must be involved to support the hard work of your province in assisting its most vulnerable. A national anti-poverty plan is the next step.
We look forward to hearing from you and reiterate our request that those in attendance at your meeting will issue a call for a national plan to eliminate poverty in Canada. We wish you and your colleagues all the best during these important discussions.
Leilani Farha, Executive Director, Canada Without Poverty
Joe Gunn, Executive Director, Citizens for Public Justice
CC: Provincial and Territorial Premiers
Right Hon. Stephen Harper, Prime Minister
Thomas Mulcair, Leader of the Official Opposition
Justin Trudeau, Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada
Gilles Duceppe, Leader of the Bloc Québécois
Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party