Volume 94, Issue 47

Wednesday, November 22, 2000


Editorial Board 2000-2001

Politically impoverished platforms

Editorial Cartoon

Politically impoverished platforms

A recent report from a national advocacy group is hoping to make the poverty issue wealthy with attention during the weeks leading up to the Nov. 27 federal election. But understanding why the issue of being poor in Canada doesn't seem to make headlines any time other than elections is one well worth investigating.

If statistics cited in the report by Campaign 2000 hold true, they are staggering to say the least. Canada is cited as being the 17th worst country among the world's riches 23 nations when it comes to child poverty. Poverty has increased 43 per cent over the last 10 years and one out of every five Canadian children is living in poverty.

Moreover, the Liberal government, who promised to have erased child poverty from the nation by this year, has obviously faltered in its attempt.

Over the years, Canadians have had their collective ears chewed off by politicians promising to lower, if not eradicate, poverty in Canada. Brian Mulroney did it in 1988. Jean Chretien did it in 1998.

The Liberals claim poverty statistics have decreased in recent years, but any look at the big picture will indicate their figures are truncated and do not factor in the huge increase in poverty over the last decade.

A report such as the one published by Campaign 2000 attempts to make the political parties acknowledge marginal issues during times when it is in politicians' best interest to champion all issues – even ones that get caught in the political shuffle.

But even during times when political parties are the most susceptible to public whims, issues like poverty and homelessness seem to always take a back seat to others like health care and education.

This is because being poor in Canada can sometimes be accompanied by a sense of ineffectuality. When people have to worry about how to clothe and feed their children each day, they can ill-afford to spend the time required to exert their influences in other areas, such as the political realm. They might not be able to assemble as easily, or finance lobby groups to make their voices heard. The poor exist in the margin.

Even in London, a city whose population is considered affluent by national standards, people can walk around for days without seeing the poverty that undoubtedly exists on its streets.

In the wake of this report, what will most certainly result is the token nod by parties to do something if voted into office, but once elected, promises and initiatives will most certainly fade away because Canada's poor lack the wherewithal to get make their voices heard.

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