Growing regionalism blocks poverty reduction: Report

September 15, 2005

OTTAWA -- After 15 years of repeated promises to reduce poverty at the national and international level, Canada is stalled on its mission – thanks to growing regionalism, says a new report.

Divided and Distracted, a Social Watch report from Canada released today, documents how recent federal reinvestments in social programs failed to relieve deep poverty in Canada because there was no national unity of purpose about how to use that money.

“Tackling poverty here and abroad is fiscally achievable, but it’s hard to gain momentum on objectives when you have 13 partners bickering about what the goals should be,” says the report’s author, economist Armine Yalnizyan. “The report shows a federal government awash in money but lacking strong leadership gets us nowhere fast.”

The report shows how priorities were askew as well: Federal program spending grew by almost $80 billion between 1998 and 2003 while over $200 billion in surplus resources went to tax cuts and debt reduction.

“Despite large transfers to the provinces, there are a growing number of Canadians waiting for housing, child care and health care,” says Yalnizyan. “They had the money, they made the promises, but without the provinces buying in, or a federal government laying down the rules, it is like scattering seeds into the wind.”

Part of a global launch of national reports this week, Social Watch Canada joins its partners in the release of the international Social Watch 2005 report Roars and Whispers: Gender and Poverty: Promises vs. Action. The report was launched this week as 170 nations meet in New York City at the UN Summit to review their progress on promises to reduce poverty made five years ago in Monterrey.

Social Watch is an international network of more than 400 non-governmental organizations in 50 countries. Its annual report is the world’s most highly recognized independent study on social development. Economist Armine Yalnizyan has authored Canada’s contribution to the report since 2000.

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To access the Canadian report, visit or call Kerri-Anne Finn at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) (613) 563 1341 Ext. 306.

To access the international report, visit or contact Social Watch in New York during the UN Summit, call Roberto Bissio, Social Watch Coordinator, (351) 913 080 442.