Low-Income Families With Children Owed First Call on Government Surpluses

November 24, 2006

HALIFAX - Authors of Nova Scotia's Child Poverty Report Card say each tax cut for an economically secure Canadian is a broken promise to a child living in poverty.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives releases an annual report to record changes in the rates of child and family poverty each November. This year gives statistics for 2004, and shows there were well over one million (1,195,804) Canadian children living in families where income was below the Low-Income Cutoff — 33,791 living in Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia"s child poverty rate was 18.1 percent in 2004 compared to 16 percent in 1989. Income shortfalls for two family types are reported. Pauline Raven, the child poverty report card’s principal author for several years says: "The child poverty rate for Nova Scotia has never dropped below the level recorded when Canada’s parliament promised to eliminate child poverty.”

The report underscores that families are currently facing severe income shortfalls. On average, female lone-parent families with children in Nova Scotia experienced a shortfall of $7,800 per year between actual family income and the Low-Income Cutoff, while this shortfall for two-parent families was $10,300. For a lone-parent with one child the LICO ranges from $17,429 (for the smallest of communities) to $21,401 (for an area like the Halifax Regional Municipality). The Low-Income Cutoff for two parents with two children ranges from $26,015 to $32,546. Raven says: “The surplus recorded in 2004 by the government of Nova Scotia was used to pay down the debt – but would have been more than enough to close the income gap for families with children who lived below the Low-Income Cutoff.”

This year’s report card assessed the impact of the National Child Benefit Program for families with children who live below the Low-Income Cutoff. Since this income supplement program was introduced the average female lone-parent family lost $1,800 per year, while two-parent families gained $1,300.

Author Lesley Frank, who is herself a single mother with four children, says: “I can empathize with the large numbers of Nova Scotians who feel they are only a few pay cheques away from economic crisis.” Meanwhile, author Rene Ross points out that: “Close to 60 percent of women earners in our province earn less than $20,000 per year while over 40 percent of men also find themselves in low-wage jobs. For far too many in our province – a pay cheque is not leading to prosperity.” The authors are calling on the governments of Canada and Nova Scotia to work strategically with one another to fulfill the nation’s promise to families with children. Raven says: “From this point forward tax cuts need to play second fiddle to clear policies, timelines and investments in programs that will lead us toward swift reductions in child poverty rates.”

The Nova Scotia Child Poverty Report Card 2006 (1989–2004) can be downloaded at www.policyalternatives.ca


For more information please contact John Jacobs, Director of CCPA-NS, at (902) 477-1252.