HALIFAX: Child poverty in Nova Scotia has increased for the fourth year running and now stands at 20.7 percent, according to a report released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The Nova Scotia Child Poverty Report Card, published annually since 1999, says this now puts one in five Nova Scotia children at risk of the many negative outcomes related to poverty, including poorer nutrition, poorer health, greater likelihood of failing in school and decreased economic prospects as they enter adulthood. Nova Scotia children in female lone-parent families are four times more likely to be affected than those in two-parent families. The report also finds that Nova Scotia continues to make less progress in reducing the rate of child poverty than any other province in the region.
Successive report cards have shown that government actions to reduce child poverty have been grossly inadequate. This year’s report card underscores the need for elected representatives to commit to a fresh, more comprehensive plan to reduce child poverty within a defined timeframe.
Pauline Raven, author of the Nova Scotia Child Poverty Report Cards since 1999, believes that the federal and provincial governments need to drop the notion that they can rely on the marketplace to “fix” child poverty. Raven says, “The economy has been strong since the mid 90s, yet many families are finding that their participation in the labour market is not leading them out of poverty.” This year’s report card shows that over 11,000 poor children in Nova Scotia live in families where at least one parent has full time, full year employment.
Governments need a new and more detailed plan – one that is capable of using more of the economic growth achieved over the last decade to directly benefit families who are living in low-income circumstances, the report says. Last week, the fiscal update delivered by Ralph Goodale, Canada’s Minister of Finance, highlighted a fiscal surplus of $12 billion along with a plan to cut income tax. According to Raven, this kind of “last-moment” announcement is not good news for families and children who are coping with huge gaps in their family budget. Tax cuts alone are of little benefit to families with children at the bottom of the income ladder because they don’t pay much income tax to begin with, she says. Sometimes such families are even income tax exempt.
Future surpluses in federal budgets are estimated at $40 billion over the next three years by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The government’s planned income tax cuts will not only be of little benefit to families in need, they will also erode its ability to address child poverty through social investments in the form of cash transfers to families with children in lower-income brackets, the report says.
Raven points to the capacity of governments to act quickly: “There are sufficient funds in the economy to address child poverty now – it is really a matter of governments committing to a better use of our nation’s significant wealth.” The United Nations has already pointed out that it would take only half of one percent of Canada’s Gross National Product to end severe income shortfalls for families with children in this country. Government’s lack of progress on its promise to end child poverty is tarnishing Canada’s reputation among nations, Raven says.
Poll after poll has shown that ending child poverty is a high priority for Canadians. When this public support is added to our nation’s 1989 promise to end child poverty by 2000, it is startling that the situation has become worse rather than much better. Raven says, “The time for our elected representatives to take their duty of care for children more seriously is now.” Other wealthy nations, like the United Kingdom, have adopted aggressive plans to end child poverty and are making progress toward clearly defined goals and timelines. Raven adds, “If others can succeed, we can too, but we need to make a bold start now.”
A copy of “The Nova Scotia Child Poverty Report Card 2005” is available at www.policyalternatives.ca
For further information contact: Pauline Raven (902) 542-3085 or John Jacobs (902) 477-1252