POVERTY should be everyone’s concern. How we help the poorest among us to become beneficiaries and contributors in our economy is a measure of our success as a society. While that nobel thought is shared by most Canadians, they can’t be blamed for looking at the federal government’s new poverty plan with skepticism, especially with an election coming next year.
Much of the Liberal government’s strategy, unveiled Tuesday, puts both the hard work, spending and — most importantly — results down the timeline as they seek to lift more than two million Canadians out of poverty by the year 2030.
In fairness, nobody would expect poverty to be cured before Oct. 21, 2019 — the tentative voting date for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to earn another mandate. However, it would be nice to see a more tangible action being taken rather than boasting about existing programs and head-scratching over how to measure poverty.
The measure of poverty is important to co-ordinating resources and directing government spending. But where is the bigger economic strategy that goes beyond governments doling out cash? A plan that habitualizes government and personal debt will only serve to ensure the wealth and poverty-resistance of banks.
Housing strategies need to foster affordable private options. All levels of government can look at red tape reductions to cut building costs. Rules that try to protect tenants from the worst of landlords often has the unintended impact of lowering the rental market inventor. Governments and city planners can adjust zoning and property tax structures to nudge builders into creating more affordable homes for both buyers and renters. We don’t need more McMansions for well-off professionals (in both the private and public sector) to have 4,000 square feet of tile and a hot tub.
Food strategies also need to recognize the role of the private sector and competitive markets. Trade wars have brought up the subject of Canada’s supply management system. It’s worth scrutinizing the systems to ensure it serves its purpose of providing adequate affordable supply to consumers and not just cartel status for producers.
Education is probably the most powerful weapon you can give an individual to let them pull themselves out of strategy. Credit where credit is due: the federal government’s student work placements program is helping aspiring tradespeople to earn while they learn skills that have a growing demand. This is a great example of strategic thinking that links needs of workers and employers for the betterment of all.
The coming federal election could give us reason to cynically dismiss government aspirations for poverty reduction as posturing. Rhetoric and cynicism aside, the federal plan opens up the conversation about the need and many options available to fight poverty. This conversation should challenge all federal parties and all voters to engage in thorough consideration, conversation and action on the subject.