Opinion

Zandee needs to take off his ideological blinders

Editor:

Robert Zandee’s prescription for ending poverty, work (Work eliminates poverty, Nov. 19), begs comment.

As important as labour market strategies are to help lift people out of poverty, they will never be enough.

According to Statistics Canada, there are approximately 650,000 working poor. Work has not ended their poverty. These are people working full time, sometimes at two or three jobs, and yet struggling to cover the basic necessities of housing, food and clothing. Why is that? The list is long – low minimum wage, EI programs that disqualify most applicants, the lack of affordable child care, housing and education for starters.

Most Canadians I talk to say that is wrong.

Mr. Zandee and his Conservative colleagues need to take the ideological blinders off. Listen to ordinary Canadians.

In Ireland, where I was born, they have made significant progress in reducing poverty with a real plan – targets, timelines, resources and accountability. Significantly, they found that it was not enough to pull people out of poverty alone with a strong economy. They intentionally needed measures addressing housing, education and income security.

Without a plan, the prosperity gap in Canada is getting worse both between the rich and the rest of us and the well off and the poor. As Canada’s economy doubled in size in 25 years (1980-2005), salaries for the richest tenth of families grew 31 per cent but shrank for the other nine-tenths. And the gulf with the richest and poorest got worse.

The Tories choose corporate tax cuts over fighting poverty. Those corporate tax cuts could build a million units of affordable housing for families in need or nearly eliminate Canada’s infrastructure deficit to pay for failing roadways, water mains, recreation facilities, sewers, transit and other public infrastructure.

The NDP has a comprehensive poverty-reduction strategy. (www.ndp.ca/poverty)

I was a provincial legislator in Ontario when former Premier Mike Harris introduced workfare and by his laws assaulted people on assistance. Ontario is still recovering. Let’s not forget that reducing poverty is not only good for the poor, it is good for the economy. Putting roofs over peoples’ heads, making education and child care affordable, enables people to be productive citizens.

Tony Martin,

NDP Poverty Critic

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