When cabinet minister James Moore recently laughed about how it was not his or the government's job to feed his neighbour's children, the country rightly responded with outrage. The remark was dubbed 'callous' and is just that, coming from a man who does not have children and has no mouths depending upon him for sustenance.
Moore later apologized but if one listens to the statement, which he claims was taken out of context although that does not appear to be the case, one hears the honest agenda of a ruling government that hopes to change the Canadian landscape to an "every person for him or herself" mentality. They have demonstrated this through cuts to essential programs such as Employment Insurance and the pitting of various sectors against each other.
Fortunately most Canadians feel otherwise. We feel it is a huge slur upon our national identity that a developed country such as ours allows an unacceptable rate of child poverty. We realize that our own future happiness is forfeited when children lack education and adequate nourishment. These are the children who will shape the society of the future. The children of the privileged may grow up to take responsible positions, but they will be dealing with the effects of lack experienced by the children of the poor. These effects include ill health, limited prospects and in some cases, crime and acts of desperation. All these will cost our society in both lifestyle and economics.
On the other hand, if we assert that it is the government's role to effectively combat child poverty, we ensure a happier future for all. We raise children that are well cared for, well nourished and well educated, growing into healthy individuals who contribute to society. In the long run we gain from caring about our neighbour's child. Call it enlightened self-interest.
I have always believed that if we took the well-being of children as our highest value we would begin to make decisions that improve our communities and our planet. We would stop wars (with their devastating effects on children), stop wasting finite resources and start considering long-term effects of our actions including our treatment of the environment.
It seems obvious, but if one has not struggled to feed and clothe and house and educate children, perhaps it is not so clear. For those of us engaged in this activity it becomes our highest priority and Canadian families are evidently struggling in this effort. James Moore may assert that 'the country has never been wealthier' but I don't know many parents who have that same assurance. Each day we go to the grocery and the prices have jumped at the same time as the nutritional value of food shrinks. We are in debt simply trying to give our children the kind of life we experienced as kids. For the first time in generations we have no reason to expect that our children's lives will be more prosperous than our own. Jobs are scarce and low-paying even with advanced education. That education is costing families dearly and students are graduating saddled with enormous debt themselves. We have lost high-paying manufacturing sector jobs and the new jobs created are part-time, low-paying retail and service sector positions, which only add to the spiral of child poverty as parents scramble to keep food on the table.
I am happy when I hear honest statements from cabinet ministers because so often politicians hide behind platitudes and false pretenses. The Finance Minister now asserts that he has helped eradicate poverty by lowering taxes, but those in poverty do not pay taxes and the help is minimal. One could argue that the few cents reduction on the GST helped everyone, but it eliminated a government surplus, taking the country back into deficit resulting in the need to cut social spending, so how big a help really is that?
Let's tackle child poverty. Make it a priority to build affordable housing, maybe restore the successful coop housing program, adequately fund education and social programs, eliminate student debt, create jobs for youth -- because all of us benefit when our neighbour's children are well-fed.
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