By all accounts, this year's budget is all about "keeping the powder dry" for the "big event" in 2015. Next year's budget will be highly politicized, meant to set the stage for the general election in October. That 2015 budget will offer targeted, carefully designed tax cuts designed to secure electoral victory. Budget 2014 is merely laying the groundwork. But what will this budget direction cost?
In 1989 the federal government voted unanimously on a motion to end child poverty by the year 2000. Nothing happened. In 2009, another motion was unanimously passed in the House of Commons that called for the development of a national poverty strategy. Again nothing happened. Actions speak louder than words, and in this case there is deafening silence.
According to the NHS, in 2011 4.8 million people were living with low income, with the majority of these individuals concentrated in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver. Let's put it another way. Almost 5 million people had an income of $14k or less in 2011, 13 per cent of which received income solely from government transfers.
In their 2012 Report, Food Banks Canada stated that in March 2012 alone, almost 900,000 Canadians turned to food banks. Canada needs to tackle hunger directly, rather than continue to pay out year after year for its long-term consequences. Hunger is toxic for those living through it, and it is harmful to Canada as a whole.
Extreme poverty is the most severe form of poverty -- in Canada, it equates to living off just $1.75 a day for everything in life. This tiny dollar amount has to pay for food, housing, medicine, water and education costs -- all for less than the money we would spend on a single bus fare or a morning coffee.
News of the changes to EI left Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter, host of the upcoming Council of the Federation meeting, concerned that people will be pushed away from these critical industries causing them to suffer. Some argue that seasonal industries in the Atlantic Provinces, employing almost 20,000 people, are expected to be disproportionately affected.
Poverty costs society in terms of lost human capital and money spent on health care, criminal justice systems, and other social services. It is also a violation of economic and social rights and is an affront to dignity. Change requires action, and last week members of the federal government came together to demand just that.
Poverty and health go hand-in-hand. People in poverty are more likely to use the health care system because of physical and mental health issues or illness, and be more likely to face an early death. Stress, poor nutrition, inadequate housing, and unstable social environments are a few reasons for this.