Letter to the Editor
August 23, 2011
We have been following the leadership races of the Progressive Conservatives and the Alberta Liberals very closely and we notice that there has been little discussion about poverty in our province. Based on Statistics Canada data, we know that there are nearly 400,000 Albertans living in poverty. We should be clear that poverty measures reflect bare minimum standard of living, even at or above this cut-off, many Albertans are facing rising costs while salaries are not keeping pace. Albertans living in poverty are over-represented among women, children, new immigrants, people with disabilities and aboriginals. It is our responsibility to ensure that everyone in this province has the support and opportunity to prosper. As we know, poverty can happen to anyone and the province must play a role in reducing poverty by searching for root cause solutions.
In October of 2010, the all-party Standing Committee on the Economy unanimously recommended that the province undertake the process to create a Provincial Poverty Reduction Strategy. The committee was motivated to unanimously pass this recommendation because of the overwhelming evidence demonstrating the depth of poverty in Alberta and the stories they heard from Albertans living in poverty. Albertans presented their stories about working very hard to meet basic needs for themselves and their families but their wages are falling short and they are not getting the supports they need from social programs. While no response from the Ministry of Employment and Immigration has been been made on this recommendation, many Albertans believe that a provincial government willing to tackle the root causes of poverty makes good sense.
We wonder where these leadership candidates stand on developing a Provincial Poverty Reduction Strategy? The candidates in these races are likely to produce the next Premier and the Leader of the Opposition - we hope they will move quickly to address the Standing Committee on the Economy’s recommendation for a Provincial Poverty Reduction Strategy. Then Alberta will join most of the other provinces and territories in Canada who have already taken this important first step. Many municipalities are also accepting responsibility to reduce poverty, including Calgary, but it cannot be done without support and commitment from the province.
Alexa Briggs, Associate Director Strategy and Research, Vibrant Communities Calgary
Joe Ceci, Coordinator, Action to End Poverty in Alberta
Linda McFarlane, ASCW Calgary Social Action/Social Justice Group