Edmonton Social Planning Council News

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Dave Lazzarino, Edmonton Sun

November 26, 2013

Child poverty can be wiped out in Alberta but not without raising taxes, experts say.

A report released Tuesday by a coalition of groups working to lower poverty rates in the province outlines some of the solutions for what they are calling an unnecessary imbalance of wealth in the province.

"Alberta as a jurisdiction collects almost $11 billion less in taxes annually compared to the next lowest province. So we have a huge surplus of funding that we can access but we're choosing not to," said Laurie Sigurdson, with the Alberta College of Social Workers and one of the report's authors.

Sigurdson referred to a 2012 promise Premier Alison Redford made to end child poverty by 2017. Though numbers have lowered by about eight per cent since 2008, she said more has to be done to reach the goal of total eradication of child poverty in the next three years.

"There's still time. We have until 2017," she said. "But really serious investment in social programming has to happen."

Numbers are compiled for the entire province, but according to John Kolkman, with the Edmonton Social Planning Council, they are worst in the capital city.

"Within the province of Alberta the highest rates of poverty, even though it does fluctuate from year to year, are within the City of Edmonton," said Kolkman.

One specific area where Alberta is lagging behind the rest of the country involves families with full-time working parents.

"In 2011, an all-time record of fifty-nine percent of children living in poverty had one or more parents working full-time for full the full year," said Sigurdson.

The report details a handful of investments that could lower poverty rates if they can be paid for including a provincial child tax benefit, increased minimum wage and implementing a living wage for government contracted services.

The cost to turn those trends around, said the report, is about $1 billion.

Kolkman said corporations and individuals who are earning more should be the ones to cover the cost.

"We're not going to apologize. How can a government that is taxing Albertans $10.6 billion less than the next lowest Canadian province plead poverty and say that there isn't money? If they're prepared to make a commitment to end child poverty in five years, we think they should be held to it," he said.