Tuesday, March 20, 2018

by: Leah Germain

Edmonton's child poverty rate is the highest in the province according to a new report, with one in six local children living in poverty.

"It is partly because we are a little bit of a magnet, particularly we have more recent immigrants in Edmonton you tend to earn lower incomes and tend to live in poverty. We (also) have the highest aboriginal population in the province," said John Kolkman, research coordinator for Edmonton Social Planning Council.

The "From Words to Action" report found that in 2011 one in 10 children - approximately 84,000 - were living in poverty in Alberta.

"In the province of Alberta, the highest rates of child poverty, even though it does fluctuate from year to year are within the City of Edmonton," said Kolkman. The report was co-authored by Public Interest Alberta, Edmonton Social Planning Council and the Alberta College of Social Workers.

by: Jason Van Rassel, Calgary Herald

The provincial government's pledge to eliminate child poverty is being put to the test in a report out Tuesday that recommends an additional $1 billion in program spending aimed at helping the working poor.

Statistics published by Public Interest Alberta estimate there were 84,000 children living in poverty in Alberta in 2011, the last year for which data are available.

The number is actually down from 91,000 the year before, but one of the study's authors said the reduction has more to do with an overall improvement in the economy than any action by the provincial government.

"You can't eliminate child poverty in this province without actually investing," said Bill Moore-Kilgannon of Public Interest Alberta, which put together the report with the Alberta College of Social Workers and the Edmonton Social Planning Council.

Having a job isn't a panacea for poverty, Moore-Kilgannon said, because so many among Alberta's poor have jobs.

Statistics Canada data from 2011 estimated nearly 60 per cent of children in poverty lived in a household where one or more adults was working full time for the entire year.

"The reality for people is poverty is a divorce away, poverty is a workplace accident away," Moore-Kilgannon sad.

The report arrived at its poverty numbers using a benchmark called the low income measure after tax. Under that standard, a family of four earning approximately $40,000 or less in Alberta, after taxes, would be considered poor. A single person would make less than $20,000.

A key recommendation of the report is the introduction of a provincial child tax benefit. A monthly benefit of $1,200 per child, which could be adjusted according to a family's level of need, would cost approximately $200 million, Moore-Kilgannon said.

The recommendation could be implemented relatively cheaply, Moore-Kilgannon added, by distributing it monthly to coincide with the federal child tax benefit.

"That would keep administrative costs low," he said.

The report also recommends raising Alberta's minimum wage from the current $9.95 - the lowest in Canada - to $13 an hour with benefits or $14,50 [sic] without.

Premier Alison Redford promised in the 2012 election campaign to eliminate child poverty by 2017 and it's time for the government to begin delivering, Moore-Kilgannon said.

The provincial government is currently running a deficit that it estimates between $1.2 and $2 billion, but Moore-Kilgannon said the changes recommended in his report are affordable with changes to the province's tax regime.

"There are ways, very clearly, we can pay for it," he said.

The report advocates scrapping the province's flat personal income tax rate of 10 per cent in favour of a progressive regime that would tax high-income earners at a higher rate.

Adopting Saskatchewan's 15 per cent tax rate for all personal income over $122,589 would net the provincial government more than $1 billion in additional revenue, the report says.

Bringing in B.C.'s personal income tax rate of 14.7 per cent on all income over $104,754 would bring the province even more, the report adds.

Using that added revenue to pay for the social spending recommended by the report would be a concrete step toward lifting people out of poverty — and cutting the long-term costs to society, Moore-Kilgannon said.

The government is slated to release its poverty reduction plan early next year.

"We want to see real action - not just words," Moore-Kilgannon said.

by: Canadian Press, The Globe and Mail

A report says more than 10 per cent of Alberta children were living in poverty in 2011. The authors of the report are urging Premier Alison Redford to come through on an election promise to eliminate child poverty by 2017.

The report says there were 84,000 children whose families were below the low-income measure after taxes.

The survey was done by Public Interest Alberta, the Edmonton Social Planning Council and the Alberta College of Social Workers.

The report also says that almost 60 per cent of kids in poverty had at least one parent working full-time.

They say that won't be achieved unless the government invests in social programs and public services to support families in need.

According to UNICEF estimates from 2012, Canada's national child poverty rate is 14 per cent, ranking 24th out of 35 industrialized countries.

Another report released Tuesday by the B.C. child and youth advocacy group First Call said B.C.'s child poverty rate is 18.6 per cent. Manitoba's rate, the second-highest in the country, stands at 17.3 per cent.

by: Jody Sinnema (Edmonton Journal)

EDMONTON - A new report written by two advocacy groups says changes to Alberta's tax regime could bring in an additional $1.2 billion to $2 billion to fight child poverty while still keeping the province the lowest tax regime in Canada.

Bill Moore-Kilgannon, executive director of Public Interest Alberta, said if the province is to keep its promise to end child poverty by 2017, it must come up with detailed calculations on how it will be done, such as the ones in Moore-Kilgannon's report From Words to Actions.

The report, co-authored by John Kolkman of the Edmonton Social Planning Council, said the province can earn up to $2 billion more each year by increasing corporate taxes to 1990s levels and increasing income tax on people earning $150,000 or more. If the provincial corporate income tax rate was increased to 12 per cent - which is equivalent to Saskatchewan's rate, up from the current 10 per cent, and still lower than the 15.5-per-cent rate in the 1990s in Alberta - the province would bring in $1 billion more, reads the report, to be officially released Tuesday at the Bissell Centre.

If individuals earning $150,000 or more were taxed at 14 per cent, instead of the current 10 per cent, Alberta would raise an additional $700 million. That gets bumped up to $1 billion if Alberta mirrored Saskatchewan, where everyone earning more than $122,589 gets taxed at 15 per cent.

All of that money could help families in poverty by:

- Implementing a new Alberta Child Benefit of $1,200 per child (value: $200 million);

- Introducing full-day kindergarten for vulnerable children (value: $100 million), and;

- Implementing a living wage for contracted services (value: $150 million). The report says increasing minimum wages to $13 per hour with benefits or $14.50 without - up from the current $9.95 per hour, the lowest in Canada - would cost the government nothing.

"The premier made a promise in the heat of the last provincial election to eliminate child poverty by 2017," Moore-Kilgannon said. "We are quite concerned about the government's poverty reduction strategy not being substantive enough to have a serious impact on achieving the premier’s promise."

When the government released the 2013 budget in February, Premier Alison Redford said there would be no new taxes this year, and rejected a sales tax. Moore-Kilgannon said the government has told him its poverty-reduction strategy will be released in spring 2014.

"The government is putting themselves in a box when they say they won't address the revenue problem," Moore-Kilgannon said. "By their own admission, the next closest tax jurisdiction to Alberta is British Columbia. If we had the same tax structure as them and I'm not arguing for that we would bring in close to $11 billion. It's not as if they don't have options."

About one in every 10 children - or about 84,000 Albertan kids - were living below the low-income measure poverty line in 2011. The report notes that 28 per cent were in homes led by single mothers and 60 per cent lived in homes where one or more persons work full-time the entire year.

"There's this notion that, 'Oh, there's nothing we can do,' " Moore-Kilgannon said, referring to deficit budgets and provincial debt that has been accompanied by government cutbacks. "Alberta can absolutely afford a real poverty reduction strategy."

Recommendations to reduce child poverty:

$200 million to create new Alberta Child Benefit of $1,200 per child.

$50 million to index Alberta Works and Assured Income for Severely Handicapped subsidies to changes in living costs. Also allow recipients to earn $500 per month before clawbacks.

$150 million to implement living wage for contracted services.

$75 million to enhance working income tax benefits.

$100 million in additional affordable housing investment.

$50 million to fully fund rent supplements.

$100 million to introduce full-day kindergarten for vulnerable children

$100 million investment in child care, early childhood development and child protection.

$100 million to reduce class sizes and increase access to post-secondary institutions.

$50 million to improve bursaries for low-income post-secondary students.

$25 million to increase support for Family and Community Support Services.

TOTAL: $1 billion in additional yearly investment