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Edmonton's population reaches 877,926, Global Edmonton, August. 29, 2014

Here we grow again! Edmonton's population is up more than 60,000 in the last two years. Vinesh Pratap finds out what the numbers mean.

(This television news item was a follow-up to Mayor Don Iveson's announcement that the city's population grew by about seven percent in the past two years.)

Following interviews with two people who recently moved to the city, Edmonton Social Planning Council's executive director Susan Morrissey was quoted saying: "You can't assume that just because we are going to be in another economic growth period that everyone is going to benefit." (and following some images of homeless people... ) "It's not perfect but I do think that we are now on the (same) page and everyone is saying let's take all of these plans and put them together and address these issues that way."

 

Watch the video here.

by  Meaghan Baxter, Vue Weekly

January 24, 2013

Alberta is one of the country's wealthiest provinces, with an abundance of resources and opportunities at our fingertips. However, below the surface is an issue that continues to grow, and one that prevents a staggering number of Albertans from accessing those opportunities, attaining an adequate quality of life, or even simply making ends meet every month.

Poverty reaches far beyond the traditional stereotypes of those too lazy and unwilling to work to make a better life for themselves and their families. The truth is, many of Alberta's poor are working full-time jobs year-round and are still falling short. According to Public Interest Alberta (PIA), poverty affects one in 10 Albertans.

"Poverty has risen quite dramatically with the downturn of the economy, and so there are a lot of people who are really just a paycheque away from living in poverty if they lose their job or if they get injured," says Bill Moore-Kilgannon, executive director of PIA, which is continuing to work towards a comprehensive poverty strategy and supports Action to End Poverty in Alberta.

Contributing to Alberta's poverty rate is the fact that Alberta has the second-lowest minimum wage in Canada at $9.75 per hour, just ahead of Saskatchewan, which comes in at $9.50 per hour. Moore-Kilgannon points out that this can be troublesome, particularly because Alberta also has the lowest post-secondary participation rate in Canada. While people are able to enter high-paying jobs in industries such as oil and gas without post-secondary certification, he says if they become injured and aren't able to continue that line of work, they have nothing to fall back on and have to resort to low-paying service jobs. This, coupled with the expensive cost of living in Alberta, can make it incredibly difficult to get out of poverty if a person falls below that line.

"We need, in Alberta, to do a better job of rewarding work and making work pay," notes John Kolkman, research coordinator for the Edmonton Social Planning Council. "That includes looking at how we can increase wages for low-income workers: things like minimum wage, things like earned income tax credits that basically provide a supplement to low-wage workers. There's a number of things that can be done without expending huge dollars that will nonetheless, if we do them properly, will make a significant difference to reduce poverty in the province."

On November 20, 2012—also known as National Child Day—PIA, along with the Alberta College of Social Workers and the Edmonton Social Planning Council, published Achieving the Promise: Ending Poverty in Alberta, one of many reports being released across Canada by the national coalition Campaign 2000. For the first time, the report presented data using the Low Income After-Tax (LIM AT) rather than the Low Income Cut-off (LICO), which has only been updated for inflation rather than other changes in expenditures for Canadian families. LIM AT is updated yearly, and by these standards, a family of four in Alberta earning $38 000 after taxes would be considered poor. For a single person, this cut off would be a yearly salary of $19 000.

The report highlights that of all age groups in Alberta, one of the most widely affected by poverty is children under the age of 18. The most recent figures relating to child poverty were recorded in 2010, and the data revealed that at that time 91 000 children (11.3 percent) were living below the low-income measure. The number of younger children—meaning under the age of six—was slightly higher: over one in six children (17.2 percent) under the age of six are living in low income families—or 48 200 children. However, in 2010, 51.6 percent of children in poverty lived in households where one or more persons worked full-time year round.

Children living in poverty have no choice in the matter, and Moore-Kilgannon says while each situation is different and poverty is a complex issue, it limits children in terms of their vision of self-image and their potential.

"That's unfortunate because what we need to be doing is developing the full potential of all children and yet, so much of our society is basically this user-pay model and it excludes children so much, so children living in poverty cannot get involved in things like hockey; it's just too expensive," he continues. "Children living in poverty feel that they are clearly not going to be getting the latest stuff and then they get ostracized at school, and young girls in particular can be quite cruel to each other on these things ... and that creates self-esteem issues, so there are many, many things that happen growing up in these situations and that has lasting, life-long implications."

Kolkman acknowledges child poverty is a prevalent problem in the province, but does not want to paint too gloomy a picture, as most people do not stay in poverty their entire lives. He points out past data, which shows there has been a 12-percent decrease in the number of children in poverty from 2009 to 2010, and the number of children lifted out of poverty by all government income transfers—including child tax benefits, social assistance and employment insurance—has increased to 47.2 percent. He says some families also manage to lift themselves out of poverty through career improvements or by going back to school, although this can be difficult given the cost of childcare in the province, which can be as high as $700 per month, per child, and often more expensive for infants and children under the age of six.

"But there are some who stay trapped, and I think we need to do a better job of helping them exit poverty as well. Some of it has to do with the design of some of the programs that we have," Moore-Kilgannon says, noting that reducing poverty will require some additional public investment, but there is evidence to suggest that it saves both the government and society money in the long run. "Children growing up in poverty tend to earn lower income as adults. They tend to drop out of school more, so they have lower education attainment, they tend to have greater involvement with the criminal justice system, they tend to get sick more and have greater costs in the health-care system. If we can make some strategic investments and reduce poverty, particularly among children, there are going to be some long-term benefits."

Joe Ceci, coordinator of Action to End Poverty in Alberta, says that research conducted by the organization, in terms of publishing poverty costs in 2012, indicated that 20 to 25 percent of children living in poverty remain in poverty throughout their lives. This means that while those individuals lose out economically due to being unable to attain better employment, so does the government due to less taxes being paid from those individuals who may also be receiving benefits rather than contributing to the domestic product of the province and the economy.

"That's what our work is, to try and produce some government policies, a report that will have government policies that will save Alberta money in the long run and have a better outcome for people living in poverty," Ceci says, adding that there is often not a great deal of transitional support into employment for those working to get out of poverty, and the thought of losing some of that assistance can be a deterrent for families.

Premier Alison Redford pledged to end child poverty in Alberta within five years during the last provincial election, with further measures to be taken to end poverty in Alberta within 10 years, and is being challenged to make good on her word. Redford stated at that time that the plan wasn't about giving handouts, but rather focusing on creating equal opportunity and ensuring all Albertans had the opportunity to benefit from the province's economy. Implemented under the Alberta government's newly formed Human Services, the first step was to review all government programs through result-based budgeting and determine if they are meeting the needs of Albertans. Currently, Human Services Manager Dave Hancock is developing the social policy framework, which Moore-Kilgannon says is a new policy for the whole ministry of Human Services that will include a poverty reductions strategy, but he says while the services provided by the ministry are critical, other areas, such as access to education, need to be addressed.

"I'm worried that the social policy framework is going to be more rhetoric than reality and it's not going to be backed up with any substantial investments," Moore-Kilgannon adds. "I'll be the first to congratulate them if they do, but I'm not holding my breath."

"The social policy framework is a really good first step in taking steps towards creating a provincial poverty reduction strategy, and their leadership in that regard will really help all sectors identify how they can play a role in preventing and ultimately eliminating poverty in Alberta," Ceci says of the plan, which has not yet been released.

In the meantime, Action to End Poverty in Alberta will be addressing policies to reduce poverty in Alberta with its report, Poverty Costs 2.0: Creating Policies That Save, in March.

Alberta is one of the country's wealthiest provinces, with an abundance of resources and opportunities at our fingertips. However, below the surface is an issue that continues to grow, and one that prevents a staggering number of Albertans from accessing those opportunities, attaining an adequate quality of life, or even simply making ends meet every month.

Poverty reaches far beyond the traditional stereotypes of those too lazy and unwilling to work to make a better life for themselves and their families. The truth is, many of Alberta's poor are working full-time jobs year-round and are still falling short. According to Public Interest Alberta (PIA), poverty affects one in 10 Albertans.

"Poverty has risen quite dramatically with the downturn of the economy, and so there are a lot of people who are really just a paycheque away from living in poverty if they lose their job or if they get injured," says Bill Moore-Kilgannon, executive director of PIA, which is continuing to work towards a comprehensive poverty strategy and supports Action to End Poverty in Alberta.

Contributing to Alberta's poverty rate is the fact that Alberta has the second-lowest minimum wage in Canada at $9.75 per hour, just ahead of Saskatchewan, which comes in at $9.50 per hour. Moore-Kilgannon points out that this can be troublesome, particularly because Alberta also has the lowest post-secondary participation rate in Canada. While people are able to enter high-paying jobs in industries such as oil and gas without post-secondary certification, he says if they become injured and aren't able to continue that line of work, they have nothing to fall back on and have to resort to low-paying service jobs. This, coupled with the expensive cost of living in Alberta, can make it incredibly difficult to get out of poverty if a person falls below that line.

"We need, in Alberta, to do a better job of rewarding work and making work pay," notes John Kolkman, research coordinator for the Edmonton Social Planning Council. "That includes looking at how we can increase wages for low-income workers: things like minimum wage, things like earned income tax credits that basically provide a supplement to low-wage workers. There's a number of things that can be done without expending huge dollars that will nonetheless, if we do them properly, will make a significant difference to reduce poverty in the province."

On November 20, 2012—also known as National Child Day—PIA, along with the Alberta College of Social Workers and the Edmonton Social Planning Council, published Achieving the Promise: Ending Poverty in Alberta, one of many reports being released across Canada by the national coalition Campaign 2000. For the first time, the report presented data using the Low Income After-Tax (LIM AT) rather than the Low Income Cut-off (LICO), which has only been updated for inflation rather than other changes in expenditures for Canadian families. LIM AT is updated yearly, and by these standards, a family of four in Alberta earning $38 000 after taxes would be considered poor. For a single person, this cut off would be a yearly salary of $19 000.

The report highlights that of all age groups in Alberta, one of the most widely affected by poverty is children under the age of 18. The most recent figures relating to child poverty were recorded in 2010, and the data revealed that at that time 91 000 children (11.3 percent) were living below the low-income measure. The number of younger children—meaning under the age of six—was slightly higher: over one in six children (17.2 percent) under the age of six are living in low income families—or 48 200 children. However, in 2010, 51.6 percent of children in poverty lived in households where one or more persons worked full-time year round.

Children living in poverty have no choice in the matter, and Moore-Kilgannon says while each situation is different and poverty is a complex issue, it limits children in terms of their vision of self-image and their potential.

"That's unfortunate because what we need to be doing is developing the full potential of all children and yet, so much of our society is basically this user-pay model and it excludes children so much, so children living in poverty cannot get involved in things like hockey; it's just too expensive," he continues. "Children living in poverty feel that they are clearly not going to be getting the latest stuff and then they get ostracized at school, and young girls in particular can be quite cruel to each other on these things ... and that creates self-esteem issues, so there are many, many things that happen growing up in these situations and that has lasting, life-long implications."

Kolkman acknowledges child poverty is a prevalent problem in the province, but does not want to paint too gloomy a picture, as most people do not stay in poverty their entire lives. He points out past data, which shows there has been a 12-percent decrease in the number of children in poverty from 2009 to 2010, and the number of children lifted out of poverty by all government income transfers—including child tax benefits, social assistance and employment insurance—has increased to 47.2 percent. He says some families also manage to lift themselves out of poverty through career improvements or by going back to school, although this can be difficult given the cost of childcare in the province, which can be as high as $700 per month, per child, and often more expensive for infants and children under the age of six.

"But there are some who stay trapped, and I think we need to do a better job of helping them exit poverty as well. Some of it has to do with the design of some of the programs that we have," Moore-Kilgannon says, noting that reducing poverty will require some additional public investment, but there is evidence to suggest that it saves both the government and society money in the long run. "Children growing up in poverty tend to earn lower income as adults. They tend to drop out of school more, so they have lower education attainment, they tend to have greater involvement with the criminal justice system, they tend to get sick more and have greater costs in the health-care system. If we can make some strategic investments and reduce poverty, particularly among children, there are going to be some long-term benefits."

Joe Ceci, coordinator of Action to End Poverty in Alberta, says that research conducted by the organization, in terms of publishing poverty costs in 2012, indicated that 20 to 25 percent of children living in poverty remain in poverty throughout their lives. This means that while those individuals lose out economically due to being unable to attain better employment, so does the government due to less taxes being paid from those individuals who may also be receiving benefits rather than contributing to the domestic product of the province and the economy.

"That's what our work is, to try and produce some government policies, a report that will have government policies that will save Alberta money in the long run and have a better outcome for people living in poverty," Ceci says, adding that there is often not a great deal of transitional support into employment for those working to get out of poverty, and the thought of losing some of that assistance can be a deterrent for families.

Premier Alison Redford pledged to end child poverty in Alberta within five years during the last provincial election, with further measures to be taken to end poverty in Alberta within 10 years, and is being challenged to make good on her word. Redford stated at that time that the plan wasn't about giving handouts, but rather focusing on creating equal opportunity and ensuring all Albertans had the opportunity to benefit from the province's economy. Implemented under the Alberta government's newly formed Human Services, the first step was to review all government programs through result-based budgeting and determine if they are meeting the needs of Albertans. Currently, Human Services Manager Dave Hancock is developing the social policy framework, which Moore-Kilgannon says is a new policy for the whole ministry of Human Services that will include a poverty reductions strategy, but he says while the services provided by the ministry are critical, other areas, such as access to education, need to be addressed.

"I'm worried that the social policy framework is going to be more rhetoric than reality and it's not going to be backed up with any substantial investments," Moore-Kilgannon adds. "I'll be the first to congratulate them if they do, but I'm not holding my breath."

"The social policy framework is a really good first step in taking steps towards creating a provincial poverty reduction strategy, and their leadership in that regard will really help all sectors identify how they can play a role in preventing and ultimately eliminating poverty in Alberta," Ceci says of the plan, which has not yet been released.

In the meantime, Action to End Poverty in Alberta will be addressing policies to reduce poverty in Alberta with its report, Poverty Costs 2.0: Creating Policies That Save, in March.

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.

Slav Kornik
November 26, 2013


Edmonton - A new report is calling on the Alberta government to take action on eliminating child poverty in the province.

According to the report, "From Words to Action: Alberta Can Afford a Real Poverty Reduction Strategy," one in ten children is living in poverty in Alberta.

The report suggests, in 2011, there were 84,000 - 29,800 under the age of six - living below the low-income measure.

"Premier Redford's 2012 election promise to eliminate child poverty by 2017 will not be achieved unless the words in the government's soon to be released poverty reduction strategy, will be backed up with real action and investment in programs that prevent, reduce and ultimately eliminate poverty," said Bill Moore-Kilgannon, executive director of Public Interest Alberta.

According to the numbers, employment does not guarantee a low-income family in Alberta will climb out of poverty. The report shows an all-time record 59 per cent of children in poverty had at least one parent working full time for the full year.

"The report shows that inequality is growing rapidly in Alberta so unless the government commits to targeted investments to support those who are not benefiting from our strong economy, their poverty reduction will not succeed," said John Kolkman, research coordinator with Edmonton Social Planning Council.

Public Interest Alberta, the Edmonton Social Planning Council and the Alberta College of Social Workers released the report.

The Edmonton Social Planning Council is making recommendations it believes would reduce poverty among working poor families, including: a provincial child tax benefit and increasing the minimum wage and a living wage policy for contracted services.

"The report shows that inequality is growing rapidly in Alberta so unless the government commits to targeted investments to support those who are not benefiting from our strong economy, their poverty reduction will not succeed," argues Kolkman.

Public Interest Alberta is proposing a $1 billion investment.

"In a province that collects $10.6 billion less in taxation than the next lowest taxed province, we outline how the government could raise from $1.2 - $2.0 billion by establishing a progressive tax and increase corporate taxes," said Lori Sigurdson, chairperson of Public Interest Alberta's Human Services and Poverty Task Force.

Click on the link to view the newsclip.



 

by: John Cotter, The Canadian Press

EDMONTON - The Catholic and public school boards in Edmonton want Premier Alison Redford to do more to reduce child poverty in Alberta.

Both boards have passed motions endorsing a report written by social agencies on the need for better programs to help the poor.

But the boards differ on whether they support the report's call for increasing Alberta's corporate tax rate and replacing the 10 per cent flat income tax with a progressive income tax system to help fund the changes.

The Edmonton Catholic board sent a letter to Redford dated Jan. 10 stating its position.

"I am writing to let you and the Government of Alberta know of the Board's support for the recommendations contained in the report and in particular, the recommendation for modification of Alberta's provincial tax structure in order to help end child poverty by 2017," reads the letter signed by Cindy Olsen, chairwoman of Edmonton Catholic Schools.

The Edmonton Public board passed a different motion Tuesday in support of the report prepared by the Alberta College of Social Workers, Public Interest Alberta and the Edmonton Social Planning Council.

However, some public school trustees said the letter to be sent to Redford should avoid any mention of the tax change proposals over fear of how they would be interpreted by the government.

Public board chairwoman Sarah Hoffman said she will word her letter to the premier to reflect the board's concerns.

"I think we can get this one right and make sure that we don't offend anyone, but at the same time saying something strongly around our commitment to serving the students as best we can," Hoffman said.

Called "From Words to Action," the report released in November says changes to the tax system would generate more than $1 billion per year that could be used to help pay for better child benefits, more affordable housing, full-day kindergarten for vulnerable children and better early childhood development programs.

The report estimates there were 84,000 children in the province in 2011 whose families were below the low-income poverty line.

During the 2012 provincial election campaign, Redford promised to eliminate child poverty in five years.

The report says the government actually chose to cut rather than bolster some social assistance programs in its last budget.

Olsen said members of the Catholic school board are not radicals, they just feel that child poverty has become an invisible issue.

She hopes the Catholic board's letter will focus attention on something that educators see in the classroom every day: Children who are hungry, have health problems, can't concentrate, have low socialization skills or live in inadequate housing.

How does a child learn in that kind of situation?

"The issue is that people can't see it. They don't want to see it," Olsen said in an interview.

"We have to put focus on it. We have to take action so that the government realizes how important that this actually is to Albertans - to our province and to our future."

Olsen said if the government can find the money for programs to reduce child poverty without changing the tax system, that would be great.

But she said the status quo is not acceptable because the problem of child poverty is getting worse.

Alberta's Human Services Department has not responded to the report.

Last spring, the government launched a poverty reduction review called "Together We Raise Tomorrow."

Kathy Telfer, a department spokeswoman, said the government has been seeking input from community groups and is now working on a report that will be presented to minister Manmeet Bhullar in the coming months.

Telfer said it's too soon to say if the tax change suggestions in the report will be considered or if the government will announce any new steps to reduce child poverty in its coming budget.