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Anti-Poverty Caucus launched

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Politicians lay aside partisan politics to tackle poverty
By Deborah GyapongSenator Art Eggleton, Conservative MP Michael Chong, Canada Without Poverty president Harriett MacLachlin, NDP MP Jean Crowder, and Senator Don Meredith.Senator Art Eggleton, Conservative MP Michael Chong, Canada Without Poverty president Harriett MacLachlin, NDP MP Jean Crowder, and Senator Don Meredith.
Canadian Catholic News

Politicians across party lines in both the House of Commons and Senate launched the all-party Anti-Poverty Caucus (APC) June 12 to examine ways to fight poverty.

"I think we all understand the moral issues," said Senator Art Eggleton, a former Liberal cabinet minister and mayor of Toronto, one of three people co-chairing the event he hosted. "We all understand this is not right for our country."

Eggleton said the number of poor people is as large as the population of the Atlantic provinces plus Saskatchewan, and "One in four of those are children."

He noted that former NDP Leader Ed Broadbent, before leaving politics, led a campaign to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000. "We've got double-digit child poverty today."

Poverty drives up health-care costs, he said, noting that a recent study had revealed poverty costs the country $24 to $30 billion annually, "driving up our taxes and depressing our economy."

Co-chairwoman NDP MP Jean Crowder, who has represented Nanaimo-Cowichan, B.C., since 2004, stressed the importance of addressing poverty in a non-partisan way.

Crowder has re-submitted the private member's bill calling for a national anti-poverty strategy originally put forward by former NDP MP Tony Martin, who lost his seat in the last election. Bill C-233 is based on the recommendations of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources (HUMA) that reached a non-partisan consensus.

Poverty is a moral issue, an economic issue, and a social justice issue, she said. "We don't have poor children without poor families."

"I'm looking forward to working together to tackle this in our all-party way," she said, noting she hoped next June the APC could celebrate some accomplishments.

The third co-chairman, Conservative MP Michael Chong, a former cabinet minister who served as Queen's Privy Council president, Intergovernmental Affairs minister, and Minister for Sport, said he was looking forward to the APC providing "a forum to educate ourselves and parliamentarians about the causes of poverty in this country."

"The causes are often complex and multifaceted," said Chong, who was first elected in 2004 to serve the Wellington-Halton Hills, Ont., riding. When the causes of poverty are better understood, there can be "a second discussion on solutions."

The APC treasurer is Conservative Senator Don Meredith, an evangelical minister and entrepreneur from Toronto, who joked he had brought an offering plate and was asking for donations.

Many anti-poverty groups were present at the launch, which was sponsored by the Maytree Foundation, the Tamarack Institute, and the Caledon Institute.

Harriett MacLachlin, president of Canada Without Poverty, spoke of how she and others on its board have experience of living in poverty. She described herself as a single mother emerging from poverty.

"I now have the option of having three meals a day," she said. "I now have a bedroom and I don't sleep on a dilapidated couch so my children can have their own space."

But she said she risks losing a third tooth because she cannot afford dental care, and her glasses badly need updating. She praised the nonpartisan approach, saying it was similar to all-star hockey teams, which bring together players who have been on opposing teams and have even brawled with each other.

"Thank you," she said. "People like me need you, so don't give up even when you disagree. You're on the same team."

"Your battle is poverty," she said. "That's the team you are playing against."

Alan Broadbent, the chairman of the Maytree Foundation, a philanthropist, and the author of "Urban Nation: Why We Need to Give Power Back to the Cities to Make Canada Strong," said his organization believes in "relentless incrementalism."

"We know that on these big issues the dramatic breakthroughs and overnight successes are few and far between," he said. "The great work is done in the creation of small steps that create incremental change and that eventually may contribute to the conditions for breakthrough."

Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 June 2012 09:39  

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