Child Poverty

January 25, 2001

The Right Honourable Jean Chrétien, QC., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Dear Prime Minister Chrétien:

The National Council of Women of Canada (NCWC) urges you to use your government’s Throne Speech on January 29th to advance an action plan that reflects your stated commitment to promote greater social justice and to address the needs of children and families across Canada.

During your speech on December 6th you remarked that “prosperity in our land is not shared by all” and that “too many children live in poverty”. Your statements echoed the sentiments of thousands of Canadians who have consistently ranked child poverty as one of the top priorities for greater government action.

NCWC is one of Campaign 2000’s eighty-five partners from across Canada who support your commitment to “keep spending money on children” because “it is an investment in the quality of the society of tomorrow”. We feel that such investments are key in light of Campaign 2000’s latest report on child poverty which shows that persistent poverty risks excluding more that 1 million children from the opportunity to succeed. Despite the continued success of our economy, 1 in 5 children remains poor.

We are encouraged by recent actions taken by your government to address child poverty and to take further steps towards the realization of a full National Children’s Agenda. In particular, we note the positive measures to increase the Canadian Child Tax Benefit, to extend Employment Insurance Benefits to new parents, and the September 2000 announcement of an agreement between the federal and provincial/territorial governments on Early Childhood Development Services.

As Canada enters the 21st century with projections for a significant net federal surplus it is time to act on your deep conviction that “government has the responsibility to promote social justice”. Canada’s growing prosperity allows us to make the necessary investments to promote the well-being of children and their families.

We propose that the federal government present a five-year social investment plan for
Canada’s Children, which includes:

Immediate implementation of the announced increases to the Canada Child Tax Benefit. This would mean that the base benefit and supplements would increase to $2,755 effective immediately.
A commitment to consolidate the current child benefit and its various supplements into a single base benefit and to increase this benefit within five years to $ 4,200 per child. Having a single base benefit would enable that benefit to be available to all low-income families, including families on social assistance.
Increases to the federal investment in early childhood development services from the current $400 million in 2001 to $1 billion and increasing over a five-year period to $6 billion. This investment is necessary in order to ensure that provinces are able to develop a comprehensive system of Early Childhood Development Services that includes childcare, an essential core service for children and families.
A commitment to create a minimum 20,000 new, affordable housing units.
Lowering tuition fees for post-secondary studies across Canada through re-investment in transfers to the provinces/territories to ensure that post-secondary education is affordable to all students.
The National Council of Women of Canada is a non-sectarian, non-partisan federation of voluntary organizations of twenty Local Councils of Women in major Canadian cities, five Provincial Councils of Women and twenty-seven affiliated Nationally Organized Societies. Representing many thousands of people across Canada, for over a hundred years, the NCWC has worked to improve the condition of women and families. Because the Local and Provincial Councils are themselves federations of local women’s organizations, the network of affiliated organizations represented by NCWC is a significant cross-section of grass-roots opinion.

We look forward to a Throne Speech that re-affirms the commitment to children and social justice and to hearing more about the government’s continued steps towards a full National Children’s Agenda.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth Hutchinson
President
National Council of Women of Canada

cc: The Hon. Paul Martin, Minister of Finance
The Hon. Jane Stewart, Minister of Human Resources Development
The Hon. Allan Rock, Minister of Health
The Hon. Ethel Blondin-Andrew, Secretary of State on Children and Youth
Joyce Ireland, NCWC Convener Child and Family

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