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29,000 children living in poverty in Nova Scotia

New report finds no improvement over last two decades

by Robert Devet

In Nova Scotia one in three foodbank users are children, not surprising given the numbers in a new report on child poverty in Nova Scotia.  Photo Chris Campbell
In Nova Scotia one in three foodbank users are children, not surprising given the numbers in a new report on child poverty in Nova Scotia. Photo Chris Campbell

Did you ever go to bed and wonder if your child was getting enough to eat? …I go to bed and he would start crying in the night and I would think that he was hungry. —Nova Scotia mother, quoted in the 2013 report Card on Child and Family Poverty in Nova Scotia.


K'JIPUKTUK, HALIFAX - In 1989 the House of Commons pledged to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000. No more children going to bed hungry and cold or going to school without a warm winter coat. No more worries and despair for the parents.

That goal was not achieved.

In Nova Scotia there are as many kids living in poverty today as there were when Ottawa pariamentarians unanimously passed their motion twenty two years ago.

That is the main conclusion in the 2013 Report Card on Child and Family Poverty in Nova Scotia, an annual report by the provincial chapter of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The report, based mostly on 2011 numbers provided by Statistics Canada, shows that 29,000 Nova Scotia children live in poverty. That's about 17%. No wonder one in three foodbank users are children.

The recently defeated NDP government receives modest praise in the report for taking measures to keep child poverty levels from actually increasing. Raising the minimum wage, lowering of child benefit thresholds and increasing tax credits were all helpful, the report says.

Helpful, but not enough. "Troubling trends in family and child poverty likely will not be addressed by piecemeal increases and marginall tax adjustments," the report warns.

Child poverty is especially common among families headed by a single mother. Children of such families live in poverty almost half the time.

Children in households that depend on welfare live in poverty essentially "by definition", the report points out. This is so because the meagre income that social assistance provides is simply not enough to make ends meet.

What's more, the report shows that welfare income has shrunk over the last decades. For instance, single parent families with one child have seen their annual social assistance incomes decrease by more than $1700 in real dollars since the early nineties.

Perhaps surprisingly, 40% of poor children live in families with at least one full time wage earner. This is an upward trend, the report warns. Increasingly having a job is not a way out of poverty anymore.

So what does the report suggest in terms of solutions?

First of all, the elimination of child poverty calls for substantial action. "Government support should be sufficient to lift families out of poverty, not just enable them to manage the symptoms," the report warns.

The report's authors then call upon the current provincial government to further increase minimum wage and to fundamentally address the gap between social assistance and poverty lines.

They also argue that federal and provincial governments must invest in early learning and childcare systems.

Lesley Frank, main author of this year's report, has been involved with the writing of the report for the last ten years or so. The lack of progress during that time is getting to her.

"There are far too many children and families who struggle to make ends meet and the ends are not meeting. I have to admit that I have grown weary with the task," writes Frank.

'But then I think, I have groceries in the fridge, a job (at least for now), my kids are not hungry at school, they will have winter coats and my income allows for opportunities. So I write this report card another year for my Nova Scotia neighbors who may go without food to heat their homes this winter, in the hope that someone is listening."


Follow Robert Devet on Twitter @DevetRobert

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Topics: Poverty
614 words


Ridiculously Arrogant of our Collective Governments.

We can afford to furnish travel arrangements for citizens of convenience, bank roll terrorists offshore, give hand outs to starving politicians in the Senate, fight wars in foreign lands, pay exhorbiant retirement extorsions, yet, we can't seem to feed our own children? We are living in a fools paradise.


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