The Truth About Canada

The Truth About Canada by Mel Hurtig Read Free Book Online

Book: The Truth About Canada by Mel Hurtig Read Free Book Online
Authors: Mel Hurtig
Tags: General, Political Science
average rent, that leaves $132 a month for food, for clothing, for school supplies, for utilities, for kitchen and bathroom supplies, for recreational activities, etc., etc. That’s $132 per month for a family of three. The average poor family in Toronto is almost $10,000 short of adequate money for rent, food, and public transit, and the fastest-growing group using shelters is children.
    Brian Mulroney’s Conservative government cut a massive $2-billion from federal housing programs. The Chrétien government did nothing to restore public housing and downloaded responsibility for it to the provinces. Then Paul Martin abolished the housing ministry.
    In Britain, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has announced a remarkable $17-billion affordable-housing plan that will produce 50,000 units of social housing a year for the next three years, with a goal of three millionnew affordable homes by 2020. By contrast, a Toronto Star editorial correctly says that
In Canada there is no national housing strategy. Worse, there is a lack of political will to develop one, despite a growing homelessness crisis and huge waiting lists for subsidized housing across the country.
Canada is alone among the major industrialized countries in not having a national housing strategy. Only 5 percent of the housing stock in this country is social housing, one of the lowest levels in the world. 4
    There are now an estimated 1,500 homeless in Vancouver, but if no additional low-cost housing is built, that number will likely increase to over 3,000 by 2010. One new estimate puts the number of homeless in British Columbia at well over 10,000. And while Ontario’s Liberal government under Dalton McGuinty promised 20,000 affordable housing units for that province, after three years in office only 6 percent of these were built.
    In Ontario, over 122,000 households were waiting to get into affordable housing in 2006. The average household income of people on the waiting list is only slightly over $12,000 a year. While Paul Martin spoke frequently about poverty in Canada, if you were to add up all the affordable public housing units built in Canada during all the years that he was minister of finance, the total wouldn’t equal even a single year of public housing construction in the 1980s. In 1980, 24,168 affordable residences were built. In 1998 only 550 were built.
    For those of us who have been concerned for many years about the very high levels of poverty in Canada, the publication of the 2006 edition of the Hunger Count report by the Canadian Association of Food Banks can only be described as dismaying. The first food bank opened in Edmonton in 1981. It was thought to be just a temporary measure. In 1989, there were 159 food banks in Canada. Today, there are food banks in every province and territory, 649 in all. In 1981, those who organizedthe first food bank worried that while they felt a moral obligation to help the hungry, their actions might lessen the pressure on government to do something about the urgent problem. Unfortunately, their concerns were justified. Since the House of Commons promised to abolish child poverty, food bank usage in the same period has more than doubled.
    Incredibly, in an era of unprecedented affluence, over one third of all food banks in Canada report that they have difficulty meeting the demand for food from hungry men, women, and children. An editorial in the Toronto Star reports that
The Foodpath food bank in Mississauga is in desperate need of help as it tries to meet growing demands for its services. That such a crisis exists in a 905 community may come as a surprise to those who believe poverty, homelessness and hunger are problems unique to the city of Toronto. But the Mississauga charity helps 5,500 people every month. Half are children.
    Meanwhile, the core operation of the Canadian Association of Food Banks receives zero government funding, and only in Quebec and Nova Scotia is there more than minute government assistance.

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