Why I'm voting to make poverty history

Ending poverty must be a priority for the next government. While charity may help the poor cope with poverty, government action is needed to eliminate poverty. The best way to make this happen is for voters to make it clear to candidates that they will be voting to make poverty history. On poverty issues, there are clear differences between the do-nothing position of the Conservative Party and the other parties, who have all committed to making poverty history.

I’m voting to make poverty history because I know that given the political will, we have the means to eliminate poverty both in Canada and around the world.

Significant progress has been made in reducing poverty around the world. Those living in extreme poverty (on less than $1.25 a day) has declined from almost half of the developing world’s population in 1990 to slightly more than a quarter in 2005. Enrolment in primary education reached 88 per cent in 2007, up from 83 per cent in 2000. Deaths of children under five declined steadily worldwide — from 12.6 million in 1990 to around 9 million in 2007.

But in recent years the impacts of climate change and the global economic crisis have stalled or,  in some cases, reversed the progress that has been made. After falling steadily in the 1980s and 90s, the number of people who are hungry is on the increase again because of food commodity price hikes.

World leaders adopted the Millennium Development Goals in 2000 with the goal of halving the number of people who were living in extreme poverty by the 2015.  With less than five years left to achieve these goals, we need a redoubling of efforts if we are to keep the promise made to the world’s poor.

Yet the Conservative government has announced that Canada will be freezing its aid budget at 2010 levels. Canadians may have thought of themselves as a generous people. But we now give less than half of the 0.7% of national income aid target (set by the UN at the suggestion of former Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson) and we rank 14th out of 23 countries in the amount of aid we give relative to the size of our economy.

On the domestic front, a majority of provinces have now adopted poverty reduction plans. Several early adopters, Quebec and Newfoundland, have shown that poverty can be reduced. But provinces and territories can’t achieve their poverty reduction targets on their own. They need the federal government to play a role as well, a role the Conservative government has refused to take on. This, despite the recommendation of an all-party parliamentary committee that it provide leadership by developing a national poverty reduction plan in collaboration with the provinces and territories.

I’m voting to make poverty history because there are some clear choices that can be made between parties that are committed to making poverty history and the Conservative Party, which is not.  In the past those living in poverty may have felt voting wouldn’t make a difference because no party really cared or was committed to ending poverty. This is no longer the case. Your vote can make a difference. By voting for the candidate and party in your riding that you feel has the best chance to help make poverty history you can help to ensure the next government will be one that takes leadership both in Canada and globally to help make poverty history.

You can make you vote count even more if you are vocal about it. Speak to candidates and make sure they know you intend to vote to make poverty history. Download and place the “I’m voting to Make Poverty History” sign in your window or order bumper stickers and buttons with the same message. There are many more action tools and ways you can support the Vote to Make Poverty History campaign at: www.makepovertyhistory.ca/vote