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Ottawa should use projected budget surpluses to fight poverty, group says

Nathaniel Parent, who has lived in poverty, poses for a portrait after speaking during a Campaign 2000 news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, November 26, 2013.


Ottawa should funnel predicted multibillion-dollar budget surpluses into helping Canadians who are struggling to make ends meet, an anti-poverty coalition said in a report released Tuesday.

Campaign 2000 said while there has been a slight drop in the country's child poverty rate since the 2008-2009 recession, 967,000 children and their families are still unable to fulfil their basic needs.

Based on recent budget projections, the federal government "can afford to spend" on programs that would help prevent children from depending on food banks and homeless shelters, the group said.

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"Money is not lacking," the report read. "What may be lacking is political will to act and willingness to act on the evidence."

"If the costs of poverty are ignored, this constitutes nothing less than mismanagement of the economy for which we will all continue to pay in financial and other costs," the document said.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said this month he expects a surplus of $3.7-billion in 2015-16. That figure is expected to grow to nearly $10-billion by 2018-19.

In its report, Campaign 2000 recommends drafting a national poverty-reduction plan, building a public child care system and expanding access to employment insurance, among other things.

It is also repeating its call for an enhanced child benefit for low-income families that would replace some cash payments and child tax benefits and credits offered to Canadian parents.

"In this time of slow and slowing economic growth, raising the incomes of those at the bottom improves purchasing power, benefits businesses and strengthens the economy," the group's national co-ordinator, Laurel Rothman, said in a news release.

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