Hello. Thanks for the opportunity to appear before you.
You're probably aware that Campaign 2000 is a network of organizations representing low-income people, affordable housing, child care and health care providers, food banks, labour organizations, and women's groups. We've been tracking progress, or lack thereof, on child and family poverty for at least 20 years.
We were quite disappointed not to see measures addressing poverty or inequality in Bill C-38, and I guess we were jarred again by the recent report from UNICEF measuring child poverty in the world's richest countries, which reminds us that even among our peers, the economically advanced nations, Canada ranks 24th out of 25. UNICEF also emphasizes that poverty is one of the most costly mistakes a society can make—and it is indeed one that we can ameliorate.
The most recent statistics show that 639,000 children, or about one in 10, are still living in poverty. That doesn't well reflect the numbers in first nations communities, where it's closer to one in four. It's important to remember that about one in three of those children in poverty has a parent already working full time. So the issues we've been talking about with regard to labour market and labour replacement income under EI are relevant to poverty reduction.
UNICEF also confirmed that public policies in the form of taxes and transfers make a big difference, which is why we had wanted to see some progress on that. Of course, in Canada we have strong evidence in the progress we've made to date, both from our programs assisting seniors—OAS, GIS—as well as with children. I don't know if you have in front of you a copy of the report card that was sent, but we have a good chart where we show the impact of taxes and transfers, including employment insurance, the Canada child tax benefit, the national child benefit supplement, and the GST credit. Before those were taken into account, we would have had 25% of children, one in four, in poverty, and after those taxes and transfers, the rate went down to 14%, preventing about 770,000 children from living in poverty.
The other important point is that the CCTB and the NCB address both poverty and inequality. The maximum benefit goes to families with net incomes under $24,000, but the progressive nature of the benefit trails out so that almost 90% of children receive something. Obviously, in families with more income they receive less.
So what we are suggesting is that to both prevent and strengthen child and family poverty we need to retain, if not enhance, those existing taxes and transfer measures, including EI, the national child benefit. I think we need a more updated look at the GST credit—or now we'd call it the HST credit in many places—and we need to focus on creating better jobs. Specifically, the child benefit needs to be increased to a maximum of $5,400, and even at that, our lone-parent mother would need to earn at least $12 an hour for at least 34 hours a week, plus the child benefit, to bring herself and her child out of poverty.
We believe that poverty reduction and eventual eradication is a key part of a prosperity agenda. Remember, these funds in families on tight incomes are all spent in local communities. They're not sent abroad. Unfortunately, people aren't able to save, but they desperately need that money for food and rent. So this direction will address some critical needs of our most vulnerable Canadians and will reduce intractable social and economic problems for years immediately ahead and to come.