Madam Speaker, I rise today to follow up on a question I put to the government earlier in November.
I asked the Deputy Prime Minister if the government was planning to redefine the way poverty is measured in Canada. I have to say that the response I received was very pathetic. Rather than address the very serious question about changing the low income cutoff for the definition of how we measure poverty in Canada, the government fell back on its usual line which was to say that its commitment to eradicate poverty was nothing more than the child tax benefit.
Every single time members of the opposition have raised in the House the issue about the growth in child poverty and the growth in poverty in Canada, we have had the same response from the government, that $850 million has been committed to the child tax benefit. If any member of the government took the time to examine the statistics, the facts and the record about what really has happened with the child tax benefit, they would know that the reality is that the poorest of children received less benefit from the child tax benefit in 1997 than they did in 1984.
The only families whose support has increased are the working poor with incomes roughly between $10,000 or $25,000. I point this out because it shows the hypocrisy of the government program. It purports to be concerned about child poverty but the child tax benefit falls far, far short of helping the poorest Canadians, the poorest children. They are worse off than they were in 1984.
In debating this issue briefly tonight, we should recognize that tomorrow is the anniversary of the unanimous resolution in the House of Commons in 1989 to eradicate child poverty by the year 2000. The sad reality is that in Canada not only have we not made any progress but the situation has deteriorated.
To make matters worse, there are suggestions that the government is looking to change how it defines poverty. It reminds me of a statement made by a social policy consultant, Mr. Shillington, who said to beware of those who would address child poverty by discussing its definition rather than its root causes.
The question is still before us. We have not yet had an answer. Is the Liberal government planning behind closed doors to look at a redefinition of how we measure poverty in Canada?
The reason for bringing this up is that at the finance committee on October 14, the Liberal member for Mississauga South asked the finance minister “Do you believe the government should redefine or define in the first instance true poverty in Canada, true poverty where we are talking about food, clothing and shelter?” The response from the finance minister in part was “I think it would be quite helpful in fact to have a definition of poverty that is not a relative definition of poverty”.
That sends out huge warning signs that the government is looking at redefining the way it measures poverty. It really begs the question—