Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the member who will be answering my question.
Child poverty in Canada should be a top priority for this government if we want to maintain a healthy, well-educated and prosperous society.
When I pointed out to this House that a motion had been adopted unanimously to put an end to child poverty in Canada, I also asked the government—which, let us not forget, is accountable for its commitments to Canadians—what it had done to improve the plight of all those children who still live in poverty.
The answer I received was that thanks to the Conservatives, the average Canadian family now spends $3,000 less per year in taxes. However, everybody knows that the poorest families in Canada already pay virtually no tax. One cannot but conclude therefore that these tax measures proposed by the government are not reaching their targets, because they are not serving the clientele that is in the greatest need.
Moreover, to obtain some tax credits, one must be able to cover costs in advance in order to receive a credit for the fiscal year. But who—especially the poor—can wait a year to receive a tax refund, when thousands of Canadian families barely have enough to feed their children at the end of the month?
The most recent figures on child poverty are damning. Approximately one Canadian child in 10 and their families live in poverty. 2010 was a record year for the number of users of food banks in Canada since 1997, and 38% of food bank clients were children although children only account for 22% of the population. According to a report by UNICEF, Canada is a poor performer among OECD countries when it comes to infant mortality rates and is ranked 22nd out of 31 countries. In total, approximately 640,000 children still live in poverty in Canada. The child poverty rate among aboriginals, immigrants and visible minorities is more than twice the general average.
In light of these data, one can be forgiven for wondering why the government does not take concrete and immediate steps to ensure the healthy development of the next generation of Canadians. In my opinion, what is still more worrisome is the incidence of poverty among children.
Despite the hard work of thousands of community groups that often work with limited financial resources, we are currently observing developmental delays, health problems, more stays with foster families, more unsanitary housing conditions, an increased dropout rate, mental health problems among parents, sexual abuse, verbal and physical abuse, and other problems. Poor children are more likely to experience these unacceptable situations than other children.
Child poverty creates a series of societal problems that undermine the health and well-being of the population, and have an extremely harmful effect on the country's economy.
Many experts throughout the world agree—as does the NDP—that the solution to a chronic problem of this magnitude is found close to the source, and we strongly believe that properly introduced measures could end child poverty in Canada.
First, a national child poverty reduction strategy that includes specific objectives must be put in place. A thorough review of all allocations and tax measures for the development and well-being of children must also be conducted to ensure that these measures meet the needs of the population, including families with low and very low incomes.
Other assistance and programs must be provided to give additional support to households that need it most. Finally, concrete measures that stimulate the creation of decent jobs must be put in place. Parents who are in the workforce and who have decent, stable jobs will be able to help their children escape poverty.
In 1989, Canada promised to end child poverty before the year 2000, but failed miserably in its task.
Can the government provide a clear answer with regard to its strategy and the measures it intends to implement to end child poverty in a country as rich as Canada?