Montani: "Government can do more through public policy than any individual or single organization..."

"There's a lot of talk by theorists. And there's a lot of talk by those who observe. But those doing the work think there's a lot being done." That's what British Columbia Salvation Army Major Brian Venables said in response to questions about whether the government should be doing more to address reports the province has the worst child poverty rate in Canada. So what does the organization responsible for those reports think about that statement?

In an email to Public Eye, First Call provincial coordinator Adrienne Montani acknowledged, "Major Venables is right that lots of work is being done by those on the front line - lots of individual acts of charity, lots of hard work by non-profit organizations, etc."

But Ms. Montani added, "Where I disagree with Major Venables is on the question of government doing more. Government can do more through public policy than any individual or single organization can do with their charitable acts."

For example, the government could introduce a universal publicly-funded child care system, raise welfare rates or make sure all its contracts are paid a living wage.

"Government is us, and we can do more together to reduce child poverty through public policy if we have the political will," she continued. "The models of poverty reduction plans and commitments in other Canadian provinces offer us examples, as do other countries where they have acted on the research evidence about the value of collective investments in early childhood and family supports."

The following is a complete copy of Ms. Montani's email.

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Major Venables is right that lots of work is being done by those on the front line - lots of individual acts of charity, lots of hard work by non-profit organizations, etc. There's also a lot of very hard work being done every day by low income parents - both in their homes trying to make ends meet, and in jobs that don't pay a wage sufficient to lift them out of poverty. I'd say this is where some of the hardest work is taking place as they try to raise healthy children and keep them safe without the social supports they need.

Where I disagree with Major Venables is on the question of government doing more. Government can do more through public policy than any individual or single organization can do with their charitable acts. A universal publicly funded child care system for BC, like they have in Quebec, would help thousands of parents join and stay in the work force, ensure thousands of children have access to quality care and learning environments and help break the cycle of poverty for many.

A rise in welfare rates and policy changes to allow mothers to keep support payments and earnings would mean fewer families needing to go to food banks.

A policy to make sure all government contractors pay a living wage to their employees would mean hundreds of parents could afford to afford have just one job, rather than running between 2 and even 3 jobs, and never having time to see their children.

Government is us, and we can do more together to reduce child poverty through public policy if we have the political will. The models of poverty reduction plans and commitments in other Canadian provinces offer us examples, as do other countries where they have acted on the research evidence about the value of collective investments in early childhood and family supports.

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