Steve Allan, Former Co-chair,
Calgary Poverty Reduction
People most often think of povertyas the homeless person they see fromtime to time on the street. They don’trealize that people working withthem in their offices may also bestruggling. Many of us are so close topoverty. We may not be living belowthe poverty line––the low income cutoff––but we’re one cheque away fromit.
Another mindset is that peopleliving in poverty are lazy but manyare working more than one low-wage job and still can’t pay the bills.
I haven’t run into anyone who’s“gaming” the system.
If we eliminated poverty, wewould also eliminate biases such asthis. We’d take down the roadblocksprofessionals from other countriesface to have their credentialsrecognized. Right now, we havepeople who are well qualified andwell trained driving taxi cabs whenwe have a high demand for skilledworkers.
To eliminate poverty, we needa long-term commitment fromgovernments to deal with theroot causes of poverty. One thingI’m always bothered by is cuts toeducation and programming inschools. Education has a value andwhen you support it will cut downspending on social costs down theroad. Every year, thousands of kidsgo from Grade 3 to Grade 4 withouthaving the reading skills they need.
Why don’t we invest resources toensure they can read at grade level?
We know there are going to beproblems later.
Eliminating poverty isn’t about
writing cheques. It’s about giving
everyone a fair chance to have a good
education, about putting services
closer to communities and using
what we have better.
When we worked on our initiative,we talked a lot about the income gap.
Countries that have a smaller gap
between rich and poor tend to have
a better way of life and less poverty,
drug use, teenage pregnancy and
major crime. Countries with bigger
gaps have bigger problems. The
United States has one of the biggest
gaps and they have major problems––
they’re polarized around it. Calgary
has the biggest income gap in
Canada. We have incredible affluence
and I don’t think people realize the
extent to which poverty exists in our
But if there’s any jurisdiction inthe world that can reduce poverty it’shere, despite low oil prices. Now isthe best time to focus on eliminatingpoverty.
If we eliminated poverty, we
would also eliminate biases