Monday, November 12, 2007

Liberals launch 30-50 plan to fight poverty

On Friday the Liberals unveiled their plans to reduce poverty in Canada. The 30-50 plan calls for the establishment bench marks for measuring poverty in order to reduce the rate by 30% overall and 50% among children in the first 5 years of a 4 year Liberal government mandate.

Plans to reduce poverty include:
*Lowering the welfare wall
*Increase income support for families including increasing the child tax benefit
*Increase guarantee income support for seniors
*Implement the Kelowna Accord to help aboriginals

They would also work with provincial and local government in the areas of affordable housing, universal child care, public transit and labour market training.

The success of a program cannot be evaluated without a standard for measurement. Establishing an official poverty line with reduction targets is the absolute first step in fighting poverty. The Liberals (especially Dion) do not have the best track at meeting targets. It takes more than naming your dog to reach those targets. On the plus side, the proposed time line leaves little room for procrastination.

Under our current social assistance there is a point where it is better to be on welfare than to have a job. Bringing down the welfare wall is something that is something much needed. By the Liberals own admission their plan kicks in at the first dollar earned while the Conservatives plan kick in at $3000. It will be interesting to see how much the real dollar difference is between the two plans.

Giving money directly to children is the simplest way for them to have more money. This was not the Liberal position in the last election. Currently the Ontario government skims money transferred from the federal government for children by reducing welfare payments by an equal amount. Increasing the payments without an agreement from Ontario will just lead to more money being skimmed. The Ontario government did agree not to skim the money from the $100/month for every child under the age of 6. A similar arrangement could be made. On July 1, 2007 the Ontario government began paying out up to $1100/year for children based on income. A government elected in 2008 could take credit some credit for reduction in poverty levels without taking any proactive steps.

The 30-50 plan sets them up well for an election campaign. Not costing out the program now limits the other parties from being able to undercut the program. It also gives the Liberals 3 or 4 opportunities to re-announce the program with further details during an election campaign.

The big question is how much will it cost and how is it going to be paid for. It is unclear if they are going to try to reintroduce universal day care in the next election. Combined with the cost of Kelowna would eat up the entire budget surplus. They have promised a better set of tax cuts. Since the GST cut was announced Dion has been campaigning on the importance corporate tax cuts. Officially abandoning Kyoto would destroy too much credibility. This will also requiring more funding.

Dion has already reminisced about raising the GST back up to 6%. Pulling out of Afghanistan would also free up large amounts of money. The Liberals do not seem as interested as the Conservatives in having a military presence in the Arctic to establish Canadian sovereignty. Environment Critic David McGuinty has been very critical of John Baird in committee for not introducing carbon taxes. Would the Liberals consider taking away the $100/month per child in order to direct the money towards reducing the poverty numbers?

We may have an election where we have a Robin Hood style Liberal platform vs. a stay the course, treat everyone exactly the same Conservative platform. Mayor Miller has claimed that people are willing to pay more taxes for services they want. Could this message have filtered it's way up to the head strategists in the Liberal party?

The Liberals are starting to show signs of life. This can only be a good thing for the overall political process. It looks like 2008 will produce very different party platforms that will result in a majority government. At least then the government could get to work instead of worrying about partisan pandering.

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