OTTAWA, March 22, 2012 /CNW/ - The Make Poverty History campaign warned against cuts in next week's budget to Canada's aid program and called for investment in proposed initiatives to fight poverty in Canada.
"If there are to be cuts to balance the budget, the poorest must not pay the price," said Jennifer Slawich of RESULTS Canada. "People living in poverty here and abroad have already been hit hardest by the economic crisis, and continue to experience its worst impacts."
In 2010, the federal government capped Canada's international assistance envelope, and spending is expected to stagnate, if not decrease, in 2012-2013. MPH expressed concern that cuts to aid transfers to poor countries will set back progress achieved to date. Over the last ten years aid has helped provide AIDS treatment to nearly 4 million people, dramatically reduced deaths from malaria and tuberculosis, and helped to reduce the number of out-of-school children by 46 million.
"Now is the time to scale-up spending on health and education. Sixty-seven million children remain out of school, and we are on the brink of realizing an AIDS-free generation and eradicating malaria and TB," Ms. Slawich added.
The federal budget should also implement all-party recommendations on fighting poverty in Canada, Make Poverty History said. "In 2010 all parties in the House of Commons' HUMA Committee recommended developing a federal anti-poverty plan, but we are still awaiting government action." said Simon Lewchuk of Citizens for Public Justice. "A modest investment today can ensure our economic recovery does not leave anyone behind."
Reacting to Minister Flaherty's declarations, MPH asked for next week's budget announcement to be comprehensive. "In line with the Prime Minister's commitment to transparency, we urge Mr. Flaherty to be forthright," said Chantal Havard of the Canadian Council for International Cooperation. "Canadians should learn the details and rationale for decisions that would affect people living in poverty."
The Campaign urged the Finance Minister to consider innovative measures to increase revenue in the budget, in particular a tax on financial transactions. "We shouldn't try to slay the deficit by simply reducing spending," said Mark Fried of Oxfam Canada. "A reasonable levy on the trading of stocks and bonds by financial institutions could raise hundreds of millions of dollars a year. It is possible to reduce the deficit while still addressing poverty."
With the aid budget frozen since 2010, Canada's aid has fallen from an estimated 0.34 percent of Gross National Income (GNI) in 2010 to an estimated 0.29 percent this year. If the freeze remains in force, aid will drop to 0.27 percent by 2014, putting Canada near the bottom of the list of all donor countries.
"Prime Minister David Cameron protected the UK's commitment to spend 0.7 percent of GNI on aid, even though the country is facing the worst austerity measures since the Second World War," Ms. Havard added. "He recognizes that investing in development isn't just about saving lives, it is profoundly in the national interest."
The Make Poverty History campaign seeks to reduce and ultimately eradicate poverty in Canada and abroad. The campaign was launched in 2005 with the support of a wide cross-section of public interest and faith groups, trade unions, international development agencies, students, academics and literary, artistic and sports leaders. Over 260,000 individuals have signed on to the Make Poverty History platform. Visit makepovertyhistory.ca.
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Laura Read, Make Poverty History
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