Alberta Premier Rachel Notley talks with Besma Behik (4-years-old) at the Intercultural Child and Family Centre, a daycare and out-of-school care centre in Edmonton, on Thursday April 6, 2017, where the Alberta government announced that 22 pilot Early Learning and Child Care Centre will receive funding to demonstrate the importance and viability of $25-a-day child care in Alberta.
Larry Wong / POSTMEDIA NETWORK
The number of children living in poverty in Alberta and across much of Canada has fallen dramatically.It gladdens the heart to know that significantly more kids are going to bed with full stomachs and walking to school in warm clothes. From another perspective, the good news on child poverty restores our faith about governments and what they can accomplish when they set their minds on tackling a serious problem by introducing effective and timely policies.In this case, the problem isn’t beaten but there’s been impressive progress. Child-poverty rates in Alberta were cut in half between 2015 and 2017, from 10 per cent of kids living in poverty to five per cent, according to figures released Tuesday by Statistics Canada.There was similar good news nationally with 278,000 fewer children living below the poverty line in 2017 compared to 2015.Both the federal and provincial governments were quick to boast about the numbers. In both cases, they do deserve credit. Both StatsCan and various pundits point to the national child benefit program, introduced by the federal Liberals in 2016, as a major factor in reducing the number of Canadians living under the poverty line.In Alberta, there’s even more to brag about. Having halved its child-poverty rate to five per cent in two years, the province now boasts the lowest child-poverty rate in the country; the Canadian average is nine per cent. All this, while the provincial economy struggles to recover from a stubborn downturn.During the same period, the rate of child poverty in homes with a single mom dropped to 17.6 per cent from 36 per cent. Overall poverty in Alberta fell to 6.8 per cent, down from 8.2 per cent.The national child benefit helped, but the Alberta government introduced its own poverty-reduction measures, including: a provincial child benefit for low-income families and an enhanced family employment tax credit; a school hot-lunch program; a $25-a-day daycare pilot; and a $15-an-hour minimum wage.Some of these strategies, especially the new minimum wage, have stoked controversy. But investing up-front to lift people out of poverty makes more economic sense than paying exponentially more for the emergent costs of shelter, health care, criminal justice and social welfare that can arise when impoverished people fall short of their potential.It’s clear poverty remains a pressing concern. There were still 622,000 children living below the poverty line in 2017.Governments of today should not rest on their laurels and those of tomorrow shouldn’t be tempted to backslide on these gains.Local editorials are the consensus opinion of the Journal’s editorial board, comprising Mark Iype, Dave Breakenridge, Sarah O’Donnell and Bill Mah.