from the Toronto Star
by Robert Benzie
A New Democratic government would eliminate poverty in Canada within 12 years, NDP Leader Jack Layton says.
Layton set the ambitious target in his party's $51.6 billion, 57-page election platform, released yesterday in Toronto.
"Don't you think it's time we finally put an end to the shame of child poverty?" he said to about 200 cheering supporters at a Broadview Ave. hall.
Speaking to reporters after his speech, Layton made no apologies for setting the aggressive 2020 deadline.
"This is the goal. You know something, if you don't set a goal you're never going to get there," he said.
The most expensive tool in the NDP's anti-poverty arsenal is a new $17.4 billion child-benefit plan that would pay low-income families up to $416 a month per child.
The New Democrats say the $17.4 billion price tag for the child-benefit plan is only $4.4 billion more than the $13 billion patchwork of Conservative benefits the NDP package would replace when it's fully phased in by 2012-13.
Speaking in Toronto, Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion was harshly critical of Layton's corporate tax plans, saying they would kill jobs, and of the child-benefit plan, which he called unrealistic. No country or any NDP provincial government is taxing corporations at the rate Layton plans, Dion told reporters.
"Jack Layton's old-fashioned socialist mentality is as backwards as Stephen Harper's old-fashioned conservative ideology," he said.
Speaking for the Conservatives, incumbent Pierre Poilievre, who is running in the riding of Nepean-Carleton, slammed the NDP program as "unaffordable."
The promises "will put Canada back into deficit and force taxes to go up," Poilievre said in an interview.
He called into question the NDP's strategy to reduce poverty, saying that cancelling corporate tax cuts would hammer Canadian businesses "with billions in new taxes that will kill jobs and create new risks for our economy.
"Driving Canada's economy into the ground through higher taxes and more debt will only lead to more poverty," he said.
Under the NDP child-benefit plan, a family with a household income of $38,000 or less would receive $416 a month per child under 18. Those with a household income of less than $188,000 would get between $73 and $330 a month per child, depending on income. Families earning more than $188,000 a year would receive $53 a month per child. The money would not be taxed.
Layton's platform document includes a slew of other measures designed to eliminate poverty, including an hourly minimum wage of $10 that would be indexed to inflation.
An NDP government would introduce a Poverty Elimination Act, setting firm reduction targets and making the government accountable for meeting those goals.
A progress report would have to be tabled every five years.
The NDP wants to reduce child poverty by more than 50 per cent and the overall poverty rate by more than 35 per cent in the first five years. The NDP defines the poverty line as Statistics Canada's "low income cut-off" or LICO, which calculates the income level at which a family may be in dire straits because it has to spend a greater portion of its income on shelter, food, and clothing than an average family. The LICO measurement varies, depending where in Canada a family resides.
Layton's platform goes on to address Premier Dalton McGuinty's quest for a fair deal from Ottawa by promising to reform employment insurance (EI). The party says it is working toward ensuring Ontario workers qualify for the same EI benefits as other Canadians.
McGuinty, who is remaining non-partisan in the campaign for the Oct. 14 election, says the average unemployed Ontario worker is shortchanged by $4,630 a year.
With files from Tonda MacCharles and Bruce Campion-Smith
Link to full article. May expire in future.
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