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Poverty Still Present in Saskatchewan Despite Boom

“The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members” – Ghandi

We hear it all the time: Saskatchewan is booming. Our economy is the envy of many provinces and growth is hitting a record high. This tale of abundancy and progress, however, is not the case for many Saskatchewan residents.

Despite Saskatchewan’s low unemployment rate, many families struggle to maintain livable wages and hold their heads above the poverty line. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives reported some alarming stats on the most recent available data (2007):

  • There were 35,000 (16.7 per cent) children under age 18 living beneath the poverty line in Saskatchewan.
  • Saskatchewan has the third highest provincial child poverty rate.
  • 45 per cent of Aboriginal children live in low-income families.
  • More than one in three immigrant children are poor.
  • 20 per cent of children spent three or more years in poverty, exceeding the national average of 15 per cent.
  • One-third of poor children live in families with full-time, full-year employment.

These are statistics we can’t ignore. While having the obvious negative impacts of struggling to accommodate basic needs, poverty also detracts from community living. Those living below the poverty line are often absent from the circles that have the potential to affect social change, making the fight to achieve middle class status all the more difficult.

Our government needs to do more to ensure that all people in the province are benefiting from Saskatchewan’s boom. Other countries and provinces have taken targeted approaches to alleviate poverty, and Saskatchewan needs to do the same.

Aside from the obvious human cost, poverty costs society in many other regards, including economically as well as being an added weight on the healthcare system. A study of health outcomes performed by the city of Saskatoon found that those living in poverty consume much more in healthcare costs. There are many reasons for this – some include lower rates of immunization, higher rates of infant mortality, higher likelihood of heart disease, increased instance of hepatitis C, higher rates of physical inactivity and an increased likelihood of smoking.

Those living in the lowest income brackets have also been correlated with poorer performance in regards to education. Higher drop out rates, reduced vocabulary and lower rates of literacy reduce opportunities for academic and career advancement.

While there are many reasons to work toward the elimination of poverty, the greatest reason of all is the cost of human suffering. Regardless of the benefits that will be experienced in our healthcare and education systems, the most compelling reason to lend a hand to those marginalized by socioeconomic influences in our community is compassion. Some things should not be measured strictly in dollars and cents, but in what makes sense to community living.

It’s time for our government to listen to the needs of the entire community. We need a government to lead through innovation and compassion, creating a more just society that presents opportunities to all of its people.

Nykea Behiel

P.S. We are asking Saskatchewan Liberal Party members to share their views as we shape our party’s platform for the next election. We welcome your comments on our Facebook page, or by emailing policy@saskliberals.ca