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Addressing the ‘moral crisis’ of poverty

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Bartlett, Dave
Publication Date: 
6 Oct 2011



Ending poverty is not that complicated if the political will is
there, according to one of the directors of the Religious Social Action
Committee .

The coalition is made up of many of the province’s religious leaders including Christians, Jews, Muslims and Hindus.

It held a news conference at the Basilica library in St. John’s
Wednesday to release the results of a questionnaire sent to all three
political leaders vying to be premier in Tuesday’s election.


Religious leaders calling on candidates to take anti-poverty pledge

Currie said while political parties have expressed concern and
pledged to eliminate poverty the line-ups at food banks in the province
continue to grow.

“We see public policies that do not foster self-sufficiency, but
which offer limited means for surviving impoverishment,” he added.

According to the coalition, between 1992 and 2009 the gap between the
average incomes of the poorest 20 per cent and the richests 20 per cent
in this province has grown from $71,300 to $97,700.

The questionnaire sent to the parties asks 10 questions relative to
ending poverty. The coalition has since posted the complete responses to
its website —

Arnold Bennett, one of the coalition’s directors representing the Jewish faith highlighted two questions at the event.

The coalition wants the parties to create an independent provincial
fairness commissioner to monitor and ensure the gap is closing and to
review every piece of legislation to ensure people of all income levels
are being treated fairly.

“In the responses that we have on the website, none of the three
parties gives a straight answer to this question,” Bennett said.

The second question asks parties to change taxation policy to close
loop holes for the wealthy and to repeal tax cuts for the richest people
— with incomes of more than $250,000 — as well as add a surtax on
incomes over $500,000.

But Bennett said no party wants to commit to raising taxes during an election campaign.


To illustrate his point, he said the responses from the PC party states the province has cut taxes by $1.6 billion.

But according to Bennett, more than a billion of that went to the
richest 20 per cent, with more than $500 million going to the richest
one per cent in the province.

Meanwhile, he said, the total spent on poverty reduction in the province is $140 million a year.

Bennett said by plugging that leak in the taxation boat that drains
money back to the wealthy the province could afford strategies towards
ending poverty.

But Natural Resources Minister Shawn Skinner, who’s running for
re-election in St. John’s Centre and attended the event, said while his
party shares the coalition’s goals, he wasn’t convinced the issue is as
simple as that.


Chris Pickard, the NDP candidate in St. John’s West, was more
receptive to the idea of a new tax regime to spread the wealth around.


Sheila Miller is running for the Liberals in the district of Virgina Waters.

She said as a child care centre owner she was shocked when she opened
a preschool some years ago in the city centre at how much families were

“I was mortified that I actually had children coming to my preschool that did not have breakfast,” she said.


-reprinted from The Telegram