Edmonton plan to eliminate poverty in a generation raises questions

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Edmonton sets bold plan to end poverty in a generation
WATCH ABOVE: This week, city hall endorsed a plan to eliminate poverty in a generation. The target is bold, but is it actually achievable? Vinesh Pratap reports. – May 26, 2016

EDMONTON –  It’s an ambitious goal, but city council has approved a plan that calls for poverty to be eliminated in a generation.

“The causes of poverty are complex,” Mayor Don Iveson said this week.

And the road map laid out by EndPovertyEdmonton, the task force that was launched last fall, hopes that 35 broad-based actions will help people most in need.

“In many aspects the work has started in the community,” said Cheryl Whiskeyjack, a member of the task force. “This will be galvanized and co-ordinate all the work that’s happening out there currently.”

Among the series of actions include more chances for vulnerable people to take part in all city committees, an annual Day of Dignity to recognize and honour human rights, and a new Aboriginal culture and wellness centre.

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“The city does have a roll in bringing community together,”the mayor said.

“They’re also not here to see how people live everyday,” social worker Brandie Hermary said.

The poverty elimination vision comes with a cost of just over $27 million over five years starting in 2017. Community partners have stepped up to provide just over $11 million of that. City council will be approached this fall to provide nearly $16 million over five years.

“A lot of what we’re going to be able to provide through the city is actually Family and Community Social Services (FCSS) money which is provincial social service prevention money that flows through the city,” the mayor said. Iveson added the request for funding the initiative should not cost property taxpayers “a whole lot, nor should it.”

But is another layer of bureaucracy needed? Steps to deal with this social issue are being worked on on multiple fronts. The province has committed to increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2018.  And the city is seven years into its 10-year plan to end homelessness.

“I think it’s a lot easier said than done to actually eliminate poverty in a generation,” Hermary told Global News. Hermary offers a simple idea that could make a big difference.

“Lower rents would be amazing,” she said.

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Vermillion also has some skepticism. The Edmononton resident has lived in poverty for decades.

“You can’t, you can’t eliminate poverty,” Vermillion said bluntly.

While the overarching goal is to eliminate poverty in a generation, the task force has set forward an initial target of lifting 10,000 people out of poverty by 2021.

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