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Calgary advocate hopes groups focus on new Canadian poverty measure

Calgary group praises government poverty plan
Franco Savoia, executive director of Vibrant Communities Calgary, joins Global News Calgary to explain why he believes a new federal poverty reduction plan could make a positive impact when it comes to the social issue.

Setting a national poverty line is an important step in addressing the social issue, even if the measure is blunt, according to a Calgary-based poverty reduction advocate.

This week, the federal government announced a national strategy with a goal to reduce poverty by 20 per cent by 2020 and 50 per cent by 2030. The plan includes setting a poverty line, based on the market basket measure (MBM), which is a calculation of goods and services for a basic standard living in a jurisdiction.

“If you don’t have a common measure, we can’t talk to each other,” Franco Savoia, the executive director of Vibrant Communities Calgary, said during an interview Saturday on Global News Morning.

“We’ll compare year over year and say who’s contributing, who isn’t, what do we need to change.”

READ MORE: Federal government announces ambitious plan to reduce poverty in Canada

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The MBM threshold is calculated for 50 jurisdictions across Canada. In Alberta, there are specific figures for Calgary and Edmonton, while smaller communities are grouped under calculations based on population.

Savoia said assigning the MBM as a national poverty indicator could produce positive results even though the mark is a “blunt” tool to use. In Alberta it would assign cities like Airdrie and Grand Prairie with the same cost threshold, even though the two operate under different geographic and economic realities.

“It will be 50 jurisdictions across this country, that’s a heck of a lot better than we’ve got right now, which we don’t have anything,” Savoia said.

“It may not be totally equivalent, but at least we can talk.”

The government’s announcement this week didn’t include any additional funding promises, which Savoia said is a concern. However, he added that a number of recent federal measures focused on housing and raising children have helped people experiencing poverty.

“What the government has done is say, ‘Here’s the poverty reduction strategy, we’ve done a bunch of things in the last two or three years,’ and they’ve kind of grouped it under this umbrella,” Savoia said.

“Could we use more resources, yes, but at least [the strategy] gets us started.”
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