The NDP's platform released Monday calls the other parties' bluff on poverty.
Two things about poverty:
- Eighteen years ago, Parliament voted unanimously to eradicate child poverty. Today, close to 900,000 Canadian children live below the poverty line.
- Eradicating poverty isn't a "spending program." It's an investment in lower crime rates, a more literate and scientifically-skilled populace, a reduction in social costs associated with poverty (malnutrition; TB, AIDS and other communicable diseases; under-weight babies, teenage pregnancies, incarceration, spousal, child and substance abuse, to name just a few), and the foundation for a more globally competitive nation with a higher standard of living.
In business, the maxim is that if you can't measure it, you can't achieve it. One of the knocks on Layton's goal of cutting child poverty by more than 50 per cent and the overall poverty rate by more than 35 per cent in his first, five-year mandate is that the timeframe is unrealistic. But CEOs are hired to set and strive to meet ambitious goals. The lingering shame dating from the well-meaning 1990 Parliamentary vote arises from a lack of goals, ambitious or otherwise.
Layton is asking Canadians about their priorities. Would they prefer the $40 billion in income-tax cuts the Grits expect to finance with their proposed Green Shift carbon-tax program to fund? A corporate tax rate that Harper plans to cut from 22.12 per cent to 19 per cent? (John McCain complained in his debate with Barack Obama last Friday that America suffers the world's second-highest corporate tax rate, at 36 per cent. It's not like the Dippers aim to chase away corporate investment, even if Dion sides with Harper than the Canadian corporate tax rate apprently needs to be cut.) Or eradicating the cycle of poverty by which we keep producing new generations of impoverished Canadians?
And it's not as though the Dippers' total platform costs - proposed spending and tax cuts - are out of line with the competition. The NDP costs its platform at $51.6 billion, the Grits platform rings in at $55 billion, and the yet-to-be-released Tory platform is predicted to be $48 billion, although that figure is expected to rise.
A widening disparity between rich and poor is a cancer on any society, no matter how ostensibly affluent, because it nurtures an "underclass" of alienated folks who in time lose a sense of hope and, with it, of social responsibility. It's a largely unseen burden on society because we don't calculate its total cost. But like gravity, widespread deprivation is there all the same, weighing us all down.