The Pandemic and the Poor: Contrasting Government Responses

By: John Rae
October 29, 2009

The following is based on introductory remarks given at the Standing Committee on Finance’s Pre Budget consultation, Toronto, October 22, 2009

Government responses to the possible H1N1 pandemic and the poor provide a stark contrast in approaches.

Today, government officials are working hard on fighting a possible H1N1 pandemic. U.S. President Barack Obama has declared H1N1 a national emergency. In Canada, a vaccine has been developed and quickly approved, and plans are underway for a massive vaccination of Canadians.

By contrast, when it comes to fighting poverty, Parliament passed an all-party resolution in 1989 to eradicate child poverty by 2000, but it is still with us. Report upon report has vividly documented the effects of poverty on the health, life opportunities and general well being of those who are trapped in chronic poverty, as well as its effect on our economy.

The recent economic crisis has left an increasing number of Canadians in poverty, Yet debate continues on what can and should be done,.

This lack of attention is of particular concern to Canadians who are disabled, a group that was among the poorest of the poor in our affluent country, even in better times.

This is why the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians(AEBC) called again for a Comprehensive National Economic Strategy that would address income, unemployment and the use of infrastructure dollars to help our community.

If government gave the same level of attention and effort to actually eradicating poverty, I believe there would be far more concrete progress to show.