News / Edmonton

Tax changes needed to lift kids out of poverty: Edmonton Social Planning Council

New report shows 15.1 per cent of Albertans aged zero to 17 are living in poverty

Heather Curtis is a research co-ordinator with the Edmonton Social Planning Council.

Kevin Tuong / Edmonton Freelance

Heather Curtis is a research co-ordinator with the Edmonton Social Planning Council.

The Edmonton Social Planning Council is calling for tax changes to keep kids out of poverty in Alberta.

After releasing a report on child poverty Thursday, group’s research co-ordinator Heather Curtis highlighted the need for sustainable revenue sources to support low-income families.

“I think there really needs to be an investigation into the tax revenue system in Alberta,” Curtis said.

“We can’t balance our budget and forget about vulnerable Albertans who need support.”

The report cites numbers from the Alberta government showing the province would pull in an extra $8.7 billion in annual revenue if it had a tax system matching B.C., or $22.4 billion with the same system as Newfoundland.

Curtis said Alberta’s current government has made several recent moves to lift children out of poverty – including funds for employment and income supports, stronger child and family benefits, more money for homelessness and outreach services and the creation of the children’s services ministry – but she worries revenue shortfalls will prevent those changes from creating long-term change.

“They’re making these great, fabulous investments in poverty reduction, but there’s not enough sustainable revenue to make sure that these benefits can continue,” Curtis said.

The report shows 15.1 per cent of Albertans aged zero to 17 are living in poverty, which is a 0.2 per cent increase from last year.

Curtis noted Alberta’s poverty rate is lower than other provinces, but said that number is “still too high.”

Income inequality in Alberta is consistently growing faster than the national average as well, which Curtis said can be partly addressed by raising the minimum wage and creating more employment training opportunities.

“The top 0.1 per cent are seeing massive gains in income, and the bottom 99 per cent of tax filers are barely seeing any gain,” she said.

“That’s a big issue for people who are trying to get out of poverty and lift their families to an adequate standard of living, when only the most educated and most privileged Albertans are seeing such significant wage increases.”

Albertans are considered to be living in poverty if their after-tax income is 50 per cent or more below the national median income.

For a single-parent family with one chid, that would amount to an annual income of $25,498 or less.

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