"I don't think it's on the priority list:’ Child poverty rates high in the Maritimes
The latest progress report card on child poverty in Canada, and in the Martimes, shows little in the way of progress at all. The numbers have barely budged from a time that commitments were made to eradicate child poverty.
The most recent report card shows that Prince Edward Island has the lowest child poverty rate in the region at 17.8 per cent. New Brunswick figures show a rate of 21 per cent, and Nova Scotia has the third highest rate in Canada at 22.5 per cent.
However, some provincial officials are downplayinf the study because it is based on two-year-old figures.
Nova Scotia's Community Services minister says progress is being made.
"There's been significant movement across Canada on child poverty, especially with the new child benefit tax system that came out from the federal government," says Joanne Bernard.
The provincial numbers tend to hide how child poverty is concentrated in certain areas. Saint John is long considered to have one of the highest poverty rates in Canada. Child poverty in the city is estimated at about 30 per cent; in some neighbourhoods it pushes 50 per cent.
The Saint John Human Development Council compiled the New Brunswick portion of the study. One member says the results are disappointing, especially when considering past promises.
"Child poverty rates are incredibly stubborn,” says Michael Mackenzie. "Back in 1989, we as a country made a commitment to end child poverty by the year 2000. The child poverty rate at the time was at 16 per cent. Today, we're up to 18.5 per cent."
Phyllis Beckingham of Saint John’s Romero House says the number of children the soup kitchen serves is increasing.
"We have 22 kids that come in every morning and they get a snack and some sandwiches to take with them. Some come in after and then we get them during the day," says Beckingham.
Beckingham says she is not surprised that more than 66,000 Maritime children are living in poverty.
"I don't think it's on the priority list. It was a couple of years ago, and then they forgot all about it."
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Mike Cameron