I’ll vote for any political party who will reduce the deficit. I don’t mean the financial deficit, I mean the deficit in food to feed Canada’s starving children.
No, I’m not exaggerating when I say starving. Television images of stick-like children from Africa lead us to believe that starvation happens elsewhere, not in Canada. A new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal paints a picture of hunger so profound it affects children’s health. The study concludes that children in 57,000 Canadian families go hungry on a regular basis.
Those children are four times as likely to suffer health problems than poor children who don’t go hungry. And they’re nearly twice as likely to suffer from asthma. “Hungry children lack of school readiness and proper growth and development,” says Dr. Lynn McIntyre, author of the study and professor at Dalhousie University.
Mothers are fearful that their starving children will be taken away if they publically admit to the problem. “There is times that I try to keep enough money out of my cheques to buy groceries and have food in the house for the children. I’ve seen myself go two or three days without to give my kids something to eat,” said one such mother to CBC TV’s The National.
The Liberals and the Alliance party don’t offer solutions to this food deficit. I fact, they don’t even admit that the problem exists. They are too busy trying to outdo each other in tax cuts — despite polls that show that tax cutting is a low priority. A poll by Decima Research shows that Canadians are willing to have their taxes go to national child care.
Starving children could be given one nutritional meal a day through a Canada-wide, universal child care program. Such a program would help families as well as children. It would help parents find and keep jobs. It would also reduce other social costs such as welfare.
It can be done. In Europe, fifteen member states of the European Union provide preschool children, aged three to six years, with educational childcare programs regardless of whether or not their parents are employed or not.
Canada’s budget surplus was created by taking money from programs that help the poor. In fact, when you think about it, there is no budget surplus at all. A budget surplus is something you have after all expenses are paid. If I save money by not maintaining my car, for example, it creates an instant surplus, but it also creates a looming future liability. If I bragged that I had a budget surplus but didn’t maintain my car, any reasonable person would shake their head. The Liberals have created apparent good times at the cost of future health, welfare and education.
This bogus surplus hurts the poor. “When Canada had a deficit, the programs that helped the poor were extremely visible and they were cut, and they were cut very much. Now that Canada has a surplus, the poor have vanished,” says Julia Bass from the Canadian Association of Food Banks. The current “surplus” was paid for by Canada’s poor and unemployed through cuts to social programs and employment insurance. And now the Liberals and the Alliance want to give those “savings” to the rich? It’s the Robin Hood principle in reverse — take from the poor and give to the rich.
Canada’s surplus was created by the rich, for the rich. The poor have been forgotten in the glow of what Chretien brags as the best country in the world. The best for whom? It’s the worst of all worlds to a starving child. Help for the poor is a long term investment. A true budget surplus would be one created through growing economy and by putting Canadians to work.
Chretien and Day are school-yard boys intent on thowing throw dirt in each other’s face and as a result, they can’t see. We need politicians with a vision of Canada beyond the horizon of the next election — one that realizes the full potential of all Canadians. We must give all children a chance. The deficit of food and hope is the one we should be working on.