Trudeau's Liberals join with Conservatives to vote down anti-poverty bill

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Well, it was worth the shot.

One in seven Canadians currently live in poverty, but Liberal and Conservative MPs voted together Tuesday night to defeat Bill C-245 which called for the creation of a "national poverty reduction strategy in Canada."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, 156 Liberal MPs plus every Conservative MP in the House of Commons voted against the bill – although five Liberal MPs broke ranks and voted in favour of the private member's bill sponsored by NDP MP Brigitte Sansoucy.

The bill had called for "the development and implementation of a national strategy to reduce poverty in Canada and the appointment of an independent poverty reduction commissioner."

While the proposed legislation noted that Parliament had unanimously voted 25 years earlier to end child poverty and that "structural circumstances" drive poverty in Indigenous communities, the other thing is Trudeau's 2015 mandate letter to the Minister of Employment and Social Development explicitly called for "the development of a Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy."

Liberals say they're already at work opening "a dialogue on the subject of poverty reduction in Canada," pointing to a "backgrounder" tabled in October offering a series of factoids and general statistics on poverty in Canada. 

But the opposition says the Liberal government is already "more than a year into their mandate" and "have yet to take any action on providing a poverty strategy for Canada" – not to mention vague about their plans moving forward.

C-245 had been endorsed by dozens of anti-poverty groups, charities and religious organizations across the country.

Here's what a few of them told PressProgress about why it matters to their work:

Old Brewery Mission

One of the largest homeless shelters in Canada (Montréal, Québec)

"If we cannot see a society without poverty, we cannot achieve one. If we do not plan to end poverty, we will not end it. Bill C-245 ... holds the promise of moving yardsticks people have assumed will not budge. Homelessness is just one of the more egregious examples of poverty allowed to persist when we know full well affordable options exist to end it."

Archbishop Emeritus Sylvain Lavoie

Chaplain and spiritual director at an ecumenical, non-profit centre (St. Albert, Alberta)

"As archbishop emeritus of the Archdiocese of Keewatin-The Pas, I support Bill C-245, which would establish a national poverty reduction strategy. Here in Edmonton, great strides have been made to reduce if not eliminate homelessness. We truly need this bill to help make the reduction of poverty a national endeavor. A nation is only as great as it treats the most vulnerable among us. There are many who for a variety of reasons have fallen through the cracks and through the social net. Every human being is to be treated with equal dignity and respect. We have the ability – all we need is the will to reduce poverty in our country, and this bill would be a great step in the right direction."

Fédération des associations de familles monoparentales et recomposées du Québec

Advocacy group helping single-parent and reconstituted families in Québec (Montréal, Québec)

"Bill C-245, would be an excellent means to improve the circumstances of single-parent households, in particular, those of women-lead households. Far too many of these families are still profoundly affected by poverty in Canada and do not have access to stable, affordable housing. What’s more, it is essential to improve accessibility to continuing education for single-parents and to put into place more effective measures to help balance the demands of family, work, and studies (notably quality childcare)."

Citizens for Public Justice

Faith-based social justice organization (Ottawa, Ontario)

"CPJ, for many years, has been pushing for the development of a national anti-poverty plan that is legislated, providing a rights-based framework for accountability, along with firm targets and timelines to reach its goals. The Poverty Reduction Act would establish such a framework, strengthening the effectiveness of the federal government's Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy, and ensuring that it would be less vulnerable to shifts in government. Parliamentary and Senate Committees have also called for such action, as have over 700 organizations, members of Dignity for All: The Campaign for a Poverty-free Canada. It’s long past time to act!"

Other prominent backers of the bill included Toronto's St. Michael's Hospital, the Vancouver Foodbank, the St-Vincent du Paul Society and the Elizabeth Fry Society.

Here's a full list of every organization that publicly endorsed C-245:

• Aging, Community and Health Research Unit

• Adam House

• Agapè Centre

• Agassiz Harrison Community services

• AIS Inc.

• Association IRIS

• Auberge Mon Toit

• Autumn House

• Boundary Emergency and Transition Housing Society

Brandon Friendship Centre

• Brandon Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation

• Broadbent Institute

• Brockville and Area Food Bank

• Castor Area Special Housing Assoc

• Catholic Church

• CEASE

• CECI

• Centre Louis-Olivier Dufault

• Citizen for public justice

• City for all women

• Coalition Person with disabilities

• Coming Home Society

• Comité Logement Beauharnois

• Community development Council

• Comptoir alimentaire Drummond

• Contact Community SIMCOR

• Coop solidaire Seigneurie Vaudreuil

• Citizens for Public Justice

• Danson Heights

• Development Peace

• Discovery Haise

• FAFMRQ

• Family Resource Centre

• Fédération québécoise des organismes communautaires Famille

• Furniture Bank

• Giving Hope today

• Good Shepherd Ministries

• Good Shepherd Youth Services

• Greater Vancouver Food Bank

• Habitations de Taillon

• Hampton Food Basket

• HNA

• Home First

• Homes First Society

• HVLP

• Justice for Children and Youth

• Knox Church

• La Maison du Père

• Lamont Health Care Centre

• Le Comité de Bénévolat de Rogersvillie

• Le Passant

• Les Habitations Dayelis

• Life Cycle Housing

• LOGIFEM

• Lookout Society

• Maison d'hébergement l'Égide succ. La Prairie

• Maison Le Point commun

• M.E.

• Mi'kmaw Family Healing Centre

• Miresol Inc

• Moisson Mauricie / C-DU-QUÉBEC

• Multi-femmes inc.

• Old Brewery Mission

• Old Strathcona Youth society

• OMI Lacombe Canada

• Ottawa Poverty Reduction Network

• P.U.C. County Food Bank

• PARC

• Peel Poverty Action Group

• PICS

• Pinerest Queensway CHC

• Président des résidences Harmonie

• Programme Accessibilité au Logement Rive-sud Ouest

• Project Share

• Projet P.A.L. Inc

• Refuge des jeunes

• Résidence Auguste-Hebert

• Résidence Seigneurie des Soulanges

• Richmond Food Bank

• Richmond Poverty Response Committee

• Samanthon House

• Samaritan House Ministries Inc.

• Services Housing

• Shelter Net BC

• Société d'habitation chambrelle

• Société St-Léonard du Canada

• Société St-Vincent de Paul

• Southwest employment services

• St. Jude Community Home

• St. Michael's Hospital

• Strathcona Schizophrenia Housing Foundation

• Street culture project

• Support and Housing-Halton

• Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre

• The Elizabeth Fry Society

• The Marguerite Centre

• The Mustard Seed

• The National Council on Poverty Elimination and Social Inclusion

• The Weerge Spady Society

• Union Gospel Mission

• United Church of Canada

• Victoria Immigrant and refugee centre society

• Volunteer Centre

• Whistler Community Services Society

• Yonge Street Mission

• Youth Assisting Youth

• YWCA Regina

Photo: House of Commons.

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