On October 17, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, Quebec's Centraides will come together to remind everyone that poverty too often goes ignored.
No one is immune to poverty. Even today, nearly 1.2 million Quebeckers live on a low income, and 615,000 of these individuals reside in Greater Montreal. Being poor means having to live on about $20,000 a year for a single person or $40,000 for a family of four. The federal election is coming up fast, yet our party’s electoral platforms have not given this issue the prominence it deserves. However, with the Poverty Reduction Act now entrenched into law, the next federal government—and all those that follow—will be required to make ongoing efforts to reduce poverty.
For most people, poverty is simply a reality of society. But how can we ignore the 20% of Quebec households who, on average, have only $75 a week to buy groceries? Everyone knows this is not nearly enough to fill a grocery cart with nutritious food.
Poverty has an undeniable impact on people's lives. When you are poor, you have a greater risk of dying at a younger age and experiencing poorer health. Montreal's disadvantaged neighbourhoods have early death rates that are 2 times higher and school dropout rates that are 2.5 times higher compared to well-off areas. When you are poor, you are more likely to live in housing that is substandard or too expensive. You are also more likely to have to cut your food budget to pay the bills each month.
Among the 1.2 million Quebeckers living in poverty, some groups are particularly at risk: children, people with limitations or mental health problems, seniors (especially women), single-parent families, recent immigrants, and more and more workers, as we all know that a job no longer guarantees a sufficient income for a growing number of people.
Poverty is not an individual issue. It concerns everyone. Poverty has a human cost, as it deprives society of its full pool of talent. Economically, it costs Quebec an estimated $15 billion and $17 billion a year. Imagine if we invested all of this money in prevention and programs to lift people out of poverty instead of acting on its impacts.
The Centraides of Quebec play a proactive role and contribute to concrete and lasting changes to support local communities. The Centraides support a vast network of 1,500 agencies, and every year we raise nearly $93 million to reinvest this money in each of our communities to help vulnerable people improve their conditions and live in dignity.
However, no single agency or institution can solve all of these issues alone.
With the elections just a few days away, let’s remind the federal political parties about the importance of making concrete commitments to fight poverty and social exclusion. Let's remind them that poverty must be a political priority. Above all, let’s offer all Quebeckers an equal chance to achieve their full potential.
Let's make poverty #UNIGNORABLE.
Lili-Anna Pereša, President and Executive Director of Centraide of Greater Montreal