Four years ago, anti-poverty advocate Dennis Raphael published Poverty and Policy in Canada: Implications for Health and Quality of Life. Jack Layton, leader of Canada’s New Democrats, wrote the foreword.
This spring, Raphael released a second updated and expanded edition featuring the latest figures on poverty, and a new, hefty chapter critiquing all federal and provincial anti-poverty programs. And he clarified, in the final chapter, what people can do to stem growing poverty in Canada, the fourth wealthiest nation on the planet. Rob Rainer, executive director of Canada Without Poverty, wrote the foreword.
“You are holding in your hands the single most valuable reference on poverty in Canada, a book whose dog-eared copy sits prominently on the bookshelf in my office,” Rainer began, referring to the first edition of Poverty and Policy in Canada (see YFile, May 15, 2007). Valuable, he stressed, for its breadth, its provocative questions, its lists of resources – and because of the person behind this work.
Raphael, notes Rainer, “has encyclopedic knowledge about poverty in Canada. He has developed this from making the study of poverty central to his life’s work. But unlike some academics who are content to study and publish…Raphael goes beyond publishing to be a scholar (uncommonly) determined to be and unafraid of speaking truth to power.”
Raphael wrote the original book to meet a need for a textbook in a third-year course he teaches on poverty and health in York’s School of Health Policy & Management.
The book explores the links between poverty, policy, health and quality of life for Canadians. Raphael argues, writes Rainer, that unless Canadian governments take steps to reduce the inequities between the rich and poor, “we can expect poverty and its devastating impact and cost to be a virtually permanent fixture of our society.”
In the book’s new chapter, “Anti-Poverty Strategies and Programs”, Raphael assesses “a bewildering array” of more than 70 so-called anti-poverty programs, from swimming lessons and drop-in centres, to housing and health services, and concludes that most, however well-intended, lack impact. Quebec and Newfoundland offer more effective programs than the other provinces, says Raphael, but poverty can only be eliminated by raising the minimum wage, offering benefits to temporary and part-time workers, and raising social assistance and disability benefits to health-sustaining levels, among other things. Making it easier for Canadians to form unions is also very important, says Raphael.
Left: Dennis Raphael
What is the future of poverty in Canada, asks Raphael in his final chapter. That depends on the will and influence of political parties to introduce poverty-reducing policies, such as the proposed national child-care program, he argues. “Conservative dominance should lead to little if any decline in child poverty rates and – due to greater implementation of market-oriented rather than equity-based policies – may increase these rates,” he says. Finally, he says, voting for left-leaning parties that advocate social reform would go a long way towards reducing poverty in Canada.
Poverty in Canada: Implications for Health and Quality of Life is published by Canadian Scholars’ Press.