It would have taken $12.6 billion to give the 3.5 million Canadians living in poverty enough income to live above the poverty line in 2007. And yet Canadians spent at least double that amount treating the consequences of poverty that year, says the National Council of Welfare. Clearly, this spending pattern doesn’t make good economic or social sense, the council says in its report “The Dollars and Sense of Solving Poverty,” being released Wednesday. Instead of focusing on short-term spending that simply enables people to survive or be a little less disadvantaged, Canada should be investing in longer-term plans to permanently lift people out of poverty and prevent others from falling into its grip, says the report. This would not only improve the lives of those living in poverty, but would benefit all Canadians in reduced costs for health care, education, criminal justice, social service and other areas indirectly affected. The report is based on a growing body of research into the causes and costs of poverty. It recommends a Canada-wide strategy to solve the problem, sustained investment, a consistent and coordinated approach based on fairness and reasonable reward for work effort, and a forum to share and learn from success. “We’re hoping Canadians will talk to their politicians and say: ‘Look, this makes sense. Let’s shift our thinking to an investment-based approach. Let’s save dollars. Let’s make sure everyone is better off,’ ” said council chair John Rook.
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The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness is the largest national research institute devoted to homelessness in Canada. The COH is the curator of the Homeless Hub.Canadian Observatory on Homelessness