A national report released on Monday found that close to one in four children in Charlottetown is living in poverty.
The report, released by the national anti-poverty coalition Campaign 2000, broke down child poverty rates for each federal riding in Canada. The riding of Charlottetown saw the highest rate in P.E.I., with 23.5 per cent of children living in poverty.
The Island’s overall rate of child poverty stands at 17.4 per cent, according to the most recent report card on child and family poverty on Prince Edward Island.
Charlottetown MP Sean Casey was not surprised by the rate of child poverty in his riding. But, he said most of the data in the Campaign 2000 study was drawn from 2015, during the tenure of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
"What the report doesn't reflect is the measures taken by our government to address this,” Casey said.
“Prince Edward Island now receives an amount equivalent to the payroll at (the Department of Veterans Affairs) every year in Canada Child Benefit Payments. These payments go to nine out of 10 families. It's $100 million every year. including about $2 million a month in Charlottetown."
Mary Boyd, director of the MacKillop Centre for Social Justice, has helped co-author the yearly report card on child poverty on P.E.I. since 2014. She agreed that the Canada Child Benefit Payment, which provides parents with a tax-free monthly payment for each child, has helped many but she says it does not go far enough.
"They will lift a percentage of children out of poverty but still not a high percentage."
Boyd believes the federal government needs to double the Canada Child Benefit by 2020. She also is hopeful the upcoming federal government’s poverty reduction strategy will set out steps to establish social programs such as a national pharmacare plan and a national daycare program.
“It's very easy for governments to strengthen the social safety net and they can do it quickly," Boyd said.
A motion in favour of basic income in the P.E.I. legislature drew all-party support in December of 2016. The project was scuttled after the federal government neglected to fund the project. According to Casey, the decision was made after the Ontario government decided it would fund its own pilot project.
"When you have one province that says that they're going to pay the tab and another province asking for the feds to pay the tab – that's not going to work," Casey said.
Percentage of children living in poverty in P.E.I. Federal Ridings
Charlottetown: 23.5 per cent
Egmont: 18.7 per cent
Cardigan: 15.9 per cent
Malpeque: 12.7 percent