B.C. Child Poverty Rate Is Canada’s Worst: Report

B.C. Child Poverty Rate Is Canada's Worst: Report

VICTORIA – British Columbia has the highest child poverty rate in Canada, with one in five kids considered statistically poor, says a report that calls for quick action to alleviate a worsening situation in the western province.

The report by the child and youth advocacy group First Call said B.C.’s child poverty rate is 18.6 per cent compared to the national rate of 13.3 per cent. Manitoba’s rate, the second-highest in the country, stands at 17.3 per cent.

“B.C. stands out as having done the least among all provinces to bring down child and family poverty through government supports and programs,” said Adrienne Montani, First Call’s provincial co-ordinator.

“Concerted government action in the form of a comprehensive poverty reduction plan for the province is long overdue,” she said in a statement Tuesday.

But Children and Family Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux said the government has taken action, focusing on economic growth, raising the minimum wage, funding social housing and making child care more affordable and accessible.

“The reality is that there are families that continue to struggle economically and, therefore, we continue to focus on growing the economy, creating jobs and providing supports where they are most needed,” said Cadieux in an statement.

The authors of the 2013 Child Poverty Report Card used the most recent economic data available from Statistics Canada to issue their “dismal” findings for B.C.

“The child poverty rate rose from 14.3 per cent in 2010 to 18.6 per cent in 2011,” said the report that used the agency’s low-income cutoffs before tax as a measure of poverty.

“On this measure, one in five B.C. children were poor — the highest rate of any province. The number of poor children in B.C. was 153,000 — enough children to fill the (Vancouver) Canucks’ stadium over eight times,” it said in reference to Rogers Arena, which has 19,000 seats.

First Call’s report card makes 16 recommendations, including increasing and indexing the B.C. minimum wage and welfare rates and adopting a $10-a-day child care program to cut the child poverty rate to seven per cent within the next seven years.

“First Call’s overarching recommendation for B.C. is for government to adopt a comprehensive poverty reduction plan with legislated targets and timelines and a cabinet minister with the authority and responsibility to ensure government is achieving its targets on time,” the report said.

It recommended raising B.C.’s minimum wage to $12 per hour from the current $10.25 an hour and indexing future annual minimum-wage increases to cost of living increases.

Female single-parent families appear to be hit the hardest by the rise in child poverty, Montani said.

She said there was a dramatic increase in families headed by female single parents, with a rise to 49.8 per cent in 2011, up from 21.5 per cent a year earlier.

“We were pretty shocked by this statistic. The only thing we can find so far that actually corroborates it is that the median market income for female lone-parent families dropped between 2010 and 2011 from $32,000 a year to $21,500 a year for B.C.,” she said in an interview.

Every other province saw median income increases for female single-parent families, Montani said.

The report also recommended bringing welfare rates up to the poverty line, especially in urban areas such as Vancouver.

“In 2011, a B.C. two-parent family with two children aged 10 and 15 on income assistance received a total income of $22,005,” the report said.

“That’s a whopping $21,287 below the Statistics Canada poverty line for a family of four in a large urban area like Metro Vancouver.”

The report stated a single parent on welfare with one child received $17,404, which is $11,602 below the poverty line. It also cited B.C. government numbers that said there were 37,777 children in families on income assistance in 2011.

Montani said the report does not include cost estimates to implement the poverty reduction plans, but she urged the government to review its tax and investment policies.

“Generally, we need a fairer taxation system, first of all,” she said. “Government has been giving away tax revenue by lowering tax rates, both for individuals but also for profitable corporations. There’s always choices in government in finding money for this and that and we know that this kind of investment in children’s health and well-being will start to reduce those health care costs everybody’s freaking about.”

However, Cadieux said the government’s focus on jobs is working, and unemployment rates are in the single digits across B.C.

“That growth allows government to continue providing targeted supports to low-income families.” she said.

She said the government has invested $3.6 billion over the last decade to provide affordable housing, and more than 98,000 households benefit from social housing.

The minimum wage is among the highest in Canada, she added, and during the next three years the government will open an additional 2,000 child-care spaces on top of the 100,000 that now exist.

Cadieux said the B.C. Early Childhood Tax Benefit will provide additional relief to families when it starts in 2015.

“But there will always be more to do. That’s why we will continue to focus on growing the economy, creating jobs and providing supports that target the effects of poverty on low-income families,” she said.

NDP children and families critic Carole James said under the Liberal government, B.C. has had the highest rates of child poverty for nine of the last 10 years.

She said the government’s only attempt at a solution was to develop a pilot project that was abandoned after it served only 72 families when thousands of kids are living in poverty.

Grey Cup 2013: Saskatchewan, Hamilton Players Come Out To Thaw In Regina

Grey Cup 2013: Saskatchewan, Hamilton Players Come Out To Thaw In Regina

REGINA – Kory Sheets ran for a record 197 yards and two TDs to power the Saskatchewan Roughriders to a 45-23 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the 101st Grey Cup game Sunday night.

Sheets delighted the raucous hometown crowd of 44,710 by smashing the previous mark of 169 yards, set in 1956 by Edmonton’s Johnny Bright. Sheets, who was named the game’s MVP, was especially impressive in the first half, running for 128 yards and a TD in leading Saskatchewan to a commanding 31-6 halftime advantage.

“The one thing that led us to a dominant performance was that the fans were unreal,” Roughriders coach Corey Chamblin said. “It was unreal. From pre-game warmup I knew it was going to be tough for those guys. I looked at them and said ‘I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes.’ I mean, it was ridiculous. The whole thing was green.”

Sheets agreed.

“I said it before the game started, this is not a neutral crowd,” he said. “The fans are going to be in here knocking and rocking and they proved it.”

He’s looking forward to celebrating with Rider Nation.

“It’s going to be amazing,” he said. “I can’t wait to hit the streets and party with the fans.”

Saskatchewan slotback Chris Getzlaf was the game’s top Canadian.

Quarterback Henry Burris, who rallied Hamilton from a 24-10 deficit to beat Toronto 36-24 in the East final, pulled Hamilton to within 31-16 on his 18-yard TD run early in the third and a drive that Luca Congi capped with 33-yard field goal early in the fourth. But Sheets cemented the win with a five-yard touchdown with just over five minutes remaining.

“Everything, the pass, the run, protection was great, the defence was great,” said Sheets. “Special teams was great. It was just our night.”

When asked who the CFL’s best running back is, Sheets said “You’re looking at him.”

Weather was a consideration but not because of the frigid temperatures that gripped the city during the week. At kickoff, it was 1 C and had only dropped to -2 C at the end of the game. On Saturday, the Grey Cup parade was held in frigid -35 C conditions. The biggest obstacle was the brisk northwest breeze that gusted between 30 and 50 kilometres an hour. Saskatchewan was more opportunistic, outscoring Hamilton 37-10 with the wind.

A sea of green serenaded Burris — a former Saskatchewan starter — throughout and had plenty to cheer about as the home team earned its fourth Grey Cup but first since ’07 after disappointing losses to Montreal in 2009 and ’10. Darian Durant started both losses to the Als but threw three TD passes to anchor his first CFL championship as Saskatchewan’s No. 1 quarterback.

“You’re the quarterback of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, you’re going to get a lot of cricitsm and some of it’s going to be undeserved,” said Getzlaf. “No one deserves this win more than he does.”

It was a disappointing end for Hamilton, which came in having won 11 of their last 15. Burris, slotback Andy Fantuz and head coach Kent Austin were all former Riders returning here looking to earn Hamilton its first Grey Cup win since ’99.

“We didn’t make enough plays, period,” said Austin. “We played a better football team today. They were just better than we were. They were more physical, they were stronger. We didn’t make near as many plays as we could have, missed too many throws, dropped too many balls on offence which killed a lot of our drives. They converted a lot of second downs, especially in the first half. We just dug too deep of a hole.”

Austin suffered his first playoff loss after five straight wins as a CFL head coach. Austin had led Saskatchewan to Grey Cup wins in ’89 as the club’s starter, then in ’07 as head coach before leaving to become an assistant with his alma mater, Ole Miss.

“I’m unbelievably proud of that room,” he said at his post-game news conference. “We have a lot to build on. We’ve got a good young football team. We have got to get better in some areas, and we will, but we’ve got a great foundation. Really proud of these guys, love all of them.”

Saskatchewan also became the third straight team to win the Grey Cup at home and earned its first-ever CFL championship at Mosaic Stadium.

Geroy Simon, with his first two Grey Cup TDs, Jock Sanders and Weston Dressler also scored for Saskatchewan. Chris Milo had the converts and a field goal.

C.J. Gable had Hamilton’s touchdown. Congi had two field goals and two converts.

Sanders and Sheets had rushing TDs before Durant hit Simon on a 42-yard scoring strike with 1:46 left in the first half as Saskatchewan set a Grey Cup record for most first-half points.

A key to Saskatchewan’s success was its play on second down, converting 9-of-14 opportunities, compared to just 2-of-11 for Hamilton. The Riders’ 25-point halftime lead was the second-largest in Cup history, second only to the Ticats’ 29-point advantage in their 39-15 win over Edmonton in 1986.

Durant had three first-half fumbles but was 12-of-16 passing for 165 yards and two TDs while adding 32 rushing yards as the Riders outran Hamilton 168-3 and outgained the Ticats 333-130 overall. Durant also made it hard for the East Division champions to key on any of aerial threats, completing passes to eight different players.

Sanders’ three-yard run at 5:36 capped a smart seven-play, 50-yard drive to put Saskatchewan ahead 17-3. On Hamilton’s next possession, Riders defensive lineman Alex Hall recovered a fumble at the Ticats’ nine-yard line after an errant second-down snap sailed past an unsuspecting Burris.

Hamilton recovered Durant’s third fumble at its own eight-yard line but after failing to get the first down, Austin had Josh Bartel punt into the wind rather than take the safety. Sanders returned Bartel’s 33-yard punt 17 yards to set up Sheets’ one-yard touchdown at 9:29.

After Congi’s 24-yard field goal, Durant found a wide-open Simon to put the home team ahead by 25 points.

Hamilton opened the game with the wind, but could only manage Congi’s 45-yard field goal to open the scoring at 5:16. Durant found Simon on a 15-yard touchdown as the Riders scored 24 consecutive points to take control of the contest.

The game had star appeal as actor Tom Hanks attended with comedian Martin Short, a Hamilton native. Early in the third, Hanks was shown replacing a Ticats toque with a Riders hat, drawing a loud roar from the crowd.

Pop group Hedley performed at halftime.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was also in the crowd.

“I would like to congratulate the Saskatchewan Roughriders on today’s victory and their remarkable season,” he said in a statement. “I would also like to applaud the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for their significant achievement of winning the Eastern finals.”

Canada Medical Marijuana: Health Canada Presides Over Birth Of Billion-Dollar Free Market

Canada Medical Marijuana: Health Canada Presides Over Birth Of Billion-Dollar Free Market

OTTAWA – The Conservative government is launching a $1.3-billion free market in medical marijuana this Tuesday, eventually providing an expected 450,000 Canadians with quality weed.

Health Canada is phasing out an older system on Monday that mostly relied on small-scale, homegrown medical marijuana of varying quality, often diverted illegally to the black market.

In its place, large indoor marijuana farms certified by the RCMP and health inspectors will produce, package and distribute a range of standardized weed, all of it sold for whatever price the market will bear. The first sales are expected in the next few weeks, delivered directly by secure courier.

“We’re fairly confident that we’ll have a healthy commercial industry in time,” Sophie Galarneau, a senior official with the department, said in an interview.

“It’s a whole other ball game.”

The sanctioned birth of large-scale, free-market marijuana production comes as the Conservatives pillory Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s campaign to legalize recreational marijuana.

Health Canada is placing no limits on the number of these new capital-intensive facilities, which will have mandatory vaults and security systems. Private-dwelling production will be banned. Imports from places such as the Netherlands will be allowed.

Already 156 firms have applied for lucrative producer and distributor status since June, with the first two receiving licences just last week.

The old system fostered only a cottage industry, with 4,200 growers licenced to produce for a maximum of two patients each. The Mounties have complained repeatedly these grow-ops were often a front for criminal organizations.

The next six months are a transition period, as Health Canada phases out the old system by March 31, while encouraging medical marijuana users to register under the replacement regime and to start buying from the new factory-farms.

There are currently 37,400 medical marijuana users recognized by the department, but officials project that number will swell more than 10-fold, to as many as 450,000 people, by 2024.

The profit potential is enormous. A gram of dried marijuana bud on the street sells for about $10 and Health Canada projects the legal stuff will average about $7.60 next year, as producers set prices without interference from government.

Chuck Rifici of Tweed Inc. has applied for a licence to produce medical weed in an abandoned Hershey chocolate factory in hard-scrabble Smiths Falls, Ont.

Rifici, who is also a senior adviser to Trudeau, was cited in a Conservative cabinet minister’s news release Friday that said the Liberals plan to “push pot,” with no reference to Health Canada’s own encouragement of marijuana entrepreneurs.

Rifici says he’s trying to help a struggling community by providing jobs while giving suffering patients a quality product.

“There’s a real need,” he said in an interview. “You see what this medicine does to them.”

Tweed Inc. proposes to produce at least 20 strains to start, and will reserve 10 per cent of production for compassionate, low-cost prescriptions for impoverished patients, he says.

Patients often use several grams a day to alleviate a wide range of symptoms, including cancer-related pain and nausea. They’ll no longer be allowed to grow it for themselves under the new rules.

Revenues for the burgeoning new industry are expected to hit $1.3 billion a year by 2024, according to federal projections. And operators would be favourably positioned were marijuana ever legalized for recreational use, as it has been in two American states.

Eric Nash of Island Harvest in Duncan, B.C., has applied for one of the new licences, banking on his experience as a licenced grower since 2002 in the current system.

“The opportunity in the industry is significant,” he said in an interview.

“We’ll see a lot of moving and shaking within the industry, with companies positioning. And I think we’ll see some mergers and acquisitions, strategic alliances formed.”

“It’ll definitely yield benefits to the consumers and certainly for the economy and society in general.”

Veterans Affairs Canada currently pays for medical marijuana for some patients, even though the product lacks official drug status. Some provinces are also being pressed to cover costs, as many users are too sick to work and rely on welfare.

Health Canada currently sells medical marijuana, produced on contract by Prairie Plant Systems, for $5 a gram, and acknowledges the new system will be more expensive for patients.

But Galarneau says competition will help keep prices in check.

“We expect that over time, prices will be driven down by the free market,” she said. “The lower price range will likely be around $3 a gram. … It’s hard to predict.”

Saskatoon-based Prairie Plant Systems, and its subsidiary CanniMed Ltd., were granted the first two licences under the system and are already advertising their new products on the web.

Prospective patients, including those under the current system, must get a medical professional to prescribe medical marijuana using a government-approved form.

Health Canada only reluctantly established its medical marijuana program, driven by court decisions from 2001 forward that supported the rights of suffering patients, even as medical science has been slow to verify efficacy.

eMediaWorld.com Reports UN Arms Trade Treaty: Canada Refuses To Join 90 Nations In Signing

eMediaWorld.com Reports UN Arms Trade Treaty: Canada Refuses To Join 90 Nations In Signing

OTTAWA – The Harper government faced sharp criticism Wednesday for its continued refusal to sign a landmark treaty to regulate the global arms trade.

A group of non-governmental agencies, called the Control Arms Coalition, said it was frustrated and disappointed that the government did not follow the United States and more than 90 other countries in signing the Arms Trade Treaty.

Meanwhile, the federal NDP accused the government of indulging in conspiracy theories because it continues to express concern that the treaty might have an impact on lawful gun owners within Canada.

The criticism was unleashed after Secretary of State John Kerry signed the treaty on behalf of the U.S. on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Kerry called it a “significant step” in keeping the world safe.

And he shot back at political opponents, saying that the treaty would have no effect on domestic gun ownership inside the U.S., where there is strong concern that it could violate the cherished rights of Americans to bear arms.

“This treaty will not diminish anyone’s freedom,” Kerry said, adding that the U.S. “would never think about supporting a treaty that is inconsistent with … the rights of American citizens to be able to exercise their guaranteed rights under our Constitution.”

Kerry’s view appears to differ sharply from those expressed by the Harper government on the issue.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has said there is a potential link between signing on to the treaty and Canada’s now-abolished long gun registry. His office has said the government is still trying to determine whether the treaty would affect lawful recreational firearms owners in Canada.

“We said we would do consultations before we made a decision on that,” Baird said Wednesday when asked why Canada has yet to sign the treaty.

“Those are in the early stages, so obviously we’re not going to be signing on to anything (prematurely).”

Critics, however, are growing impatient.

“It is past time for Canada to get beyond spurious claims that the treaty will affect legal Canadian gun-owners and join the states that want to save lives by ending irresponsible arms transfers,” Ken Epps of the group Project Ploughshares said in a statement.

Project Ploughshares is a member of the Canadian coalition, along with Oxfam Canada, Oxfam Quebec and Amnesty International.

NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said he was shocked that the U.S., which has a much tougher gun lobby, has signed the treaty before Canada.

“The fact that the government continues to refuse to sign the treaty indicates a preference for conspiracy theories over the simple truth: this is a treaty that will help save the lives of millions of civilians around the world and it has no impact on domestic owners of firearms,” Dewar said in an email.

“Today’s signature by the United States just makes it more obvious that the Conservatives are making this decision based on gun-lobby ideology and not reality.”

Robert Fox, executive director of Oxfam Canada, said he was disappointed with the government’s inaction and urged it to sign the treaty without delay.

“We’re in a world where there’s more regulations about the trade of bananas than there are about AK-47s,” Fox said in an interview.

“We believe the treaty addresses their concerns. If the United States can sign on, then it is a mystery to us why Canada would not.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was at a United Nations panel on maternal and child health on Wednesday, while Baird spoke later in the day on the issue of the forced marriage of children.

It is not clear what impact the treaty would have in curbing the global arms trade, estimated at between $60 billion and $85 billion annually. Much will depend on which countries ratify it, and how stringently it is implemented once it comes into force.

The treaty will not control the domestic use of weapons in any country.

It prohibits the transfer of conventional weapons if they violate arms embargoes or if they promote acts of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes, and if they could be used in attacks on civilians or civilian buildings such as schools and hospitals.

The treaty covers battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, large-calibre artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile launchers, and small arms and light weapons.

It would require ratifying country to establish national regulations to control the transfer of conventional arms and components and to regulate arms brokers.

eMediaWorld.com Reports Lockheed Martin: F-35 Cancellation Would Mean Canada Out $10.5 Billion

eMediaWorld.com Reports Lockheed Martin: F-35 Cancellation Would Mean Canada Out $10.5 Billion

MONTREAL – Canada’s aerospace industry could lose about $10.5 billion worth of contracts over several decades if the federal government ultimately decides not to purchase the controversial F-35 Stealth Fighter, says a senior executive at Lockheed Martin.

Orlando Carvalho, executive vice-president of the U.S. defence giant, says Lockheed will honour $500 million worth of business already awarded to Canadian partners but that other work would be in jeopardy without a Canadian jet order.

“If in fact the Canadian government were to decide not to select the F-35 we will certainly honour the contracts that we have here with the Canadian industry but our approach in the future would be to try to do business with the industries that are in the countries that are buying the airplane,” he said in an interview after officially opening its new engine overhaul facility in Montreal.

Carvalho said Lockheed estimates that Canadian industry could potentially receive $11 billion of contracts over 25 to 40 years as its builds 3,000 planes for air forces around the world.

About 72 Canadian companies have secured work on the F-35 project. Industry Canada has estimated that the potential value could be US$9.8 billion, including the amount of contracts already awarded.

Gilles Labbe, the former head of aerospace cluster Aero Montreal and CEO of F-35 supplier Heroux-Devtek (TSX:HRX), last year warned that thousands of jobs would be at risk if lead manufacturers Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman remove work destined to be completed in Canada by members of the global supply chain.

Ottawa is evaluating potential alternatives to its original plan to purchase 65 F-35 aircraft. A KPMG report late last year warned that the total bill, including service and support, could be as much as $45.8 billion over 42 years to replace the current stable of CF-18s, which are due to be retired in 2020.

Carvalho said Lockheed continues to reduce the F-35′s cost. He said each plane will cost Canada around $75 million in today’s dollars, or about $85 million including inflation once they are expected to be delivered to Canada in 2018.

He said the contractor has removed 50 per cent of costs from when it started production and is looking at how to remove another 50 per cent as it gets into full production, making it “an affordable airplane” to the U.S. government.

“As we continue to gain the efficiency on the production line, the learning, as we continue to build more and more airplanes, as the production ramps up, the cost of this airplane will only come down.”

Carvalho added that the plane’s features, including stealth technology and surveillance capabilities, make it the right choice for Canada.

The head of rival defence contractor Boeing said last week that he’s confident that his company’s F-18 Super Hornet could fill Canada’s military needs at a lower cost.

James McNerney said it was only a matter of time before the Canadian government reopens the contract to new bidding and that the next generation of aircraft in use by Canada since the 1980s will be able to compete.