Why is there no Ministry for Poverty Elimination?

*By Tony Macerollo

The way governments organize themselves say a lot about how politicians and senior public servants see their responsibility in the service of the people.

There are some tried and true and ones you can’t get out of: national defense, foreign affairs, public education, more or less healthcare and safety, justice and crime, to name a few of the obvious.

The less obvious are often “tucked” away in convenient spots and reflect the additional expectations that have stood the test of time: employment, immigration, economic development, citizenship, and in Canada most noteworthy, heritage and cultural preoccupations.

But nowhere will you find a Minister for Poverty, plain and simple.  Poverty – as an issue of responsibility – gets buried in places called social services, or “human resources and skills development.”  Whether you are a Conservative, Liberal or New Democrat, or any of the uniquely Canadian wonders such as the Parti Quebecois, Wildrose and SoCred, none would dare take on such a task as a department responsible for poverty.

The plague of poverty – the single biggest drain on the economy, social unity, safe streets and homes – just isn’t (or has yet to be) given departmental profile.  It’s one of the few issues where all say “Go talk to someone else, it’s their responsibility”.

Why you ask?  Is it because poverty is a hopelessly incurable problem and that no one would want the job?  Nope.  It’s because the elites of this country don’t want to offer hope where they think no hope exists.  This is an odd consensus.

Business has Cabinet representation.  Labour has Cabinet representation.  Parks have Cabinet representation.  Farmers have Cabinet representation.  Women have Cabinet representation.  First Nations have Cabinet representation.  Musicians have Cabinet representation.

And in Canada we now have an Office of Religious Freedoms.  And all religions come down to one golden rule: treat others, as you yourself would want to be treated – with dignity, empowerment and hope.

Especially at this time of economic uncertainty, almost anyone could easily end up becoming part of the poverty constituency with no Cabinet representation.  It is prudent insurance on all our parts if we press the powerful to shake their heads into a new reality and make sure poor people have an advocate in the halls of government.

Imagine: a Ministry for Poverty Elimination.  And under him or her, accountable to us all, Canada’s Poverty Action Plan – with billboards up in neighbourhoods, poor to rich, across the land.


Tony Macerollo volunteers for Canada Without Poverty as Strategic & Communications Advisor.  A consultant on government relations, his career has included over 10 years as the chief of staff to a former long-serving Member of Parliament and Cabinet member. (www.tonymacerollo.com)

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