Conservative MP Absent From a Child Poverty Forum in Southwestern Manitoba.

Are hungry kids a priority for the Harper government?

by Larry Powell

The forum (for the riding of Dauphin - Swan River - Neepawa) was sponsored by the Mission and Services Committee of the Neepawa United Church. It drew about 80 people to the church on Wednesday. But only four of the five candidates (see below) took part in the debate - Ray Piché (Liberal),  Kate Storey (Green Party), Inky Mark (Ind.) and Laverne Lewycky (NDP).

The 5th candidate, the sitting Conservative MP for the area, Robert Sopuck (represented by the empty chair on the right), did not attend. His office manager in Neepawa, Christine Waddell, said he was in Inglis, a small community in the western part of the riding for the evening. She did not elaborate. But she did explain that a campaign worker was mistaken when he told forum organizers earlier that Mr. Sopuck would, in fact be there.

Piché, the Liberal candidate, said the MP's absence showed “disrespect” for the rest of the candidates. 

The church committee wanted to stress that child poverty in Canada is actually worse now than it was in 1989. That’s when the House of Commons voted unanimously to bring an end to the problem by the year 2,000. 

A display on the church wall, illustrating the impact of poverty on children. 
PinP photos.

For his part, Piché pledged that, if elected, his party would allocate $20 billion over 20 years in a "social framework" which would include early learning programs, quality child care and more parental leave for mothers after childbirth.

Lewycky said parents now pay up to $1,000 a month for child care. Under an NDP government,  he promised, parents can expect quality child care for just $15 a day.

Storey said the Green Party supports an experimental income support program such as the one conducted in Dauphin in the 70s, called “Mincome”. By “topping up” incomes of low - wage earners, many positive results were documented, including fewer hospital visits and lower crime rates.

Mark told the forum he too would support such a plan, but only if it replaced other programs, such as social assistance. He said children aren't the only ones who suffer poverty. Seniors do, too. And he suggested neither the Canada Pension Plan nor Old Age Security should not be taxed. 

Sopuck himself hasn't yet commented on his absence.

The forum was taped and will be broadcast on NACTV in Neepawa at 8 o'clock, CDT, this evening (Oct. 1).


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