Letter to the Federal Minister of Finance Regarding the 1998 Federal Budget

Tuesday, February 03 1998

The Honourable Paul Martin, P.C., M.P.,
Minister of Finance
House of Commons,
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0G5

Dear Mr. Martin:

As the federal government finalizes its budget for 1998-9, aware of many competing priorities, we agree with your statement that the process is really a debate about values.  The purpose of this letter is to communicate that, in the present context, our highest value is economic redress for those most vulnerable families who have suffered economic hardship and difficulty throughout our parishes and dioceses.  I ask you to use the occasion of the budget release to address the serious problem of poverty in Canada, especially child poverty.

In a Pastoral Letter released by the Episcopal Commission for Social Affairs in 1996, we wrote,

“In order to take steps toward the eradication of poverty in our country…we join our voices to those of many Canadians calling for alternative policies aimed at implementing fair tax reforms and ending corporate tax loopholes, creating dignified jobs, lowering interest rates, and preventing the gutting of social programs…..We again join those people of good faith who call for a renewed commitment by governments and the population to place the fight against poverty through redistributive policies
at the top of national priorities.”

Many parishioners tell us about the stark situation of growing poverty in Canada.  And as Campaign 2000 statistics have pointed out, there are now 500,000 more poor children in Canada than in 1989, a 58% increase since the year the House of Commons promised to eliminate poverty among Canadian children by the year 2000.  Since poor children come from poor families, we urge you to introduce specific measures to make the well-being of poor children and their families a priority in the upcoming budget.  We add our support to the Canadian Council of Churches’ recommendations

  • -a substantial increase in the amount of federal funds available for income security programmes that would directly help children and poor families;
  • -broad public consultation by the federal government to develop aggressive social policy measures within its competence to address the causes of poverty in Canada;
  • -a set of substantial standards with effective mechanisms for compliance among all levels of government, to be developed through a transparent process of negotiation with the provinces.

In the Old Testament, God left us the command that “there shall be no poor among you.” (Deut. 15:4) While human failing may have kept us short of this goal, we will continue to embrace this challenge of our faith responsibility.  Your important efforts, Mr. Minister, to overcome poverty through the design
of fiscal policy in Canada can count on our prayerful support.

Sincerely yours,

+François Thibodeau, CJM
Bishop of Edmundston
Chair, Episcopal Commission for Social Affairs
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops