New report says 1 in 4 Nova Scotia children are living in poverty

A new report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says 40,710 children in Nova Scotia, or nearly one in four, live in poverty.

Lesley Frank, a professor at Acadia University and co-author of the report, said the latest numbers, which come from 2017 data, are worse for infants. Categorized as newborns to two years old, 31 per cent of them live below the poverty line.

Frank told CBC's Information Morning Cape Breton that's a serious problem, "considering that's the most important time for their development."

She said the overall numbers are higher in Cape Breton than in other parts of the province. In the federal riding of Sydney-Victoria, 36.6 per cent of children are living in low-income households.

The report says Nova Scotia's child poverty numbers are higher than the Canadian average and it hasn't been as successful as most other provinces at reducing it.

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Since the House of Commons passed a motion in 1989 to eradicate child poverty, there's only been a 0.82 per cent decrease in the number of Nova Scotia children living in poverty.

The co-author of the report, Laura Fisher, a graduate student at Acadia, said the numbers are disturbing.

"It's really visceral for me," said the single parent, who lived for many years in poverty.

The report found 53.1 per cent of children living in single-parent families were below the poverty line.

Fisher said that illustrates some "definite structural issues" in the way single-parent families are supported. She said an increase in the Nova Scotia child benefit could help because those families don't benefit from two parental incomes.

No easy solutions

Frank said poverty is complex, so there aren't any easy solutions. She suggested indexing the Nova Scotia child benefit to inflation to keep up with cost-of-living increases, and increase the minimum wage because it doesn't provide enough to "allow people to live in dignity."

Without changes, "we'll always have these high rates," she said.