All Calgary-West candidates are seeking change.
Paul Baker/the Gauntlet

Helping those in need

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While the economy is making huge headlines in the upcoming election, the effects on poverty are almost ignored. Calgary-West candidates agreed it was a serious issue, but offered a variety of solutions.

Green Party candidate Randy Weeks calls the Conservatives' budget for social programs "scrooge-like" and accused the government of economic mismanagement.

"We forced a greater percentage of our population into poverty and created more social problems," he said.

Marxist-Leninist candidate Andre Vachon also criticized the Conservatives.

"The facts speak for themselves," he said. "We've cut social services. We've put people who can't look after themselves on the street."

Independent candidate Kirk Schmidt maintained that evaluating the government on poverty-related initiatives may not be possible.

"We entered this period of economic boom, especially in Alberta, where it really is beyond the government's control," he said. "Unfortunately what happened is it forced housing prices and cost of living to skyrocket, and it left quite a few people behind, so it's hard to say the government is at fault or not at fault."

Weeks claimed his party would bring back previous programs that worked or bolster existing programs.

The Greens would like to replicate successful poverty-reduction policies found in Northern Europe and other parts of the world.

According to New Democratic Party candidate Teale Phelps Bondaroff, the NDP party would tackle the problem by reducing tuition costs for post-secondary students, bringing back the federal minimum wage and introducing a living wage. They would also create a universal drug prescription coverage program, reduce ATM, cell phone and bank fees and re-examine existing seniors' pensions and benefits.

Liberal candidate Jennifer Pollock said that the Liberal Party has specific targets for reducing poverty over the next four years. She described a plan that would reduce the number of people living below the poverty line by 30 per cent or one million people and the number of children living below the poverty line by 50 per cent or 400,000 kids in four years by increasing the income tax benefit for those on welfare. For people who earn less than $50,000 a year, the Liberals would provide a $1,850 tax credit, she said.

The party platform introduces a guaranteed family supplement of $1,225 a year. As well, it would increase the national child tax benefit, raise seniors' income supplement, and create a tax credit for people with disabilities and low income.

Vachon said the problem needs to approached by closing the widening gap between rich and poor.

"[We would] stop handing over millions and billions of dollars to the rich, to people who are already privileged," he said.

The party wants to increase funding for social programs to reduce poverty among aboriginal people and immigrants.

"We would represent the interests of the working people," he added.

Schmidt believes the best way to approach the issue is through co-operation and teamwork.

"I would want the governing party and all MPs as well as provincial and municipal governments to meet and plan ways to eliminate poverty and provide affordable housing," he said.