International News Desk – At Home: Low-income Canadians continue to struggle with basic needs – In Foreign News: Zimbabwean opposition facing major obstacles to fair elections

International News Desk – At Home: Low-income Canadians continue to struggle with basic needs – In Foreign News: Zimbabwean opposition facing major obstacles to fair elections

At Home: Low-income Canadians continue to struggle with basic needs

According to Statistics Canada, the percentage of Canadians living in poverty has gone down over the last several years. Data from the 1995 census shows that 19.7 per cent of Canadians were considered to be low income. Data from the 2000 census shows that this rate went down to 16.2 per cent.

Proponents of increasing the funds available to low-income Canadians believe that meeting the basic needs of shelter and food remains a major challenge for people on social assistance.

According to the Ontario Association of Food Banks, the number of Canadians relying on food banks increased 123 per cent between 1989 and 2004. They also report that just over 13 per cent of those currently using food banks are employed.

The Association also states that as many as two-thirds of food banks across the country do not have enough supplies to feed people in need for more than five days per month. In Charlottetown, P.E.I., the food bank has already noticed a drop in bread donations since the recent rise in the price of grain.

In Manitoba, the provincial government has announced that the number of Canadians living in poverty there has decreased. The government noted that the poverty rate for children in single-mother families dropped by 63 per cent between 1999 and 2006.

Manitoba is raising the amount of rent money it allows for welfare recipients by between 9 per cent and 18 per cent, depending on the type of benefits that apply. This generally means about $35 more per month for rent but that only brings the shelter rates up to $271 per month for single adults who are not disabled.

According to the Winnipeg Free Press, Gord Mackintosh, Manitoba’s Family Services and Housing Minister, believes the poverty data is misleading. Although there’s a positive trend in the numbers, Mackintosh noted the data does not include First Nations.

?That is unacceptable,? Mackintosh said. ?All Canadians should be included in a measure.?

While some of the numbers indicate that poverty in Canada is lessening, food and shelter continue to be a major challenge for low-income Canadians.

In Foreign News: Zimbabwean opposition facing major obstacles to fair elections

Opposition to the ruling party in Zimbabwe continues to face violence and intimidation over the upcoming runoff elections there. In March, the Zimbabwean election failed to give the incumbent leader Robert Mugabe a big enough win to allow him to hold on to his 28-year political stranglehold.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Zimbabwe’s opposing party, is led by Morgan Tsvangirai, who has been vocal about the less than conclusive results of the recent election. The electoral results in March showed that nearly 48 per cent of voters supported Tsvangirai while only about 43 per cent supported Mugabe.

Experts watching the Zimbabwean elections have been calling for the United Nations to get involved in overseeing the runoff voting.

On May 5, the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, spoke about how the U.N. could get involved in the election. Ban also made it known that he would discuss the matter with the African Union. It is hoped that pressure from Zimbabwe’s neighbours in Africa can help convince Mugabe to accept the United Nations as an overseeing body for the election.

According to Reuters, Mr. Tsvangirai stated that Mugabe’s government and supporters are engaging in a campaign of violence against the country’s political opposition members as well as any citizens supporting or voting for the MDC.

A BBC article says there have been reports of beatings, arson, and even withholding food stores in order to frighten supporters who may vote against Mugabe. The ruling government prohibits anyone from accessing the food grains without a party card, a system that many feel is an effective way for Mugabe’s government to hurt supporters of the opposition.

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