I was six years old at a market with Mamma in Italy. I wanted a comic book. When I started to cry, she quietly shared, “Franco, caro figlio, I will cry with you if that will help, but I don’t have the money to buy it.” I quickly stopped crying as I realized it would not get me the comic book I wanted. Mamma wasn’t being mean. We were poor and she didn’t have the money.
Poverty is persistent in that it robs people of their power, decreases their sense of well-being, and increases anger and frustration. In human history, its existence has been normalized as we have come to believe that poverty will always be with us. And for some of us, there is a belief that poor people are poor by choice: they have made some bad decisions, they have had some bad luck, or they don’t have the drive or desire to improve their condition.
Fortunately for us, poverty was an issue in the 2010 municipal election, highlighted by then mayoral candidate Naheed Nenshi. Upon his election, The City of Calgary and United Way of Calgary and Area worked together to develop a municipal poverty reduction strategy. An 18-month community engagement process involving 18 community working groups coordinated by an 18-member stewardship group resulted in Enough for All, Calgary’s poverty reduction strategy. It was tabled and approved in May 2013 as one of the first poverty reduction strategies in Canada.
Since implementing the strategy, a number of positive transformational policy changes have taken place including the Alberta Child Benefit, the Enhanced Child Benefit, and the minimum wage increase from $10.60/hour to $15/hour. Additionally, the income programs were increased and indexed against inflation, payday lending regulations were updated, access to city services were improved through a Fair Entry program, a sliding scale transit pass was introduced, a community hubs initiative was implemented, and the Financial Empowerment collaborative expanded its financial literacy and tax filing. National and provincial housing strategies were launched and Opportunities for All, Canada’s national poverty reduction strategy, was put into law.
These policy changes have reduced poverty. As a percentage of the population, Calgarians living below the Low Income Cut-off (LICO) before taxes was reduced by 20 per cent from 2005, and the number of children living in poverty was reduced by 50 per cent.
Other changes were happening as well. The dramatic drop in the price of oil in 2014 resulted in the rise of unemployment from 4 to 10 per cent (now settling at around seven per cent), and many Calgarians lost well-paying jobs. The persistent economic downturn had turned into a recession and the traditional Albertan boom/bust cycle has remained in a bust phase.
With a drastically changed landscape and 2018 marking the half-way point in the 10-year strategy, Vibrant Communities Calgary (VCC), as the steward of Enough for All, with its three partners, The City of Calgary, United Way, and Momentum, refreshed the strategy. A four-phase engagement process from June 2018 to January 2019 resulted in Enough for All 2.0 that will take it to its completion in 2023. Enough for All 2.0 has the following enhancements:
- The mission is to leverage and expand all of the work underway by many in the community. The effort will be to align their work with the strategy.
- Three goals comprise the strategy: 1. All Calgarians live in a strong, supportive, and inclusive environment; 2. All Calgarians have sufficient income and assets to thrive; and 3. All Indigenous People are equal participants in Calgary’s future.
- The fourth goal included in the original strategy, with focus on programs and services, has been transformed into 10 levers of change. These include things like physical and mental health, literacy and foundational learning, income and food security.
- The values have evolved into nine principles of how all who align with Enough for All 2.0 will deliver their programs and services such as integrating the voice of lived experience, trauma-centred approach, dignity, etc.
- The municipal strategy aligns with Canada’s poverty reduction strategy, and adopts the Market Basket Measure (MBM) as the measure of poverty at the population level.
- The foundation of the implementation is the identification of strategy champions. As champions, collaboratives and organizations will align with levers of change and/or goals in the strategy and sign an agreement symbolizing a public, intentional, and explicit commitment to reducing poverty in our city.
- Over time, champions will endeavor to incorporate principles in their delivery of programs and services, and be involved throughout the evaluation of Enough for All 2.0’s implementation.
We are so thankful for all those who provided input in the refresh process. For now, however, it is only a strategy – and will remain so until we work together collectively. Overcoming poverty is a multi-faceted effort requiring community-wide collaboration to truly make systemic change. We thank those organizations and collaboratives who have signed a shared values agreement including: Burns Memorial Fund, Calgary Learns, The City of Calgary, Community Housing Affordability Collective (CHAC), CUPS, Fiasco Gelato, First 2000 Days Network, Momentum, United Way, and the YWCA.
These and many other organizations are working on numerous initiatives that collectively advance our common goal of reducing poverty. Initiatives like Community Hubs, led in partnership by United Way, The City of Calgary, and Rotary; and Aspire (formerly Financial Empowerment) initiated by United Way as the first program of its kind in Canada and stewarded today by Momentum.
We are inviting everyone to read the strategy and champion its implementation. If you have questions, please contact us at Vibrant Communities Calgary. The time is now.
Decades ago, a little boy felt the sting of poverty that remains fresh in his mind today. I am privileged to support the implementation of Enough for All 2.0 because I believe Nelson Mandela’s outcry that:
“Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. And overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.”