You can criticize Jason Kenney for a lot of things.
But you can't criticize the Employment Minister for lacking in wishful thinking.
This week in the House of Commons, the Opposition asked Kenney about the rise in the number of people visiting food banks since 2008. (A new report from Food Banks Canada says 1.8 million Canadians will visit a food bank in 2014, representing a 24.5% increase since the recession seven years ago. And more than one in three food bank visitors this year -- 36.9% -- will be children).
Kenney's response? He rejected the "premise of the question," and turned to a recent report from UNICEF, claiming it showed the Conservative government as a world leader in the fight to end child poverty.
But if Kenney had read the UNICEF report closely, he would have discovered it actually says that in 2013, "one-third of food bank users were children, despite representing less than a quarter of the total population." This reflects "higher poverty rates and a more difficult labour market" among marginalized groups.
UNICEF's source for that statistic is Food Banks Canada -- the same organization Kenney was asked about during Question Period and tried to debunk by citing the UNICEF report.
Watch how Kenney's attempts to tout his government's record on child poverty fall down on the facts:
- "Today, child poverty in Canada remains higher than in close to half of our peer countries. In fact, 19 of 41 nations have lower child poverty rates than Canada's including some that were harder hit by the crisis. The distance between Canada's child poverty rate at 21 percent and Norway's at 5 is considerable – but not inevitable."
- "The poorest Canadian children slid deeper into poverty during the Great Recession relative to the average. The child poverty gap increased by 2 points (from 21 to 23 percent) between 2008 and 2011. Poor children today are further away from average living conditions than poor children were at the start of the crisis."
- "Young people accounted for more than half of net job losses during the Recession – a disproportionate burden – and have yet to recover. The unemployment rate for 15-to-24-year-olds is twice the national average ... The youth unemployment rate rises to 20 percent if we take into account 'discouraged' workers and part-time workers who would prefer full-time employment."
- "In Canada, diminished job security, growth of temporary work, lower wages, rising costs for education and record student debt levels are dampening the economic security of a generation, and there is speculation that it could leave a permanent gouge in the national economy."