Government should respect traditional units

A Liberal MP’s recently released book is exposing the connection between family breakdown and poverty, and argues that it is not an economic response that is needed but a moral one.

Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, Ont.) notes in his book The Child Poverty Solution that various reports on homelessness and child poverty entirely ignore the root cause of poverty – which he identifies as family breakdown. Examining the 10-year campaign to end child poverty by the millennium, he notes that all of the proposed solutions overlook the fact that the “intact two-parent family is one of the best safeguards against child poverty.”

Szabo told The Interim that he wrote the book because even though everybody “intuitively knows” that family breakdown often ends in financial disaster, he felt the need to get the message out so people could have the facts are their fingertips.

The book notes some remarkable facts:

    Forty-six per cent of children living in poverty come from lone-parent homes, yet lone-parent families represent only 12 per cent of all Canadian families; therefore, a poor child is six times more likely to come from a lone-parent family than any other home arrangement. Since 1989, the number of poor children in lone-parent families has increased by 92 per cent.

    Forty per cent of marriages end in divorce.

    The breakdown rate of common-law relationships is 70 per cent.

These figures illustrate that “lone-parent families are the single highest risk group,” and that such families are becoming more common.

Szabo says that as long as child poverty advocates and the federal and provincial governments continue to ignore the root cause of poverty, there will never be a solution to the problem. He asks, “How is it possible that not one anti-poverty group or organization made any recommendations on how we could address this root cause?” He told The Interim that he blames a politically correct climate which seeks to “reduce the stigmatization of the broken family at the expense of traditional families.”

Chris Sarlo, associate professor of economics at Nipissing University in North Bay, Ont. confirms Szabo’s link between family breakdown and child poverty. Sarlo told The Interim that, “Family breakdown, separation, divorce and single-parenthood certainly makes people worse off, especially in the short-term.” Therefore, family breakdown is “a good predictor of poverty.”

He said that Szabo’s solution to poverty – arresting family breakdown – is a good start, but warned that it will not eliminate poverty. There are still many people who are living in poverty for reasons other than family breakdown, he said.

Sarlo also warned that merely looking at family breakdown and after-tax income is too simplistic a way to measure poverty. The poverty indicators do not take into account, for example, a divorced, non-custodial father’s income after support payments are made or a lone-parent’s income adjusted for support payments. Still, Sarlo said if there was more motivation for families to stay together, the child poverty problem would be alleviated.

Szabo, who gave copies of his book to every MP, said the response to his work has been overwhelmingly positive. He is predicting the next federal budget will reflect a desire to help children by helping families. “A strong family makes a strong country and healthy, secure families are less dependent upon the state,” he said.