Toronto Star

Liberals face pressure to keep vow to youth


OTTAWA— The Liberals are facing calls to follow through on a campaign pledge to create a federal children’s commission­er who would be a nonpartisa­n voice to ensure government policy actually improves the lives of young people.

More than a year into their mandate, the government has shown few signs of moving forward on the promise, other than to say it continues to study the idea.

Sara Austin, founder of the charity Children First Canada, says there is well over a decade of studies and research from other jurisdicti­ons to guide the Liberals.

She says it’s time for the government to act on the promise it made to help the approximat­ely 1.25 million children who live in poverty in Canada.

“We need to go beyond simply saying that they matter and saying that kids are important to delivering tangible programs that will drive change,” Austin said in an interview.

“Poverty not only has immediate impacts on kids’ success in school and their ability to do well every day, but it actually has long-term impacts for their health and safety and it has a hard economic cost for our country. We actually need to go beyond making lofty promises to children to actually delivering on it.”

Various Liberals called for the creation of a children’s commission­er for years during their time in opposition and Marc Garneau, now the transport minister, repeated the vow during the 2015 election.

“It is essential to foster youth to use their ability, to put insight and input into government decision-making because whatever the government chooses right now is going to affect our lives in the future,” said 18-yearold Ashley Whiteman, a member of the prime minister’s youth advisory council.

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