That a neoliberal government like the one we have in Quebec, which has sought by all means since coming to power to reduce the size and role of the state, is suddenly enthusiastic about a guaranteed minimum income should arouse suspicion. Like they say, the devil is in the details, and that’s where we should focus our attention.

The National Food Waste Council is proposing a tax credit to corporations when they donate food to charities. This tax credit is meant to encourage food donation.

The argument for the tax credit is: donating isn’t free. Companies still have to get their product to the organization and that has labour and transportation costs associated with it. Give a tax credit and you will incentivize companies to divert food directly to organizations in need. Sounds fair enough right? Well, hold up a second critics are saying.

This tax credit is not an innovative waste management idea. Moving forward with a tax credit like this incentivizes the status quo, and we certainly don’t need more of that.

The federal minister responsible for reducing poverty says he is interested in the idea of a guaranteed income in Canada.

Veteran economist Jean-Yves Duclos, who is Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, told The Globe and Mail the concept has merit as a policy to consider after the government implements more immediate reforms promised during the election campaign.

While the average Canadian spends only 10 per cent of their income on food, low income households may spend as much as 75 per cent. So, naturally, when food prices go up, those least able to deal with the financial shock are often the hardest hit.

In response, some well-meaning activists urge us to carry on the “giving spirit of the holidays” into the new year by donating to food banks and other social service agencies …”

However, this sort of philanthropy is dangerous. As Alberta Views magazine argued so well, private support to such charities allows the government to avoid fulfilling its responsibilities of providing basic services. This forces already vulnerable groups to rely on the funding “whims” of individual wealthy citizens — which seems completely unnatural but has come to be accepted and even encouraged by initiatives such as food bank drives.

Just as we would not accept that someone’s ability to visit the doctor when ill or the right of a child to attend school should be left to other people’s generosity, the better-off should not be determining if and what the poorest eat.

The Dignity for All campaign calls on the federal government to legislate and implement an anti-poverty plan which would include a National Right to Food policy. This would include mechanisms to identify and reduce threats to availability and the reduction of barriers for people who are geographically isolated. Food security is just one element that must be considered for the elimination of poverty.

Canadian food banks hope that the pinch they’re feeling from rising food prices isn’t snowballing into a full-fledged crisis.

While each agency has unique circumstances, many say higher prices during the peak winter period are limiting how much food they can purchase and having an impact on donations while also spurring a greater demand for their services.

“Unfortunately, it is a sad reality that the lives of people living in deepest poverty has not changed,” said Tom Cooper, director of the Roundtable for Poverty Reduction.

Cooper added people living in poverty face more challenges than 10 years ago — higher rents, fewer vacancies for low-income earners, homeless shelters at capacity, longer subsidized housing waiting lists, increased food bank needs, and tighter eligibilities for employment insurance making it difficult to access.

Cooper said it’s shameful that the provincial government has “institutionalized poverty and food banks” by making them permanent realities for those on social assistance.

It’s frustrating that despite years of advocating for anti-poverty measures that Hamilton — and Canada — still experiences high levels of poverty, he said.