2015 Election Bulletin: Ending Poverty in Canada

2015 Election Bulletin | Democracy | Poverty | Climate Justice | Refugees

More from CPJ on Poverty in the 2015 Federal Election

Christian Courier - "Vote to end poverty" by Darlene O'Leary, September 28, 2015

Christian Week - "ChewOnThis! brings awareness to food insecurity" by Josh Valley, September 22, 2015

CBC Radio One - "Poverty activists disappointed with campaign focus" Interview with Karri Munn-VennSeptember 18, 2015

CCPA Monitor - "Where is Federal Leadership on Poverty?" by Darlene O'Leary, September/October 2015

The Tyee - "Who's Up for Debating an Anti-Poverty Plan" by Andrew MacLeodSeptember 17, 2015

The Huffington Post - "5 Reasons I'm Not Celebrating My Universal Child Care Benefit Deposit" by Karri Munn-Venn, July 23, 2015

The Huffington Post "NDP, Liberals Must Focus On Reducing Poverty: Citizens For Public Justice" by Althia Raj, July 21, 2015

CPJ.ca - "This Year, I’m Voting Housing for All" by Mike BulthuisJune 17, 2015

 

Ending Poverty in Canada In this age of fear and anxiety, we can often forget the call to love our neighbours. We focus our attention on ourselves and our “loved ones.” But our loved ones are far more than just our family and friends. We are part of a wider, beloved community.

A biblical perspective on poverty starts with the recognition that all people are created in the image of God. Our love for God therefore requires that we respect our neighbours' inherent worth and care for their well-being. The Bible also calls us to practice justice, providing support and opening our hearts to those most marginalized.

“Community means communion of heart and spirit; it is a network of relationships. But this implies a response to the cry of our brothers and sisters, especially the poorest, the weakest, the most wounded, and a sense of responsibility for them.”

—Jean Vanier

Poverty impacts every part of a person’s life. It makes it difficult for people to live in dignity and to respond to God’s calling in their lives. Today, roughly 4.8 million Canadians struggle with poverty. This takes a heavy toll on society through negative health impacts and high economic costs.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Policy changes can reduce inequality and make a meaningful difference in the lives of low-income people. The federal government has the tools to create positive, measurable change to significantly reduce poverty. Progress since the early 1990’s – specifically significant reductions in rates of children’s and seniors’ poverty – confirms this.

There are powerful voices at work in our democracy. In a world where public justice is prioritized, those voices would not drown out the impoverished and the vulnerable. As faithful citizens, we must pray and work for a world where all can live in dignity.

Learn More

“Living Justice: A Gospel Response to Poverty” is a CPJ worship and action guide on poverty in Canada. The book provides engaging reflections and workshop activities that encourage faith communities to explore how they can participate in creating social and economic justice.

A National Anti-Poverty Plan for Canada

Canada needs a national anti-poverty plan with a sustained affirmation of the dignity of all people in Canada. We have been called on repeatedly both internally (by Senate and House of Commons committees) and externally (by the United Nations) to develop such a plan. Many other developed countries have national anti-poverty plans, demonstrating that this is indeed achievable. But despite repeated Parliamentary resolutions to take action, Canada still has not implemented a national plan to reduce poverty.

A national anti-poverty plan would be comprehensive in scope, focusing on income security, housing, health, jobs and employment, food security, and early childhood education and care. It would complement provincial and territorial poverty reduction plans and commit to measureable goals and timelines, ensuring that sufficient action is taken at the federal level to address poverty.

The government has a moral obligation to lead. This includes implementing structural changes to eliminate poverty and creating new policies that ensure all people have the means to achieve a sustainable livelihood that provides a livable income. Our public policy must make human well-being its priority, rather than economic growth, individual profit, or international competitiveness.

Regardless of moral and economic arguments, our federal government’s obligation to Indigenous peoples of Canada alone requires that it be actively involved in anti-poverty work. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) final report clearly articulates that poverty among the Indigenous peoples of Canada is at unacceptable levels. The legacy of colonization and oppression experienced by First Nations, Inuit, and Metis people has done lasting damage to communities and individuals. The federal government has a responsibility to respond to the findings of the TRC report by ensuring that Indigenous people have access to the basic resources for healthy communities, support for culturally appropriate education, fair negotiation of land claims, and the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Public justice means that everyone has a responsibility to take action against poverty, and this includes our federal government. Poverty is a significant injustice because it undermines human dignity, limiting people’s ability to live out God’s calling and fully participate in their community. A public justice framework recognizes that all people are created by God, with rights and responsibilities, including the right to live in dignity. At its centre, an anti-poverty plan must also recognize the inherent worth of each person and protect the human rights they hold in this country. As we practice faithful citizenship, we recognize the responsibilities that citizens and governments have in promoting the well-being of everyone.

QUESTION: Will you pass legislation to implement a comprehensive national anti-poverty plan?

Learn More

CPJ and Canada Without Poverty co-lead Dignity for All: The campaign for a poverty-free Canada, a non-partisan initiative calling for a federal antipoverty plan. In February 2015, we released “Dignity for All: A National Anti-Poverty Plan for Canada” after holding six policy summits with community organizations, academics, people with a lived experience of poverty, and faith communities. This report shows that there are effective and attainable policy solutions. Now we need the political will to act.

Affordable Quality Childcare

The latest package of tax credits for Canadian parents provides limited assistance to those who need it most. The Family Tax Credit (also known as income splitting) allows higher income earners to transfer a portion of their annual income to the lower income partner to reduce the household’s overall tax burden. Single parents, a group that faces disproportionately high levels of poverty, cannot get any help at all from income splitting. This policy will be most beneficial to upper- income families.

The Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB) was recently increased from $100/month to $160/month for each child under six. Parents of children aged six to 17 now receive $60/month for each child. This credit delivers the same monthly cheque to all parents, regardless of whether their income is $200,000/year or just $20,000/year. This program diverts significant resources away from low-income families to upper-income families.

CPJ believes that the funds needed to pay for these tax breaks would be better spent on programs that benefit the most vulnerable families in Canada such as the Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB). This progressive, refundable benefit includes the National Child Benefit Supplement (NCBS) which targets low- and middle-income families. These family programs are already in place and provide income support to 90 per cent of children in Canada.

To address the needs of low- and middle- income families our federal government should boost the CCTB/NCBS to $5,600/year for each child and increase access to affordable and high quality child care.

QUESTION: Will you reverse tax credits that largely benefit the wealthy (i.e. UCCB and income splitting) in order to invest in programs that assist vulnerable Canadians (i.e. CCTB/NCBS)?

Good Jobs Good Jobs

Conventional wisdom says that full-time yearround employment is a guaranteed path out of poverty. That’s no longer the case. Recent data show that 44 per cent of poor households in Canada have at least one person working. And some low-income families have two people working.

This is largely a result of precarious employment, which is characterized by some degree of insecurity and unpredictability, generally low wages, and few benefits. In the past 20 years, this type work has increased by nearly 50 per cent in Canada. Youth and other groups underrepresented in the workforce face particular barriers in obtaining secure employment.

QUESTION: What steps will you take to reduce the growth of precarious employment in Canada?

Housing for All

Housing is a key determinant of health and is a key plank of a national anti-poverty plan. Since the 1980s, access to affordable housing and income support programs, particularly for those with psycho-social and physical disabilities, has declined. This has created high levels of homelessness and housing insecurity in many Canadian communities.

Federal investment in affordable and social housing has fallen considerably short of demand. Taking inflation and population growth into account, funding levels have been on the decline for more than two decades. And funding is scheduled to continue to drop sharply as the federal government steps out of its remaining affordable housing commitments. The $1.7 billion in annual federal funding for Canada’s 600,000 social housing units has already started to expire putting more than 200,000 units – or one-third of Canada’s stock of social housing – at risk.

Canada must increase funding by no less than $2 billion per year in new money to implement housing strategies that meet the needs of those who are homeless and precariously housed.

QUESTION: Will you invest at least $2 billion per year in new money towards affordable housing?

2015 Election Bulletin:  Housing for All

Learn More

In 2014, CPJ released “The Burden of Poverty: A snapshot of poverty across Canada,” an update on the most recent statistics about poverty in Canada. It demonstrates the unequal burden of poverty in Canada placed on recent immigrants, single-parent families, and Indigenous peoples.

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2015 Election Bulletin