Policy Statements: Poverty in Canada

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Want to understand how Christian values can translate into policies that reduce poverty?

Read CPJ's policy statements on poverty in Canada, income inequality, and housing & homelessness.

CPJ is calling for a plan to end poverty in Canada. In a country as wealthy as ours, 4.8 million people struggle to make ends meet: to pay their rent, feed their families, and address basic needs.

Despite multiple calls for the development of a national poverty plan by the United Nations, the Senate, and a House of Commons Standing Committee, Canada has not stepped up to the plate. This means that there is no strategy in place at the national level to address the needs of one in seven people in Canada who live in poverty.

The Dignity for All Campaign, co-led by Citizens for Public Justice and Canada Without Poverty, is calling for a national anti-poverty for Canada. In 2015, the campaign developed a model plan focused on six different themes.

In 2017, CPJ called for the federal government to allocate $5.59 billion annually in new spending as a downpayment on the Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy, beginning in 2018.

Income security

Canada’s income security system is now one of the weakest among developed countries. Those in receipt of social assistance continue to subsist on benefits that place them well below any poverty measure used in Canada.

Dignity for All recommends that Canada:

  • Reform income assistance programs, such as Employment Insurance.
  • Increase the National Child Benefit to $5,600 annually for eligible families. Index it to the cost of living and ensure that families living on social assistance retain the full child benefit without claw backs.
  • Increase the Working Income Tax Benefit.

Housing and homelessness

While there are at least 250,000 homeless persons in Canada, most shelters are at maximum capacity.

Dignity for All recommends that Canada:

  • Develop and implement a coordinate National Housing Strategy based in human rights.
  • Increase funding by no less than $2 billion per year in new money to implement housing strategies that meet the strategy targets.

Health

Socio-economic disparities account for 20% of total annual health care spending (expected to have exceeded $211 billion in 2013). Medicare covers only 70% of total health care costs – the rest is covered by private insurance plans and out-of-pocket spending.

Dignity for All recommends that Canada:

  • Recognize in the legislation of an anti-poverty plan the social determinants of health, including income, employment, food security, early childhood education and care, and housing.
  • Commit to a new ten-year Health Accord including a National Pharmacare Program.

Food security

Since the 2008-2009 economic recession, food bank usage has increased by 25%, with children and youth now representing over 30% of food bank users. Among Inuit adults living in Nunavut, the rate of food insecurity is shockingly high at 69%.

Dignity for All recommends that Canada:

  • Develop a National Right to Food Policy.
  • Increase federal investment to address the very high levels of household food insecurity among First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.

Early childhood education and care

Regulated child care in Canada is currently characterized by high fees, low staff wages, mediocre quality, and unmet demand.

Dignity for All recommends that Canada:

  • Develop a high-quality, universal, publicly-funded and managed early childhood education and care program for children aged 0 to 5 years and for school-aged children up to age 12.
  • Dedicate federal transfers of $1 billion, $1.6 billion, and $2.3 billion over each of the next three years.

Jobs and employment

In the past 20 years, precarious employment, characterized by some degree of insecurity and unpredictability, generally low wages and few benefits, has increased by nearly 50%. Youth and other groups under-represented in the workforce face particular barriers in obtaining secure employment.

Dignity for All recommends that Canada:

  • Set national wage standards above the poverty line.
  • Provide employment incentives for youth and other groups under-represented in the workforce.

Faith leaders speak out for fairness and decent work

October 2016
Read the Statement
Joe Gunn, CPJ's executive director, has signed on to the Faith Leaders' Statement for fairness and decent work. He joins 22 Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, and Jewish faith leaders from across Ontario. Read their call for an increased minimum wage and improved working conditions.

Delivering the Promise of Justice

Submission to the Standing Committee on Finance Pre-Budget Consultations
August 2016
Download the brief
CPJ believes that the Government of Canada must act on its commitments and develop policy that is grounded in the common good. We encourage the government to take a holistic perspective in the preparation of Budget 2017 – one that addresses the needs of the most vulnerable in Canadian society and contributes to the well-being of both people and the planet. 

Statement from CPJ on TRC Calls to Action

March 2016
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In June of 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) released 94 Calls to Action to guide us towards a repaired relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples and a more just and equitable future. CPJ has released a statement in response to the TRC's Call to Action #48 and has also endorsed the KAIROS Education for Reconciliation campaign in support of the TRC's Call to Action #62.i.

Making Real Change for the Common Good

Submission to the Standing Committee on Finance Pre-Budget Consultations
February 2016
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CPJ believes that the federal government has a moral commitment to develop policy that is grounded in the common good, giving priority to addressing the needs of the most vulnerable in Canadian society and for ensuring that Canada contributes to the well-being of people and the planet.

Letter: Meeting of Social Services Ministers

February 2016
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Dignity for All: the campaign to end poverty in Canada, co-led by Canada Without Poverty (CWP) and Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ), wrote to the federal Minister encouraging him to take this opportunity to initiate consultations about the development of a Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy.

Faith Communities in Canada Speak Out

On Promoting Climate Justice and Ending Poverty in Canada

September 2015
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In conjunction with the United Nations Sustainable Development summit, Canadian faith leaders have called for climate justice in Canada—for all Canadians, and for the world. “On Promoting Climate Justice and Ending Poverty in Canada” addresses ecological justice, poverty in Canada, and Indigenous rights.

Decrease Obesity Rates by Ending Poverty

Presentation to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology 
May 2015
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CPJ's Executive Director, Joe Gunn, was invited to the Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology during their study of the increasing incidence of obesity in Canada. As they looked at causes, consequences, and next steps to take, Gunn proposed the idea of a  national poverty reduction plan as one element in the battle against many social, economic, and medical ills in Canadian communities, and also in the effort to address obesity.

"National Anti-Poverty Plan for Canada"

National Anti-Poverty Plan February 2015
Download the Plan (English/Français)
It’s time for a plan to end poverty in Canada. In a country as wealthy as ours, 4.8 million people struggle to make ends meet: to pay their rent, feed their families, and address basic needs. This report makes recommendations in six policy areas: Labour and Employment, Food Security, Health, Income Security, Housing and Homelessness, and Early Childhood Education and Care. It calls for the Federal Government to immediately take action in each of these areas, to address both the immediate and long-term needs of the 1 in 7 people in Canada who live in poverty.

Budgeting for the Common Good: 2014 pre-budget submission

Submission to the Standing Committee on Finance Pre-Budget Consultations
In this year's pre-budget submission to the federal government's Finance Committee, we focus on the Working Income Tax Benefit, oil and gas regulations, and tax cuts and credits that work against the common good of all people in Canada.

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