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.

Contributing to the Common Good: 2007 pre-budget submission

Submission to the Standing Committee on Finance Pre-Budget Consultations
The House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance has asked what criteria should guide changes to Canada’s tax system. CPJ has submitted a brief underscoring that paying taxes is an important way that citizens contribute to the common good – funding the public infrastructure and services that create a shared and sustainable prosperity.

Time for a Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy

Submission to the Standing Committee on Finance Pre-Budget Consultations
September 2006
Download the brief
Citizens for Public Justice’s call for a national poverty reduction strategy is rooted in our commitment to the biblical call to do justice. It is also based on our understanding of public justice and the responsibilities of active citizenship.

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