A Public Justice Approach to the Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy
Submission to Employment and Social Development for Canada’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Consultations
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CPJ is very pleased to see that the federal government is moving forward in the development of a Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy (CPRS). We want to ensure that this strategy is comprehensive, accountable, and enhances the dignity of all people.
The Dignity for All campaign, which CPJ co-leads, has worked in collaboration with social policy experts, academics, service providers, faith-based organizations, and people with lived experience of poverty to develop recommendations for a plan to end poverty in Canada. This resulted in the development of the Dignity for All National Anti-Poverty Plan for Canada. It is a model strategy that outlines a human rights framework and policy recommendations in six key areas: income security, housing and homelessness, healthcare, food security, jobs and employment, and early childhood education and care.
Poverty is a complex reality that exists when people do not have their basic needs met and cannot fully participate in economic, political, social, and cultural life. It involves social isolation and an erosion of a sense of self-worth and spiritual vitality.
Poverty does not just involve individual life choices or circumstances, but social relationships including structures, systems, and institutions, some of which exclude and marginalize people. While poverty has a broad impact in Canada, there are some populations that are highly vulnerable, including: Indigenous people; recent immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers; children; single-parent families; people with disabilities; and seniors.
Poverty is more than a matter of low income, but it always includes low income. It is important that appropriate measures are available to provide accurate and current data about the broad reality of poverty.
It is important to look at the assets communities bring to comprehend their whole sense of themselves, through approaches like the Asset-Based Community Development model or wellness measures, like the Canadian Index of Wellbeing. A combined view of low income, multiple deprivations, as well as well-being measures provides a broader and more holistic approach to understanding and addressing poverty.
CPJ recommends that the CPRS reflect the human rights framework and policy recommendations of the Dignity for All model plan.
The CPRS must:
- Be comprehensive, effective, and funded.
- Use multiple low-income measures, as well as multiple deprivation and wellness indicators, in measuring poverty in Canada.
- Include a framework that ensures review and accountability, including internal and external mechanisms for monitoring progress based on strong targets and timelines and legislation for a federal anti-poverty act.
- Index the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) to inflation.
- Include provisions for improved access to Employment Insurance (EI), including setting a national eligibility threshold of 360 hours.
- Improve the Old Age Security (OAS) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) programs by increasing the GIS by the amount required to lift seniors out of poverty and modifying the residency requirement for seniors’ programs.
- Include a plan to reinstate a federal minimum wage at $15/hour.
- Include additional income security measures, such as an enhanced Working Income Tax Benefit (WITB), focused Guaranteed Livable Income options for working-aged adults, as well as additional supports for people living with disabilities.
- Include a National Housing Strategy that has clear goals, timelines, and monitoring provisions, and that is supported by legislation and funding.
- Partner with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit governments and organizations to develop focused Indigenous infrastructure development strategies that are responsive to the unique needs of Indigenous communities (on and off reserve and in Inuit and northern contexts).
- Include a universal, publicly funded National Pharmacare Program that provides prescription drug coverage at little to no cost to all, regardless of income, age, or region.
- Include the immediate and full implementation of Jordan’s Principle.
- Include the development of a comprehensive National Right to Food Policy and improvements to the Nutrition North program.
- Include a National Jobs Creation and Training Strategy.
- Invest an additional $500 million per year over the next five years ($2.5 billion total) for Indigenous education, skills training and economic development.
- Include a national early childhood education and care (ECEC) program that is universal, publicly funded, high-quality, and regulated.