On Tuesday, August 21, the federal government released Canada’s first-ever national Poverty Reduction Strategy.
Canada’s Poverty Reduction Strategy (CPRS), entitled Opportunity for All, sets targets and timelines for reducing poverty, puts in place a new National Advisory Council on Poverty, and establishes an official national poverty line. The CPRS also commits to public reporting on progress, and to introducing a Poverty Reduction Act next year that would enshrine these measures in law.
The CPRS sets the goals of reducing poverty in Canada by 20% by 2020 and by 50% by 2030. The CPRS also aims to reduce chronic homelessness by 50%, ending all long-term drinking water advisories by March 2021, and reducing or eliminating housing need for 530,000 households.
A number of indicators will also be tracked, including food insecurity and job-related skill acquisition, and disaggregated data will be collected to track progress on reducing poverty for particular groups in Canadian society who are disproportionately impacted by poverty. As well, the CPRS commits to co-develop poverty indicators that reflect the experience of Indigenous peoples in Canada and that respect the autonomy of Indigenous governments.
The new official poverty line is set at the level of the Market Basket Measure (MBM), which is the amount of income an individual or family needs to pay for a particular selection of goods and services in various geographic areas in Canada. For example, the MBM for a single person in Toronto is $20,298 while the MBM for a family of four in a small rural area in Ontario is $36,711. The CPRS also commits to expand the measurement of poverty into areas of the North where tracking has not been consistent in the past.
Unfortunately, while the CPRS does highlight the variety of existing government programs and investments related to poverty reduction, such as the Canada Child Benefit, it does not include any new initiatives, policies or spending commitments. The CPRS does not include new measures that would fulfill the government’s poverty reduction targets and goals.
And while setting targets and timelines to reduce poverty is a critical first step in being able to address it, the length of time proposed to fulfill these goals does not adequately reflect the urgency of the need to address poverty in Canada. Nearly 14% of the population continues to live in poverty and particular groups continue to experience poverty in incredibly disproportionate numbers – including women, people from racialized communities, new immigrants, Indigenous people, people with disabilities, youth, and others. They need more action now.
As well, setting the Market Basket Measure as Canada’s official poverty line creates difficulties. The MBM doesn’t adequately capture the issue of inequality between people in particular geographic areas or in the larger Canadian society. Further, it’s not possible to use the MBM to compare how Canada is doing on its poverty reduction activity relative to other countries. As a result, the federal government has indicated that it will continue to update and use the Low-Income Measure, which is higher than the MBM, for this purpose.
ISAC was part of the government’s two-year long consultation process, where we appeared before a House of Commons Standing Committee and made a submission to Minister Duclos.
Our submissions recommended ways that the government could improve federally-administered income support programs in order to reduce and eliminate the unequal access to these programs that certain groups in Canada face due to historical disadvantage and systemic inequity. Unfortunately, the CPRS does not include such improvements to these programs, which include the Canada Child Benefit, the Old Age Security / Guaranteed Income Supplement system, CPP-Disability, and Employment Insurance.
Our submissions also highlighted the deterioration of federal standards for provincial and territorial social assistance programs, and recommended changes that would help ensure that the Canada Social Transfer can play a better role in reducing poverty. Unfortunately, changes such as this are also not part of the CPRS.
Here is the link to Canada’s First Poverty Reduction Strategy:
- Here’s the link to all “Opportunity for All” documents: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/campaigns/poverty-reduction.html
Here are links to commentary and reaction from various organizations:
- Campaign 2000: “Campaign 2000 responds to Canada’s first Poverty Reduction Strategy”: https://campaign2000.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/C2000-Media-Release-in-Response-to-PRS-Aug2018.pdf
- Canada Without Poverty: “Country’s first national poverty strategy acts as a foundation for a Canada without poverty”: http://www.cwp-csp.ca/2018/08/countrys-first-national-poverty-strategy-acts-as-a-foundation-for-a-canada-without-poverty/
- Colour of Poverty – Colour of Change: “COP-COC welcomes national poverty reduction strategy”: http://www.ocasi.org/comments-national-poverty-reduction-strategy
- Canadians for Public Justice: “CPJ lauds launch of a federal poverty strategy”: http://www.cpj.ca/cpj-lauds-launch-federal-poverty-strategy
- Community Food Centres Canada: “The federal government unveils Canada’s first Poverty Reduction Strategy”: https://cfccanada.ca/en/News-Events/Latest-News/Announcements/federal-Canada-poverty-reduction-strategy
And here is some media coverage of the release of the CPRS:
- Toronto Star editorial: Canada’s poverty strategy stitched together existing policies and called it a new plan: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2018/08/27/canadas-poverty-strategy-stitched-together-existing-policies-and-called-it-a-new-plan.html
- CTV: Liberals unveil poverty plan with lofty goals, but no new spending programs: https://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/liberals-unveil-poverty-plan-with-lofty-goals-but-no-new-spending-programs-1.4062013#_gus&_gucid=&_gup=Facebook&_gsc=ChSGB6b
- MacLean’s: Is the Liberals’ federal poverty-reduction strategy even really a strategy?: https://www.macleans.ca/opinion/is-the-liberals-federal-poverty-reduction-strategy-really-a-strategy/
- Miles Corak: What good is a poverty reduction strategy?: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-what-good-is-a-poverty-reduction-strategy/
- Liberals new poverty reduction strategy is more PR than strategy: http://rabble.ca/columnists/2018/08/liberals-new-poverty-reduction-strategy-more-pr-strategy
- Federal government announces ambitious plan to reduce poverty in Canada: https://globalnews.ca/news/4399941/federal-government-plan-reduce-poverty-canada/
- Questions raised about poverty reduction strategy: https://globalnews.ca/news/4399941/federal-government-plan-reduce-poverty-canada/
- Ottawa pledges to cut poverty in half but doesn’t say how it will get there: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/british-columbia/article-ottawa-pledges-to-cut-poverty-in-half-but-doesnt-say-how-it-will-get/