The new federal plan promises to lift 650,000 Canadians out of poverty by 2019, and to cut Canada’s poverty rate in half by 2030. If the plan is to succeed it will need new money, Citizens for Public Justice executive director Joe Gunn said. Photo by Michael Swan

Canadian poverty plan big on promises, short on dollars

By 
  • August 21, 2018

Over the next 12 years the federal government promises to raise 2.1 million Canadians out of poverty and take Canada’s poverty rate from one in every eight Canadians to one in every 17 by 2030.

However, the long awaited announcement of a federal anti-poverty strategy promised during the 2015 election campaign did not include any new spending other than a $12 million boost to data collection so that the country will have a more accurate picture of poverty from coast to coast.

If the plan is to succeed it will need new money, Citizens for Public Justice executive director Joe Gunn told The Catholic Register as the announcement unfolded in Vancouver Aug. 21.

“No new investments in daycare, Indigenous services, income security, etc.? Really?” Gunn said in an e-mail.

Citizens for Public Justice was a major player in the Dignity For All campaign started by the Sisters of Service, which over the last five years brought together churches, social service agencies, unions and others to press for a national poverty reduction plan. The campaign wanted targets and accountability, and won on both counts, said Gunn. 

The new federal plan promises to lift 650,000 Canadians out of poverty by 2019, and to cut Canada’s poverty rate in half by 2030. It also provides Canada’s first-ever official poverty line, accompanied by a “dashboard” of poverty indicators which will constantly updated and shared online, allowing activists, media and others to monitor the government’s progress.

The Dignity For All campaign didn’t get legislation that would entrench a right to housing, the third major plank of the campaign.

“I suppose two out of three ain’t bad,” Gunn said. “We’ll keep working. Today was a step ahead.”

As raw numbers the goals announced by Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Jean-Yves Duclos may sound ambitious to Canadians who haven’t followed the issue closely, said Gunn. But they are in fact a bare minimum.

“This goal is what Canada agreed to in signing the (United Nations) Sustainable Development Goals,” Gunn said.

Of the three most common ways of measuring poverty in Canada, Duclos chose to use the Canadian-made “Market Basket Measure” that divides the country into 50 regions and then estimates the cost obtaining housing, food, transportation and other essentials for a dignified life. It usually shows a lower poverty rate than the internationally accepted standard known as the “Low Income Measure,” but a higher rate than the “Low Income Cut Off”which has not been revised since the early 1990s.

“Not necessarily a bad thing,” said Gunn. “The Conservatives always used LICO to overestimate progress in eliminating poverty.”

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