For immediate release
Calgary, AB – August 22, 2018 – Opportunity for All – Canada’s first poverty reduction strategy was released yesterday. It lacked the fanfare typically reserved for grand investments and budgetary promises, but for people who work to fight poverty every day, its importance could not be overstated.
Minister Duclos’ announcement did not include new money. Rather, he took his time at the podium to remind Canadians of the programs introduced by the Federal Government that have already benefited low-income Canadians, like the Canada Child Benefit and lowering the age of eligibility for the Guaranteed Income Supplement and Old Age Security to 65, rather than 67, as had been put in place under the previous Conservative government. He added the $40 billion National Housing Strategy, Early Learning and Child Care bilateral funding agreements, CPP enhancements and the recently announced Canada Workers Benefit.
First, it has established a singular income threshold by which to measure poverty, also known as a poverty line. Though no measure will be perfect, using an updated version of the Market Basket Measure (MBM), as the Canada’s Official Poverty line does, allows for regional variability and reflects the cost of living. If municipalities, provinces and community organizations fall in line, it will allow for increased apples-to-apples comparison, albeit an imperfect one.
Further, we cannot make progress on what we do not measure, and the new Canada Official Poverty line will be published annually. One criticism of MBM that has always existed and will remain, is what the economists and statisticians choose to include in the ‘basket’.
Second, the strategy recognizes that poverty is experienced very differently and in a greater proportion by women than men. Single mothers, Indigenous women, newcomers and senior women all suffer far greater incidence of poverty than their male counterparts.
What might hold the greatest promise in “Opportunity for All” are the mechanisms to ensure its sustainability and accountability to targets and goals. “Vibrant Communities Calgary has long advocated for a provincial poverty reduction strategy because, despite the immense value of individual programs and policies, if these are not enshrined in legislation, they are susceptible to being disregarded as soon as there is a change in government,” says Franco Savoia, Executive Director of Vibrant Communities Calgary.
The federal government seems to be aware of this fragility, and so have simultaneously proposed a Poverty Reduction Act which, according to strategy, “would make Canada’s Official Poverty Line and the poverty reduction targets the law of the land.” Further, a mechanism for governance and oversight will be created, the National Advisory Council on Poverty, with a mandate to advise on poverty reduction and report on progress. The Council will similarly be enshrined in legislation to withstand fluctuations in government.
“We are pleased that the Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy recognizes municipal and provincial expertise and existing poverty reduction efforts,” says Savoia. “Enough for All has the potential to support the federal targets, and we are deeply committed to our locally-driven and community-oriented activities,” says Savoia.
The goals of the Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy are bold; a 20 per cent reduction in poverty by 2020 based on 2015 levels, followed by a 50 per cent reduction by 2030.