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431-00155 (Social affairs and equality)

Paper petition

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the House of Commons

THEREFORE, YOUR PETITIONERS call upon the House of Commons to adopt a national poverty elimination strategy, thereby ensuring Canadians a suitable quality of life and opportunity to succeed.

Response by the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): ADAM VAUGHAN

The Government of Canada is committed to fighting poverty and helping Canadians working hard to join the middle class. That is why we released Canada’s first ever Poverty Reduction Strategy, which has the goal of reducing poverty in Canada by 50% by 2030, in line with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. We have made historic investments to reduce poverty in Canada. Since 2015, over one million Canadians have been lifted out of poverty, including over 334,000 children.

On February 13, 2017, the Government of Canada launched a nationwide consultation process to support the development of the Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy. This process is part of the Government's desire to reach out to Canadians and to understand the needs and challenges faced by those most at risk of living with low income. Since then, ministerial and community roundtables with local organizations, national Indigenous organizations and people with lived experience have taken place across the country. Online public submissions have also been received through a portal dedicated to the Poverty Reduction Strategy. 

The Government also hosted a National Poverty Conference on September 27 and 28, 2017, which brought together academics, Canadians with lived experience of poverty, winners of a national youth contest who shared their innovative ideas on reducing poverty, and other key stakeholders to discuss the results of the national engagement.

On September 22, 2017, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development announced the members of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Poverty, which brings together a diverse group of 17 leaders, academic experts and practitioners working in the field of poverty reduction, and individuals who have experienced poverty first-hand. The committee has held several conference calls and meetings throughout the fall.

On August 21, 2018, the Government of Canada released Opportunity for All – Canada’s First Poverty Reduction Strategy The Strategy offers a bold vision for Canada as a world leader in the eradication of poverty and is aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of ending poverty. It establishes, for the first time in Canada’s history, an official measure of poverty: Canada’s Official Poverty Line, based on the cost of a basket of goods and services that individuals and families require to meet their basic needs and achieve a modest standard of living in communities across the country.

Opportunity for All sets ambitious and concrete poverty reduction targets based on Canada’s Official Poverty Line: a 20 percent reduction in poverty by 2020 and a 50 percent reduction in poverty by 2030, which, relative to 2015 levels, will lead to the lowest poverty rate in Canada’s history.

The Poverty Reduction Act received Royal Assent in June 2019. The Act entrenches the poverty reduction targets, Canada’s Official Poverty Line, and the National Advisory Council on Poverty into law.

The Strategy brings together new investments of $22 billion that the Government has made since 2015 to support the social and economic well-being of all Canadians. The Government has committed to new investments of over $12 billion for 2019–2020. This funding supports key poverty reduction initiatives, such as the Canada Child Benefit (CCB), the increase to the Guaranteed Income Supplement top-up, and the National Housing Strategy.

As committed to in Opportunity for All, the Government of Canada is working with National Indigenous Organizations and others to identify and co-develop indicators of poverty and well-being, including non-income-based measures of poverty, that reflect the multiple dimensions of poverty and well-being experienced by First Nations, Inuit and Métis.

In Budget 2018, recognizing the importance of poverty data in evidence-based decision-making by all levels of government, the federal government announced an investment of $12.1 million over five years, and $1.5 million per year thereafter, to address key gaps in poverty measurement in Canada. This includes ensuring that poverty data is inclusive of all Canadians, that data on various dimensions of poverty is captured, and that the data is both robust and timely.

The Government’s poverty reduction efforts are already showing positive effects. Results from the 2018 Canadian Income Survey, released on February 24, 2020, show that between 2015 and 2018, over 1 million Canadians have been lifted out of poverty, including 334,000 children and 73,000 seniors. This underscores the progress being made on the Government’s goal to cut poverty in half by 2030, as the poverty rate in Canada continues its downward trend.

In August 2019, the National Advisory Council on Poverty was established to advise the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development on poverty reduction and to publicly report annually on the progress of poverty reduction in Canada. The Council’s first in-person meeting took place on November 14-15, 2019 and its first annual report is expected in the fall of 2020.

Supporting families and ensuring that every child gets the best possible start in life is a priority for the Government of Canada. The Government is therefore committed to giving families more money to help with the high costs of raising their children and to making a real difference in the lives of children in Canada. To this end, it introduced the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) in July 2016.

Because the CCB is tax-free and based on income, it provides more support to families who need help the most. The CCB helps almost 3.7 million families and about 6.5 million children, putting nearly $24 billion, tax free, in the hands of Canadian families each year. Close to 65 percent of families receiving the maximum CCB amounts are single-parent families, more than 90 percent of which are led by single mothers.

The CCB has resulted in higher incomes for families with children. Couples with children saw their median child benefits increase by $1,500, and single-parent families received an extra $1,700 in 2018 compared to 2015, contributing to a positive start for Canadian children. Based on 2018 Canadian Income Survey data, the poverty rate for children decreased to 8.2 percent in 2018 from 9 percent in 2017. The CCB is having a significant positive impact on families.

Since July 2018, the CCB has been indexed to keep pace with the cost of living, ensuring that the CCB continues to help Canadian families over the long term. Indexing the CCB will provide an additional $5.6 billion in support to Canadian families over the 2018–2019 to 2022–2023 period. That means Canadian families will have more money to help keep up with rising costs for things like healthy food, sports programs and music lessons. With this increase, in the 2019–20 benefit year, the maximum annual benefit will be $6,639 per child under 6 years of age, and $5,602 per child aged 6 through 17. Families with less than $31,120 in adjusted family net income receive the maximum benefit.

In addition, the mandate letter of the Minister of Children, Families, and Social Development includes commitments to increase the CCB by 15 percent for children under the age of one.

Furthermore, the Government is working to increase take up of the CCB with Indigenous families, including those living on-reserve. To support this work, in Budget 2018 the Government provided $17.3 million over three years, starting in 2018–2019, to improve access to the CCB and other benefits, to expand outreach efforts to Indigenous communities, and to conduct pilot outreach activities for urban Indigenous communities.

Early learning and childcare is also critical to childhood development and creates a foundation for a child’s future success. To help children get the best start in life, the Government announced $7.5 billion over 11 years for more high quality, affordable childcare spaces across the country through the Multilateral Early Learning and Child Care Framework. 

As part of this investment, the federal government has entered into three year bilateral agreements with each province and territory providing $1.2 billion from 2017-18 to 2019-20 for early learning and childcare programs. Governments are reporting annually on progress made in relation to the Framework and bilateral agreements, and in August 2019, the Government of Canada released the first National Progress Report on Early Learning and Child Care.

Investments with provinces and territories are supporting the creation of up to 40,000 more affordable childcare spaces and results to date suggest that this target has been largely achieved. As a result, thousands of parents are more likely to enter the labour force once childcare is made more affordable.

As part of this work, ESDC in partnership with Health Canada, Public Health Agency of Canada, Status of Women Canada, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and Indigenous organizations developed a distinct Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care Framework, reflecting the unique cultures and needs of First Nations, Inuit and Métis children. Starting in 2018-19, $1.7 billion over 10 years will be invested to strengthen culturally appropriate early learning and childcare for Indigenous children.

The Government also recognizes that the provision of safe, stable housing and related supports is an important element of addressing poverty and helping individuals achieve an improved quality of life.  This is why the Government launched the National Housing Strategy (NHS), which will not only reduce or eliminate housing need for 530,000 households and reduce chronic homelessness by 50% by 2028, but will also focus on meeting the needs of our most vulnerable populations. The government is taking affordability to heart, setting ambitious targets over 10 years. Specifically, the NHS will create 125,000 new housing units, repair another 300,000 units, and will remove or reduce housing need for as many as 530,000 households. Additionally, we will protect 385,000 community housing units, expand our stock by another 55,000 units and reduce chronic homelessness by 50% by 2028. In the spring of 2019, the Government passed the National Housing Strategy Act (NHS Act) into law. The NHS Act binds future governments to developing a national housing strategy and works towards progressively advancing the right to adequate housing. The introduction of the NHS Act is a big step forward, as it also provides important opportunities for persons in housing need or homelessness and communities affected by systemic housing issues to have their voices heard through the Federal Housing Advocate and the National Housing Council. Launching in 2020, the $4-billion Canada Housing Benefit (CHB) is designed to meet local needs and provide affordability support directly to families and individuals in need. It is estimated to grow to significantly reduce or eliminate housing affordability challenges for over 300,000 of the most vulnerable households.

To provide tax relief for low-income families and encourage Canadians to stay in the workforce, the federal government introduced the Working Income Tax Benefit (WITB) in 2007. As part of Budget 2018, the Government introduced the Canada Workers Benefit (CWB), a strengthened version of the Working Income Tax Benefit, to help low-income workers take home more money while they work and to encourage more people to join and stay in the workforce. The CWB is a refundable tax credit that supplements the earnings of low-income workers. More than 2 million working Canadians are expected to benefit from the CWB for the tax year 2019.

Through Budget 2018, the Government has increased the maximum CWB annual benefit, as well as the income level at which the benefit is phased out. As a result of these enhancements, a low-income worker earning $15,000 a year could receive close to $500 more under the program for the 2019 tax year than they received for 2018. Overall, for the 2019 tax year, unattached workers are able to receive up to $1,355 from the enhanced CWB, and couples and single parents up to $2,335.

The Government has also increased the maximum benefit provided through the CWB disability supplement to offer greater support to Canadians with disabilities who face financial barriers to entering the workforce. The disability supplement can represent an additional $700 for both individuals and families.

The government also recognizes that some low-income workers are not receiving the benefits to which they are entitled, because some lower-income workers do not claim the benefit on their tax return. To address this issue, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is now automatically determining whether tax filers are eligible for the benefit, even if they do not claim it, to ensure that everyone entitled to the CWB receives it. Automatic enrollment is expected to benefit an estimated 300,000 additional low-income workers for the 2019 tax year as a result of these changes. This represents a major step forward in fulfilling the Government’s commitment of making sure that all Canadians receive the tax benefits and credits to which they are entitled.

CWB enhancements, combined with new investments to make sure that every worker who qualifies actually receives the benefit, will mean that the Government is investing almost $1 billion of new funding for the benefit in 2019, relative to 2018. The Government estimates that enhancements and improved take-up in 2019 will directly benefit more than 2 million working Canadians, many of whom were not benefitting from the WITB. Enhancements to the CWB for 2019 are estimated to lift approximately 74,000 persons out of poverty.

The Government has taken further action to improve access to the CWB. The CWB is generally paid once a year as part of the annual tax refund. However, eligible recipients have the option to apply for and receive up to four advance payments, totalling up to a maximum of 50 percent of the benefit, including, if applicable, the disability supplement. In Budget 2019, the Government provided the CRA with $4 million over two years, starting in 2019–2020, to conduct targeted outreach, give low-income workers improved access to the CWB throughout the year and increase awareness of the CWB, including the advance payment provision. This new funding will also allow low-income workers to apply for the CWB’s advance payment online, through CRA’s My Account.

Investments in the social and economic well-being of all Canadians has positioned the Government to develop a Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy that will best ensure all Canadians have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

 

Presented to the House of Commons
Jenica Atwin (Fredericton)
March 11, 2020 (Petition No. 431-00155)
Government response tabled
May 25, 2020
Photo - Jenica Atwin
Fredericton
Green Party Caucus
New Brunswick

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