Top 10 Poverty-Related Policy Changes in 2019

Posted on December 16, 2019
By Elle Richards

“In 2019, Canadians re-elected a Liberal government in October’s federal electionand have seen policies both enhanced and eroded through changes to governments at all levels. Cities Reducing Poverty works with members and across levels of government to support, advocate and influence these policies that make life better for all Canadians. Here are our highlights and lows for the past year:

  1. Opportunity for All – Canada’s First Poverty Reduction Strategywith a vision of a Canada without poverty, releases an update on its year one progress. Key supportive policies on Canada’s progress have been enhancements and efforts to increase take-up of the Canada Child Benefit and the Guaranteed Income Supplement. In June, the Poverty Reduction Act becomes law, entrenching ambitious poverty reduction targets and Canada’s Official Poverty Line. The act ensures poverty will remain a priority for years to come.
  2. Canada recruits and announces its members of the arms-length National Advisory Council on Poverty to ensure continued accountability to Canadians on poverty reduction. The Advisory Council brings together persons with lived experience, leaders, experts, academics, and practitioners working in the field of poverty reduction to advise the government on its strategy and report on progress toward meeting poverty reduction targets every year. Members include those who are actively part of our Cities Reducing Poverty network.
  3. An update on the Market Basket Measure, Canada’s Official Poverty Line, comprehensive review is released. Considerations are underway for updating the components of the basket (food, clothing, transportation, shelter and other necessities), methodology and disposable income concept. Not yet reflective of Northern parts of Canada, work is undergoing to create an adjusted measure that represents the territories. The second review is due in 2020.
  4. Statistics Canada also launches its Dimensions of Poverty Hub: a national online platform including a dashboard of 12 poverty indicators to track progress on deep income poverty as well as indicators of material deprivation, lack of opportunity and resilience.
  5. In July, the National Housing Strategy Act is enacted, strengthening and respecting the National Housing Strategy – A Place to Call Home with a rights-based approach. The strategy has been working to create opportunities and remove barriers for 530, 000 families in housing need, cut chronic homelessness by 50% and change the face of housing in Canada forever.
  6. As part of Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy, the federal government launched its Anti-Racism Action Program to support the implementation of the strategy. Intended to help address barriers to employment, justice and social participation among Indigenous peoples, racialized communities and religious minorities, it makes funding available for projects to address these barriers through the Department of Canadian Heritage.
  7. The Government of Canada and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the national voice of local governments, announce in August the Green Municipal Fund, the Municipalities for Climate Innovation Program and the Municipal Asset Management Program for communities to reduce their pollution, improve their resiliency to climate change and plan their local infrastructure with more than $2.5 million in investments.
  8. A Food Policy for Canada is released. With a vision that all people have access to a sufficient amount of safe, nutritious and culturally diverse food, it ensures that Canada’s food system is resilient and innovative, sustains our environment and supports our economy. The Food Policy will help Canada meet its commitments under the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and includes a Local Food Infrastructure Fund, a Northern Isolated Community Initiatives Fund and establishing a National School Food Program, as well as the creation of a Canadian Food Policy Advisory Council.
  9. The BC government releases its Poverty Reduction Strategy TogetherBC and $5 million in funding commitments for municipalities across the province to implement local poverty reduction strategies, creating opportunity for alignment across all levels of government.
  10. The re-elected Albertan government introduces sweeping changes to policies and slashes budgets for many of the programs deemed vital for poverty reduction. Though success in child poverty reduction has been achieved, thanks to a combination of federal and provincial child benefits, many families are expected to be negatively impacted with the new consolidated Child and Family Benefit. In addition, funding has been eliminated for the 100 Early Childhood Coalitions in the province designed to make life better for children and families.
  11. In Ontario, the government reverses a number of policy changes to social assistance announced as cuts in 2018, in response to strong community advocacy efforts. These reversals include: the Transition Child Benefit, Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Program. It has also announced the creation of a Health Spending Account for those on social assistance. A new employment program will be piloted in 2020 in three regions and is planned to be available to all job seekers.

Cities Reducing PovertyPolicyElle Richards

Elle has recently joined the Vibrant Communities team as Manager of Cities, Cities Reducing Poverty. Her experience spans corporate, academic, health and community environments, and working on national, regional and local programs of work, both strategically and operationally. In recent years, Elle has focused her work around issues of food security, poverty and inequalities in health.”