2018 was a dynamic year for federal and provincial policies related to poverty reduction. Cities Reducing Poverty (CRP) members across Canada serve as strong advocates and partners at all orders of government, with the goal of transforming policies to be more affordable, accessible and inclusive.
Through an end-of-year survey of the CRP network, three quarters (76%) of members self-reported at least moderate policy gains, and more than half (56%) reported major policy gains under at least one policy area. Primary policy areas that members were engaged with related to housing, income, employment, education, transportation and food security.As we approach the end of 2018 and prepare to ring in 2019, here are Vibrant Communities’ Top 10 policy happenings of 2018:
- The Government of Canada released Opportunity For All – Canada’s First Poverty Reduction Strategy, which commits to reducing poverty by 20% by 2020 and 50% by 2050. On November 6, the Government of Canada tabled the Poverty Reduction Act, which entrenches into legislation the Strategy’s targets, Canada’s Official Poverty Line, and an arms-length National Advisory Council on Poverty.
- Canada’s National Housing Strategy is a 10-year, $40-billion plan launched to give more Canadians a place to call home. The Strategy was built through extensive consultations over 2 years with Canadians from all walks of life: experts, stakeholders, think tanks, and people with lived experiences, to provide a diversity of housing perspectives. It recognizes that every Canadian deserves a safe home that they can afford.
- Canada’s Child Benefit is a monthly tax-free support that helps families who need it most. This year, it was indexed to inflation, meaning increased financial support for children in low and middle-income families. The benefit will support more than half a million people – including 300,000 children – to move out of poverty.
- Alberta’s general minimum wage rose by $1.40 to $15 per hour, making it the highest minimum wage in Canada. Its provincial government has also tabled legislation that will support people unable to work due to disability, receive seniors benefits, or who are on income support for the first time, by indexing their payments to the cost of living.
- The Prince Edward Island Government launched Belonging and Thriving: A Poverty Reduction Action Plan (2019-2024). The Plan was written based on advice and input from a Poverty Reduction Advisory Council and a public engagement process, and outlines commitments to address poverty under four goal areas: help Islanders in need; support the most vulnerable; build on our supportive communities and partners; and improve the well-being of children and youth.
- The Government of New Brunswick’s Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation released its progress report on Overcoming Poverty Together: The New Brunswick Economic and Social Inclusion Plan, 2014-2019. A notable highlight from the report is a reduction of between 12 and 43% – depending on the measure of low income used – of the number of female lone-parent families living in poverty between 2009 and 2015.
- In its Budget 2018-2019, the Government of Nova Scotia announced $4 million for initiatives under the Blueprint to End Poverty. Those receiving the quarterly Poverty Reduction Credit saw an increase equivalent to $21 per month, and child support payments are no longer clawed back for recipients of income assistance. Wage exemptions for recipients of income assistance took effect, allowing recipients to keep more of their earned income each month.
- The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Budget 2018 included investments of $56 million for the Seniors’ Benefit, $65 million for the Income Supplement, an additional $2 million toward the Rent Supplement Program, and over $10 million for maintenance, repair and upkeep of public housing. Access the full list of Newfoundland and Labrador poverty reduction initiatives for 2018-2019.
- The Government of British Columbia released its What We Heard About Poverty in BC report, which reflects the input received from an extensive public engagement process, and identifies several key priorities emerging from the consultation process, including affordable housing, food security, and good jobs. The province’s new Poverty Reduction Strategy Act commits the BC Government to reduce the province’s overall poverty rate by 25% and child poverty rate by 50% in the next five years. The BC provincial strategy will be released by March 31, 2019.
- (…and one lump of coal!) Ontario announced, as part of the provincial government’s 100-day review of social assistance, that it planned to end its Basic Income Pilot on March 31, 2019. The province’s proposed Making Ontario Open for Business Act is also set to reverse several amendments that were contained in the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017, including cancelling the planned provincial minimum wage increase to $15 an hour.