Reflecting on Canada’s War on Poverty

Posted on April 14, 2019
By Paul Born

Holding a Maple leafEarlier this month, Canada’s progress on poverty reduction was highlighted by renowned New York Times columnist David Brooks in his column “Winning the War on Poverty.” Brooks’ article highlights that between 2015 and 2017 Canada lifted 825,000 individuals above its official poverty level. This is an incredible accomplishment. More so than just demonstrating that Canada is making progress on poverty, however, this article notes how the momentum to reduce poverty has developed from the local outward.

Twenty years ago, when it was believed that cities just dealt with sewers and building permits, Canadian cities became leaders in Collective Impact and poverty reduction. Local initiatives built up with leaders from the civic sector, the charitable sector, individuals with lived experiences of poverty, and businesses determined that they could work together – to combine and magnify their efforts.

This was the starting of Vibrant Communities and the Cities Reducing Poverty Network. This network began with 6 trail builders who became 10 in the initial phases of the network. This network was supported by the Maytree and McConnell foundations who saw the potential for local initiatives to be leaders in poverty reduction. Today, the Cities Reducing Poverty network has grown to 70 members operating in over 330 communities from coast to coast in Canada. We are proud to say that Maytree and McConnell continue to be strong partners in this work.

Locally, our member roundtables do incredible work establishing and overseeing community plans to address poverty. These strategies include the Region of Peel’s renewed 10-year plan to reduce poverty; the City of New Westminster, which has developed award winning housing strategies; and Vibrant Calgary, which launched its refreshed Enough for All strategy this month.

Collectively, as a network of communities working to reduce and end poverty, Cities Reducing Poverty is also a force for steering provincial and national priorities. Our members, for instance, have been leaders in campaigns to support living wages, increases to the minimum wage, and ending predatory lending. These campaigns have led to increases in the minimum wage throughout Canada, legislation to limit pay-day lending, and the creation of tools to support low-income borrowers.

Canada now has provincial and federal strategies to reduce poverty. We were so excited to welcome Opportunity For All: Canada’s First National Poverty Reduction Strategy. The Cities Reducing Poverty Network was highlighted both in the What We Heard Report and the strategy itself. As part of the consultation process, the members of the network hosted 33 community conversations to provide vital information and insights into the strategy.

Looking forward, we expect to continue to grow the Cities Reducing Poverty membership as our members continue to work and learn together to be leaders in poverty reduction. This year we will work across with our partners in the Federal government, provincial poverty reduction strategies, key stakeholder groups and our membership to envision ways that cities can continue to be leaders in the national strategy.

The work to end poverty is far from over, but Canadian cities through their development of community plans and the establishment of policy innovations have demonstrated a path forward. This path forward, now joined with provincial and Federal strategies provides hope and momentum to complete the work.

Take Your Learning Further

Paul Born, Poverty Reduction, Cities Reducing Poverty

Paul Born

By Paul Born

Paul is a large-scale community change facilitator. He is the author of four books including, Deepening Community and Community Conversations, two Canadian best sellers. He is the Co-founder of Tamarack and for 20 years was the CEO/Co-CEO. Paul continues at Tamarack as a coach and trainer providing coaching and training to communities interested in achieving population level change. On Sabbatical until October 2022.

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