Backgrounder: Opportunity for All – Canada’s First Poverty Reduction Strategy


Opportunity for All – Canada’s First Poverty Reduction Strategy

Canada is a prosperous country, yet in 2015 roughly one in eight Canadians lived in poverty. The vision of Opportunity for All – Canada’s First Poverty Reduction Strategy is a Canada without poverty, because we all suffer when our fellow citizens are left behind. We are all in this together, from governments, to community organizations, to the private sector, to all Canadians who are working hard each and every day to provide for themselves and their families.

The Government is committed to poverty reduction and did not wait to release a poverty reduction strategy before taking action. For example, the new Canada Child Benefit gives more money to families who need it most to help with the cost of raising children. The increase to the Guaranteed Income Supplement ensures more seniors can retire in security and dignity. And, starting in 2019, the new Canada Workers Benefit will help Canadians take home more money while they work hard to join the middle class.

The Government has also made longer-term investments in areas such as housing, clean water, health, transportation, early learning and child care, and skills and employment, which will help address multiple dimensions of poverty.

Overall, Opportunity for All 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. These include:

  • Budget 2016 introduced the Canada Child Benefit, which represents new investments of over $25 billion over five years, including the value of indexing the benefit beginning in 2018–19.
  • Budget 2016 increased the Guaranteed Income Supplement top-up for single seniors with new investments of over $7 billion over 10 years.
  • Budget 2017 introduced Canada’s first National Housing Strategy. The 10-year, $40-billion plan will give more Canadians a place to call home and includes $16.1 billion in federal investments in provincial and territorial housing programs and $2.1 billion for Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy.
  • Through investments made in Budget 2017 and Budget 2018, the Government announced dedicated funding of over $1.7 billion for Indigenous housing, including:
    • $600 million over three years to support housing on reserve as part of a 10-year First Nations Housing Strategy;
    • $240 million over 10 years as announced in Budget 2017 to support housing in Nunavut;
    • $400 million over 10 years to support an Inuit-led housing plan in the Inuit regions of Nunavik, Nunatsiavut and Inuvialuit; and
    • $500 million over 10 years to support the Métis Nation’s housing strategy.
  • The Government has made the following significant investments in public transit infrastructure:
    • Budget 2016 announced $3.4 billion over three years to upgrade and improve public transit systems across Canada.
    • Budget 2017 announced an additional $20.1 billion over 11 years in public transit infrastructure to transform the way that Canadians live, move and work.
    • A further $5.0 billion was announced in Budget 2017 for public transit projects that will be funded through the Canada Infrastructure Bank.
  • Budgets 2016 and 2017 announced combined investments of $7.5 billion over 11 years to improve the affordability, quality and accessibility of Early Learning and Child Care, including for Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care.
  • Budget 2018 provided additional investments of $2.7 billion over six years through Labour Market Transfer Agreements with provinces and territories to help Canadians prepare for, find, advance in and keep good jobs.
  • Budget 2018 introduced the new Indigenous Skills and Employment Training Program to replace the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy with an incremental investment of almost $450 million over five years and nearly $100 million per year ongoing.
  • Budget 2018 introduced the new Canada Workers Benefit to strengthen and replace the Working Income Tax Benefit with new investments of $3 billion over five years, which includes measures to improve access to the Benefit.
  • Budget 2017 provided $11 billion over 10 years to support better home care and mental health initiatives through agreements with provinces and territories.

These actions will help lift about 650,000 Canadians out of poverty by 2019, with more expected as the impacts of these investments are realized in the years to come.

Opportunity for All also sets the foundation for future government investments in poverty reduction. It is based on three pillars to focus Government actions to reduce poverty:

  • Dignity: Lifting Canadians out of poverty by ensuring basic needs—such as safe and affordable housing, healthy food and health care—are met;
  • Opportunity and Inclusion: Helping Canadians join the middle class by promoting full participation in society and equality of opportunity; and
  • Resilience and Security: Supporting the middle class by protecting Canadians from falling into poverty and by supporting income security and resilience.

Opportunity for All offers a bold vision for Canada as a world leader in the eradication of poverty, with progress validated in terms of its alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of ending poverty.

For the first time in Canada’s history, the Strategy sets 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, for the first time, ambitious and concrete poverty reduction targets: 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.

Through Opportunity for All, we are putting in place a National Advisory Council on Poverty to advise the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development on poverty reduction and to publicly report, in each year, on the progress that has been made toward poverty reduction.

The Government also proposes to introduce the first Poverty Reduction Act in Parliament in Canada’s history. This Act would entrench the targets, Canada’s Official Poverty Line and the Advisory Council into legislation.

Opportunity for All is a whole-of-government Strategy that involves actions and investments that span across the federal government. However, the Government recognizes that to be successful, it cannot act alone. Partnerships will be important. The Government will work closely with provinces, territories and municipalities, and will forge strong bonds with Indigenous peoples, stakeholders, charities and community groups on the front lines of tackling poverty in communities across Canada, to ensure our programs and policies are aligned and complementary, as Canadians expect and deserve nothing less. And, finally, the Government will continue to reach out to all Canadians who all have a stake in Opportunity for All, particularly those who live in poverty.

The Government will continually track and make improvements to how poverty is measured. Progress will therefore be measured against, and future decisions will be informed by, evidence that is based on the highest statistical standards, building on the Prime Minister’s leadership and the commitment G7 leaders made this year to measure growth that works for everyone.

The Government will advance the dialogue with Canadians from all corners of the country, so we can continue to build a Canada without poverty.

Opportunity for All will help reduce poverty, support Canadians working hard to join the middle class and build a diverse, prosperous and truly inclusive country where everyone benefits from economic growth—a country where all Canadians can realize their full potential.

Poverty is: The condition of a person who is deprived of the resources, means, choices and power necessary to acquire and maintain a basic level of living standards and to facilitate integration and participation in society.

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