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Positive policy

by Patrick Raftis

And now for something completely different: a story of a government accomplishing something worthwhile through a policy initiative.

Figures released by Statistics Canada last week indicate the number of Canadians living in poverty is shrinking.

Data released from the agency’s Canadian Income Survey for 2017 shows median income, after taxes, for Canadian families rose by 3.3 per cent to $59,800.

In total terms, the improvement isn’t massive. In 2017, 3.4 million Canadians, 9.5%of the population, lived below the poverty line, a slight decrease from 10.6% in 2016.

Still cause for optimism exists in a large reduction in the number of children living below the poverty line. In 2017, 622,000 children, 9%, were living below the designated poverty line, while in 2016 the number was 755,000 children, or 11%. In 2015, the number was 900,000, still down from 2012 when 15% were officially considered poor — more than a million children.

The numbers also show even larger improvement among older Canadians. In 2017, just 238,000 seniors were living below the poverty line, 3.9% of the total population, a reduction of more than 16% from the 2016 level.

One of the first things the current Liberal government did under newly-elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was to launch Opportunity for All – Canada’s First Poverty Reduction Strategy.

Without new program spending, just more efficient spending, the aim was to help lift Canadians out of poverty.

Key elements included:

- a new Canada Child Benefit;

- an increase to the Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors; and

- starting in 2019, the Canada Workers Benefit, a tax credit designed to help working Canadians take home more money.

Stats Can notes 2017 was the first full year in which Ottawa distributed the Canada Child Benefit, which allows any family with a child to receive up to $6,400 per child under the age of six, and $5,400 per child aged six through 17, with the implication being the move impacted the child poverty numbers.

While the current focus of the media and much of the electorate will likely continue to remain on the mushrooming SNC-Lavalin (Affair? Scandal? Crisis? Pick one) at the federal level and the latest Doug Ford fiasco provincially, it’s interesting every now and then to step back and imagine what could be accomplished if politicians could ever be persuaded to focus more on policy, than chicanery.


March 8, 2019


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