November 18 2008
Poverty in Canada
In 2006, the value of goods and services produced in Canada was over a trillion dollars – amounting to an estimated $35,600 in wealth generated for every man, woman and child in the country, or $142,400 for a family of four. Despite this vast wealth, there is an ever-widening gap between high-income and low-income individuals and households in Canada. This “growing gap” is contributing to a widening social divide in Canada: a comparative few have unlimited opportunity to fulfill their dreams and potential; many more citizens strain to meet their basic needs. (For excellent detailed information on the growing gap, maintained by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, check here .)
At least 3.4 million people – or about one in ten Canadians – lived in poverty in Canada in 2006. They included an estimated 760,000 children and youth. Demographic groups most susceptible to poverty include Aboriginal people, people with disabilities, single parents (primarily women) and their children, recent immigrants to Canada, and those toiling in low-paying jobs.
To live in poverty in Canada is to live with insufficient and often poor quality food. It is to sleep in poor quality housing, in homeless shelters, or on city streets. It is to be at much greater risk of poor health. It is to be unable to participate fully in one’s community and greater society. And it is to suffer great depths of anxiety and emotional pain, borne by young and old alike.
The persistence of poverty and income inequality, and their negative impacts on health, social cohesion and economic prosperity calls out for vision, leadership and unwavering determination to tackle the root causes of these problems. The National Anti-Poverty Organization is dedicated to this agenda.
Did You Know?
There is no official definition of poverty in Canada and no official “poverty lines” for the nation. However, there are several measures of “low income” which are often used as proxies for poverty lines. These measures include the Low Income Cut-off (LICO), the Low Income Measure (LIM) and the Market Basket Measure (MBM). For a short review of these measures, check here (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader). NAPO
Since 2006 the poverty rates in Canada have increased a great deal.
One in five children live in poverty or more. Canada does not keep very good statistics in this area.
I do believe the Government wants to hide the truth form it’s citizens.
There are more full time working homeless people then ever before.
There are more Homeless then before 1995.
Ontario for the first time in history has become a have not province.
Of course Mike Harris and de-regulation and numerous other policies had a profound affect on the necessities such as heat, hydro and housing. All drastically increased.
His legacy lives on in Ontario. Seems his policies played a great role in the problems Ontario now faces today.
Affordable housing is a thing of the past.
Cutting welfare rates by 20% had a dramatic affect on people. It also took out money from the economy and job losses did occur because of the cuts. Less people spending money means job losses.
Implementing the Work For Welfare also played a great role in lowering wages and punishing the jobless. Working for six months and then one is moved on to the next employers. The employer gets free labour. So why would they hire a person when they can get a new free worker in six months?
Employers also abuse the work incentive programs. Hire an employee and you get a percentage of the wages for the employee from the Government. Many times the employee is fired after the six month period and the Employer hires another employee and gets well you said it a portion of their wages for yet another six month period and the cycle continues.
Abusive employers are common.
His policies on the working people, also decreased wages workers received, and their safety.
Less people spending money, causes job losses.
Many of the Harris policies have been implemented in other provinces as well.
Canadians are not the wealthy strong country it once was.
Many of the policies implemented were in the Free Trade agreement.
Cutting Social programs, destroying labour, lowering wages, reducing environmental protections, de-regulation, etc.
Homelessness and hunger in Ontario
By Lee Parsons
23 October 1998
Several reports over the past weeks have drawn attention to the growth of hunger and homelessness across Canada, and in Ontario in particular.
One such study conducted by the Canadian Association of Food Banks, called “Hunger Count 1998,” reveals that the number of people forced to use food banks has increased dramatically in the past several years. More than 700,000 people used one of 2,141 food banks last year in Canada, an increase of 5.4 percent over 1996. The sharpest rise was in Nova Scotia, which saw an increase of 40 percent. Food bank use in Ontario, while climbing only 2.1 percent, has recorded an increase of over 30 percent in the last three years.
The Daily Bread Food Bank in Toronto is the largest of its kind in Ontario and has become a permanent necessity since its establishment nearly 20 years ago. While the food bank issues reports regularly, the approach of winter in Ontario has focused media attention on a number of its recent publications that look at the broader effects of poverty in one of the wealthiest cities in North America.
While a good deal of attention, legitimately enough, has been paid to the plight of poor children in Ontario, who account for 41.5 percent of food bank users, the poverty of their parents and other adults is often overlooked. Revealing statistics in one report from Daily Bread, “Who goes hungry?,” show that among adults polled who use food banks, the majority were childless and a disproportionate two-thirds were in their thirties or forties–prime earning years. With incomes of between 25 to 50 percent below the government low-income cutoff or poverty line, the percentage of those counted as the poorest of the poor is increasing.
Another study reveals the connection between poor health and hunger, as well as other important features of systemic poverty in Ontario and in its largest urban center in particular. Entitled “No Apples today … maybe tomorrow,” the report declares that with almost one-third of those who use food banks suffering poor health, hunger is a health issue. While it may come as no surprise that those who lack adequate nutrition are also more likely to have poor health, this report is valuable in elaborating concretely the impact of the decline in living standards in the province. However, as the study itself states: “Food banks are not a viable option for addressing the long term problem of poor health and hunger.”
On another front the Toronto disaster relief committee issued a report last week calling homelessness a national disaster that should be treated like last winter’s devastating ice storm. Ontario Premier Mike Harris responded by saying, “I don’t know whether it’s a national state of emergency at this point of time. I don’t know whether it’s any worse than last year.”
Advocacy groups have raised the issue of homelessness in anticipation of a large shortfall in available space. Current shelters are filled to capacity. Last year in Toronto 26,000 people used emergency shelters, and that number is expected to increase over the next 12 months. It is estimated that 700 new beds will have to be found to meet the demand even if it stays at last year’s level. Some 4,700 individuals are currently homeless in Toronto, with about 4,200 of them staying in emergency shelters and the rest sleeping outside. The city has set up a task force to find a long-term solution, but without adequate funding officials are pressed simply to meet immediate needs.
Responding to a task force report on homelessness commissioned by her office, Ontario Social Services Minister Janet Ecker stated that the cuts to welfare would help Ontario’s homeless people to build a life off the streets (What BS that was). According to Ecker, the government is out of the subsidized housing business, which she declares is not the only answer to the problem. The report, while outlining the extent of the crisis, offers no solutions and places the responsibility on municipalities.
Ecker applauded the report and went on to boast that there are 133,000 fewer children on welfare today than in 1995 (many ended up homeless). The reason for this change is not that poor families have fared any better over that period, but that changes to welfare eligibility and a 21.6 cut in benefits have removed welfare as a means of support for thousands of poor families. Ecker’s ministry is reportedly seeking to expand the “workfare” program which is currently in place only for public sector and nonprofit agencies.
Opposition critics called the 22-page study pitiful, pointing out that while it calls for cities to get people off the streets and into hostels, the hostels are already full. In Toronto an advisory committee on homelessness has suggested setting up tent cities and trailer parks to solve the growing crisis. The solutions offered resemble measures taken in 1946 when the city faced a housing crisis resulting from the return of soldiers from the Second World War.
Referring to the destruction of social programs by both provincial and federal governments, Councilor Jack Layton, who heads the committee, stated, “The hostels are full, affordable housing programs have been canceled, rents are being allowed to go up–we really are stuck here, and we’ve been abandoned totally by Ottawa and Queen’s Park.” Ann Golden, head of Toronto’s homelessness task force, said the report ignores issues of poverty and the housing market, and the shortage of supportive housing needed to keep the mentally ill off the streets.
NDP Member of the Provincial Parliament Rosario Marchese stated, “This is a man-made crisis that can only be corrected by the provincial government taking the lead–and that means housing.” When the NDP was in power it pioneered the workfare program and quashed plans to build 20,000 nonprofit housing units, measures that contributed to the current social crisis.
Actions taken by every level of government have helped swell the ranks of the poor. The federal Liberals have cut billions from transfer payments to the provinces that finance social programs, while posting a surplus of nearly $20 billion in employment insurance since restricting eligibility and reducing rates last year. Over the last 10 years the proportion of the unemployed who actually qualify for benefits has fallen from 83 to 42 percent.
In Ontario the provincial Conservative government has deepened its victimization of the poor since slashing welfare rates three years ago. Hospital closings and cuts to health care have thrown thousands of mentally ill people into the streets to fend for themselves. Waiting lists for subsidized housing now extend years into the future, with no new housing being built and existing shelter being privatized.
In Toronto tuition hikes and a shortage of decent paying jobs have worsened conditions for thousands of young people. In typical fashion bureaucrats at city hall last summer launched a campaign to criminalize the so-called “squeegee kids,” youth who make money by washing car windshields.
The harsh economic reality is about to get worse. While the full impact of government cuts to welfare, social programs and subsidized housing are now making themselves felt, it is clear that the anticipated economic downturn will place whole new sections of the population in jeopardy.
The expressions of concern from the various parliamentary parties are hypocritical. The Liberals, Tories and NDP have each, over the past period, contributed to the growth of poverty in response to the demands of big business to divest government of social responsibility and leave the poor at the mercy of the market.
Jobs outsourced to other countries also played a role in job losses as well. Many were out souced after the Free Trade Agreement was signed.
Those on welfare are more prone to illness caused by malnutrition and poor living conditions.
Job losses, low wages and lack of safety for workers have a profound impact on all concerned.
The fewer jobs, the more people have to depend on welfare. It’s a vicious circle.
Canada needs a change for a better future.
Canada is not alone in this however there are other countries, who have had increased poverty.
All the talk of Free Trade helping people out of poverty is just fabricated propaganda.
Free Trade gave Corporations everything they wanted. Cheap slave labour, more profit and the ability to pollute.
From the original Canada-US free trade agreement and NAFTA to the WTO agreements and the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas, these international treaties are about making it easier for the world’s largest corporations to lower their costs. It allows them to seek out the cheapest workers, the most lax environmental laws and to use the threat of relocation to get what they want. The notion that any country, its workers or consumers benefit from such agreements is a myth.