What is the Federal Government Doing About Poverty In Canada?
In August 2018, the Canadian Government released Opportunity for All – Canada’s first Poverty Reduction Strategy. It is based on three main ideas:
- Dignity – Lifting everyone out of poverty by providing basic needs such as food, shelter and health care.
- Opportunity and Inclusion – Reducing poverty by providing equal opportunities and participation in society to all Canadians.
- Resilience and Security – Reducing poverty by supporting income security and resilience and helping the middle class by protecting them from falling into poverty.
Deploying this program is in alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and aligns with its targets to eliminate poverty in Canada (Government of Canada).
The History-BC and Poverty
BC has always had its fair share of poverty levels, especially in the Vancouver region. Following the confederation, rapid increases in population in the early 1900s were not kept up with the economic growth in Vancouver. Vancouver saw an increase of 220,000 people from 1901-1929. In the last half of the 19th century, a new type of poverty was introduced, poverty in which was derivative not from typical seasonal job shortages but from a lack of wage-paid jobs which stemmed from business closures and layoffs due to economic turns. In 1944, the Federal Government introduced a social welfare program known as the Family Wellness program to diminish poverty levels in large Canadian cities. Similarly, today many actions to reduce poverty are being implemented by organizations and governments. However, today, poverty is still rampant in BC and the Lower Mainland (Read more here).
Poverty in BC Now
A report published by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC, 2020), nearly one in five children in BC lives in extreme poverty, whereas that number is double on the First Nations reserves. Based on the same report, poverty affects more severely.
“…children of immigrants and refugees, children from female lone-parent families, children in racialized families, those affected by disabilities, and youth transitioning out of government care are at greater risk of living in poverty.”
How much does poverty cost in BC?
Contrary to popular belief, poverty does not just affect those who can’t afford necessities; it negatively affects any society.
According to Canada Without Poverty (a federally incorporated, non-partisan, not-for-profit and charitable organization dedicated to eliminating poverty in Canada), high poverty rates directly influence the [economy], healthcare, and criminal justice systems. It affects health as lack of food, shelter, and access to medical care decreases productivity, savings, and overall quality of life. Poverty can double or triple the chances of developing diabetes and other health complications.
The bottom line is that poverty in BC represents a direct cost to the Government alone of $2.2 to $2.3 billion annually, or close to 6 percent of the provincial budget. The cost to society overall is considerably higher — $8.1 to $9.2 billion, or between 4.1 percent and 4.7 percent of BC’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product, or the size of our economy). That is as much as $2,100 for every man, woman and child in BC, or $8,400 for a family of four, every year. In contrast, the estimated cost of a comprehensive poverty reduction plan in BC is $3 to $4 billion per year.
Poverty also leads to higher crime rates and increased incarcerations. Higher incarnations rates mean higher costs for the Government and taxpayers. Although eliminating the poverty gap won’t be cheap, continuing to ignore this problem will, on average, continue to cost British Columbia between $8.1 to $9.2 billion every year[See additional info].