Canada Poverty Reduction

How addressing entrenched deprivation can impact economic success

In 2018, the Canadian Government published a Poverty Reduction Strategy aimed at creating a more equal and inclusive society for all Canadians. Despite the fact that Canada is a prosperous country, in 2015 roughly one in eight Canadians was living in poverty.

The vision for the country’s first poverty reduction strategy is a Canada without poverty.  Named “Opportunity for All”, the strategy brings together a total of $22 billion in investments that the Canadian Government has made since 2015 to support the social and economic wellbeing of all Canadians.

In addition to covering children and senior citizens, the investments also include housing, clean water, health, transportation, early learning/childcare and skills/employment. This broad coverage is aimed at addressing multiple dimensions of poverty.

The three pillars of Opportunity for All

To enable a strong focus from government on actions to reduce poverty, opportunity for all is based on three key pillars:

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

To kick-start the strategy and provide a benchmark for measurement, and for the first time in Canada’s history, the government created an Official Poverty Line. This measure is based on the cost of a basket of goods and services that individuals and families require to meet basic needs and achieve a modest standard of living, wherever they live in the country.

The Official Poverty Line reflects poverty thresholds across 50 different regions in Canada.  For example, a family of two adults and two children living in Winnipeg in 2015 with an annual after-tax income of $36,544 is equal to the official poverty line for Winnipeg.  The Official Poverty Line will be continually updated by Statistics Canada to reflect the current economic climate.

The government also spoke with thousands of Canadian citizens across all parts of the country to understand more about what it is like to live in poverty, how government programmes could offer support and where further work was needed. These critical and diverse voices had a significant impact on the content of Opportunity for All, reflecting the issues that real people wanted to see included and creating the three pillars above as the driving force for the whole strategy.

A range of targets and actions to implement the strategy

Opportunity for All set ambitious poverty reduction targets at the time of publication; a 20% reduction in poverty by 2020 and a 50% reduction by 2030.  If successful, these targets will facilitate the lowest poverty rate in Canada’s history.

Specific targets also include a 50% reduction in chronic homelessness and a reduction/elimination of housing need for 530,000 households.

Since 2015, the Canadian Government has invested in social and economic wellbeing for citizens through a range of programmes, including introducing the new Canada Child Benefit, increasing the Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors and starting the new Canada Workers Benefit to boost minimal earners. Long-term, sustained investment will also cover areas such as public transit infrastructure, early learning and childcare, indigenous skills and employment training, home care and mental health, housing and labour market transfer agreements.

The Canadian Government has pledged to continually track and make improvements to how poverty is measured, using evidence based on the highest statistical standards.

Results to date

Canada’s Opportunity for All Poverty Reduction Strategy has a central theme of a united Canada, where action on poverty benefits the whole country and everyone will suffer if fellow citizens are left behind.

Since launch, the strategy has already delivered concrete results. The 2022 Annual Report by the National Advisory Council for Poverty Reduction states that the overall poverty rate fell from 14.5% in 2015 to 10.3% in 2019 and 6.4% in 2020.  These figures mean that Canada has already met the goals of reducing poverty by 20% by 2020, and by 50% by 2030 – ten years early.  However, it should be noted that some pandemic interventions may have accelerated results.

The strategy continues to roll out, with extremely positive early results. Canada can now be considered a world leader in proactively addressing issues of poverty as part of a wider national economic strategy.

Whether you are trying to positively impact economic development at a micro, city, regional or national level, it is increasingly clear that economic strategies must create more benefits for the communities served by them.

Canada’s Opportunity for All Poverty Reduction Strategy can be viewed here, and results to date, as well as recommended actions,  can be viewed here.

If you would like expert assistance in creating an economic strategy for your area, that incorporates community benefits as a key component of success, contact us.

Scroll to top