In September 2007, Community Development Halton’s Community Dispatch focused on the Poverty Reduction Strategy outlined in the report Summoned to Stewardship: Make Poverty Reduction a Collective Legacy. “Summoned to Stewardship” calls for a joint commitment and investment by federal and provincial governments to specific targets and timelines to seriously address poverty, particularly child poverty, in Canada. It also noted with disturbing clarity that Ontario has become the “child poverty centre of Canada.”
Released during the campaign period leading up to the Ontario election, “Summoned to Stewardship” resonated in many quarters as an urgent call to action.
Shortly after its release, Premier Dalton McGuinty made a commitment to making poverty reduction a priority of his government, stating that he would introduce firm targets for poverty reduction within a year of re-election. He named Deb Matthews as minister responsible for the development of an Ontario poverty reduction strategy. This commitment was reiterated in the recent Speech from the Throne.
In Halton, Regional Chair Gary Carr, on behalf of Regional Council, has recently written to Premier McGuinty, applauding this action toward poverty reduction in Ontario, and affirming Halton’s understanding that poverty reduction requires the commitment of all levels of government.
Despite widespread agreement that to successfully address poverty requires investment and cooperative action among all levels of government, Canada has no national poverty reduction strategy. Nevertheless, two provinces, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador, have boldly struck out on their own to do what can be done within their areas of jurisdiction. Both initiatives are of recent vintage, Quebecï¿½s strategy dating from 2004, and Newfoundland and Labradorï¿½s from 2006; however, there are already indications that these ambitious endeavours are achieving considerable success in poverty reduction in those provinces.
Specific strategies may vary according to the particular circumstances in different provinces and regions; however, those adopted by Newfoundland and Labrador and by Quebec share with “Summoned to Stewardship” an understanding of the policy components that are required in a successful poverty reduction strategy, as well as recognition of the vital importance of concrete targets and timelines. We believe they may provide important examples to Ontario of what can be achieved. This edition of our Community Dispatch provides some highlights of the strategies being followed in those two provinces.
May poverty reduction be the legacy of the New Year 2008.
Joey Edwardh, Executive Director
NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
In 2005, the government of Newfoundland and Labradorï¿½s Speech from the Throne affirmed its commitment to:
transform Newfoundland and Labrador over a ten-year period from a province with the most poverty to a province with the least poverty.
The government embarked upon consultations with individuals and organizations, identifying the complex dimensions of poverty and developing medium-term goals to be accomplished over the ensuing four years: improved access and coordination of services for those with low income; a stronger social safety net; improved earned incomes; increased emphasis on early childhood development; a better educated population.
The government began implementing the Action Plan in its 2006/07 fiscal year. In addition to the initiatives shown in the comparison table, Newfoundland also embarked on numerous other endeavours, among them initiatives for nutrition programs for children; education initiatives for skilled trades, literacy and adult education; and increased funding for family justice and women’s centres. It has also recently named, as has New Brunswick, a Minister Responsible for the Volunteer and Non-Profit Sector, important community actors in poverty reduction and prevention. One of the most important components of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Action Plan is its commitment to measuring outcomes. Recognizing that improving its capacity to track progress is a priority, the Action Plan nonetheless embodies important mechanisms for making government accountable for progress toward reaching the goals of the poverty reduction strategy.
Quebec’s poverty reduction strategy is enshrined in legislation. The goal of the Act to Combat Poverty and Social Exclusion (2002) is:
to progressively make Quebec, by 2013, one of the industrialized nations having the least number of persons living in poverty, according to recognized methods for making international comparisons.
The Act mandates some extremely specific measures, especially in regard to eligibility and income calculations under Quebec’s Employment-Assistance Program, as well as clear expectations of reporting, consultation and an “observatory” to exchange information on statistics and indicators by which progress can be measured.
In addition to the elements shown in the following table, Quebec’s initiative also includes nutrition and food security measures; specific recognition of social inclusion as a goal of its poverty reduction strategy; the promotion of respect for and protection of the dignity of persons living in poverty; and supporting gender-based analysis.
Comparison of Strategies:
“Summoned To Stewardship” – Quebec – Newfoundland & Labrador
|Poverty Reduction Strategies||“Summoned to Stewardship” proposals||Quebec
Government Action Plan to Combat Poverty and Social Exclusion
|Newfoundland & Labrador
Poverty Reduction Strategy
|Targets, timelines and progress||Reduction of poverty by at least:
25% by 2012
50% by 2017
|“To progressively make Quebec, by 2013, one of the industrialized nations having the least number of persons living in poverty, according to recognized methods for making international comparisons.”
(An Act to combat poverty and social exclusion (2002) www2.publicationsduquebec.gouv.qc.ca)
Progress to Date:
(From Year Three Report, Oct 2007 http://www.mess.gouv.qc.ca/publications/pdf/ADMIN_bilan-plan-action_annee3_en.pdf)
|“To transform Newfoundland and Labrador over a ten-year period from a province with the most poverty to a province with the least poverty.”
(Reducing Poverty: An Action Plan for Newfoundland and Labrador (2006)
Progress to Date:
(Govt of Newfoundland and Labrador Media Release & Backgrounder, July 3, 2007 http://www.releases.gov.nl.ca/releases/2007/hrle/0703n01.htm)
|Accountability/ administrative measures||The Minister of Employment and Social Solidarity has overall responsibility. The Act requires government to:
|Overall investments||Planned $2.5b over first 5 years, boosted to actual $3b||$ 64m annually, enhanced for 2007 to $ 91m|
|Child benefit||Increase National Child Benefit Supplement to $5,100 (in 2007 dollars)||Universal Child Assistance measure with $2,000 annual support (over and above federal child benefits) for first child, $1,000-1,500 for each additional child||
|Work tax credits (to minimize payroll and income tax impact on those who find work)||Recommended that Federal government institute work tax credits of $2,400/yr||Implementation of “Work Premium,” work tax credit for low- and middle-income workers. Can add $2,000+ to incomes of those earning $10,000-$20,000. Helps 536,000 households (200,000 families with children)||Elimination or reduction in income taxes for 30,000 low income individuals|
|Minimum wage||Federal min. wage of $10/hr (2007 dollars)
Increase and index Ontario min. wage to retain value of $10/hr (2007 dollars)
|Quebec Minimum Wage:
May 2004 – $ 7.30 per hour
May 2005 – $ 7.60 per hour
May 2006 – $ 7.75 per hour
May 2007 – $ 8.00 per hour
|Provincial minimum wage increased from $6 to $7, with a further increase to $8/hr scheduled by Apr 1/08 (a 33% increase overall)|
|Restored Employment Insurance (EI) eligibility, and transitional support with decency and dignity||Recommended that Federal government restore EI eligibility to previous levels||Modifications to increase eligibility for the Quebec Employment-assistance program||Job Start benefit has assisted 1,200 Income Support recipients in transition to work, by helping to bridge time lag before first pay.|
|Other income supports||Recommended that social assistance payments be raised to 80% of LICO, then to 100% when minimum wage allows a full-time full-year income 20% above LICO.||
||Goal: Increase Income Support rates
Implemented to date:
|Income for those with disabilities||Basic income system for those people with disabilities||120,000 households with at least one adult with a severely limited capacity for employment are eligible for Quebec employment-assistance benefits.||Goal: to increase disability supports
Implemented to date:
|Early learning and child care||Recommended that Federal government make major investments in early learning & child care
Recommended that provinces invest provincial revenue in early learning & childcare
|Affordable housing||Recommended that the Federal government invest in social housing.
Recommended that provincial governments invest revenue in affordable housing.
||Goal: Increase availability of affordable housing
Implemented to date:
|Prescription drug and dental benefits for those with low income||Recommended that provincial governments invest revenue in extended drug and dental benefits for those of low income||Free prescription drugs for those seniors who receive at least 95% of the Guaranteed Income Supplement and for all recipients of last-resort financial assistance programs||
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