No real improvement on poverty in Canada

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support for as little as $5 per month!

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Here's one election story you probably missed.

Over the past few weeks, a number of organizations working in the area of poverty eradication have released reports and updates about the reality of poverty in Canada.

But we haven't heard much about it on the campaign trail.

Campaign 2000 has mapped poverty rates in ridings across Canada, reporting that 147 ridings have child poverty rates above the national average of 19 per cent. The recent Vital Signs report highlights the growing gap between the rich and poor in Toronto. More recently, the University of Toronto research group, PROOF, in their report show that household food insecurity affects four million Canadians.

Today, Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) released "On the Margins," its annual poverty update. This follows the Dignity for All campaign's annual Chew On This events, where we saw communities across Canada join together on October 6th to call for a national anti-poverty plan. It is encouraging to know that there are so many Canadians mobilizing for an end to poverty in Canada. However, as this and other updates indicate, there has been no real improvement.

In Canada 4.9 million people live in poverty. That is 14.6 per cent of us or 1 in 7 people.

"On the Margins" shows the far-reaching impact of poverty, hitting communities across Canada. It also highlights the fact that some groups are hit harder than others. Poverty rates for Indigenous people are at 25.3 per cent, while the national poverty rate for Indigenous children is a staggering 40 per cent. And some First Nations communities are seeing up to 64 per cent child poverty. Meanwhile, poverty rates for single parent-led families and new immigrants are more than double the national rate at 34.5 per cent and 34.2 per cent respectively.

Most provinces have developed or have committed to developing poverty reduction or poverty elimination strategies. The lone holdout is British Columbia. More and more municipalities are doing the same. Edmonton mayor Don Iveson has set the goal of ending poverty in his city in a generation and has put together a task force to work toward this goal. Toronto has released its 20 year "poverty busting" plan.

With the provinces, territories, and municipalities increasingly on board, anti-poverty groups continue to ask themselves one question:

Where is the federal government is on this issue?

The federal election campaign has made it clear that the focus is on the middle class, that amorphous group that most of us tend to think we belong to but can’t really define. This does a disservice to those who struggle every day to pay their bills, to feed their children, and to participate fully in their communities.

We need a national anti-poverty plan. In February, the Dignity for All campaign presented a model plan that provides a strong starting point for federal policy action.

In the four main federal party platforms, there are some steps forward. The Conservatives are maintaining support for the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy. While we don’t yet know the details, the New Democrats have committed to a Poverty Elimination Act, which involves a national anti-poverty strategy developed in consultation with provincial/territorial, municipal, and Indigenous governments. The Liberals are proposing to increase investments in a new Canada Child Benefit, which is a combination of the Canada Child Tax Benefit and the National Child Benefit Supplement. In a different approach to addressing poverty, the Green Party has committed to developing and implementing a Guaranteed Livable Income.

So while the party leaders are not talking about poverty very much, they have made commitments we can hold them to.

And for Canadians who want to see federal leadership to end poverty in Canada, we have an important choice to make on Monday.


Darlene O'Leary is a Policy Analyst with Citizens for Public Justice, a member-driven, faith-based public policy organization in Ottawa.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable. has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.