“The federal government has an important role to play in reducing poverty in Canada,” according to the Commons HUMA committee in an important new report Federal Poverty Reduction Plan: Working in Partnership Towards Reducing Poverty in Canada. The HUMA (Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities) report is backed by all four political parties in the Commons and sets out 60 detailed recommendations on income, housing and related initiatives. It calls for stronger partnerships with provincial and territorial governments, Aboriginal groups, non-profit and private organizations and with people who are directly experiencing poverty.
The report begins with a review of poverty in Canada, including the impact on specific groups including children, lone-parent families, women, single people, seniors, Aboriginal people, people with disabilities, recent immigrants, racialized communities and low-wage workers. The report also draws out the links between poverty and physical and mental health; along with the links between poverty and hunger, and poverty and housing and homelessness. The HUMA report provides an overview of poverty reduction strategies that have been adopted in most Canadian provinces and territories, along with international experiences.
Detailed chapters examine the federal contribution to reducing poverty; children, families and vulnerable populations; housing and homelessness; plus education, training and employment.
The Wellesley Institute was invited to appear as an expert witness when the HUMA Committee was holding cross-country hearings, and our work is cited in the all-party report. The HUMA committee adopted several of our specific recommendations, including the call for a comprehensive, long-term national housing strategy; and also permanent funding for the federal government’s homelessness, housing repair and affordable housing programs (funding for these three initiatives is due to expire at the end of fiscal 2013). The HUMA committee also adopted our recommendation that the federal government take action regarding the expiry of existing long-term social housing agreements (the federal ‘step-out’ over the next two decades will lead to a cut of almost $2 billion in annual affordable housing funding). The Wellesley Institute’s Precarious Housing in Canada sets out details of housing issues and solutions.
The four parties added their own comments at the end of the report. The Conservatives “support the intent of the study and are generally supportive of the final report”, but have called for a better costing of poverty reduction strategies. The Liberals say that, while governments face fiscal challenges, “limited resources cannot be an excuse for inaction.” The Bloc Quebecois says that the actions identified are “promising” and “well thought-out”, but adds that a comprehensive strategy “must come under the Government of Quebec’s authority”. The New Democratic Party calls the HUMA report “exceptional” and points to its own legislative proposal, Bill C-545 – An Act to Eliminate Poverty in Canada, as an additional strategy.