Ending Poverty and Homelessness in Canada

With all the advantages Canada enjoys, there is no credible reason why poverty should exist in this country in our time.  We have made progress.  The number living in households below the basic needs poverty line had fallen below 5% by 2009; by 2013 the number living in households living below the low income cut off (LICO) had fallen below 10%.  Overall, a very small portion of the Canadian population is stuck in low income year after year.  According to Statistics Canada, from 2005 to 2010 only 1.5% of Canadians were in persistent low income – a percentage that has been falling since the 1990s.[1]  But we need to finish the job of ending destitution in Canada.  By concentrating effort and resources on those most in need, we should be able to reduce levels of poverty and homelessness among children, seniors, indigenous, disabled, new and all other Canadians to very low levels.


This will require research, teamwork and community effort to ensure we are not missing anyone.  It will also require transparency and accountability to ensure we are truly helping those who are most vulnerable.  The best way to eliminate poverty is by creating jobs.  But we need to equip those seeking work with the skills, knowledge and mobility to enter the workforce.


Every Canadian deserves to have a place they call home.  Societies with high levels of trust tend to have lower levels of homelessness.  But homelessness recurs when other issues are not tackled – from mental illness and addiction to skills training.  Our first priority must be ensuring adequate housing for all who live on First Nations reserves.  But Canada’s cities should also set themselves a target of eliminating homelessness.


As Leader of the Opposition and Prime Minister, I would:


(i)             champion deep tax cuts and strengthen incentives to work for low income earners, seniors and low income families with children;


(ii)           for those who leave their home province or territory to take a full-time job, make tax deductible the first six months of rent or up to $20,000 of a down payment on a home;


(iii)          launch a programme of private sponsors for homeless persons;


(iv)          commit a special programme, delivered by the Department of National Defence and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, together with partners at all levels, to the prevention and elimination of homelessness among veterans, as well as to research and training on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, its treatment, prevention and other operational stress injuries;


(v)           connect well-housed communities with those with housing needs, including urban, isolated and indigenous communities;


(vi)          complete the renewal of federally-funded First Nations housing on reserve; where local agreement permits, ensure homes become the property of their residents;


(vii)        offer all unemployed and homeless persons a national skills training programme to prepare them for entry-level and skilled positions;


(viii)       scale up Housing First, together with all associated services;


(ix)          provide federally-funded mental health and addiction treatment for the homeless; and


(x)           strengthen federally-funded research into poverty and homelessness in Canada, while identifying most vulnerable groups and most effective solutions.


[1] Charles Lammam, Hugh MacIntyre, ¨An Introduction to the State of Poverty in Canada,¨ Fraser Institute, January 2016, p. i-ii.

Alexandra Day