Poverty Elimination Act

An Act to Eliminate Poverty in Canada

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.


Tony Martin  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)


Outside the Order of Precedence (a private member's bill that hasn't yet won the draw that determines which private member's bills can be debated), as of June 16, 2010
(This bill did not become law.)


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

Part 1 of this enactment provides for the establishment of a Government of Canada strategy to eliminate poverty and promote social inclusion.
Part 2 of the enactment establishes the Office of the Poverty Elimination Commissioner independent of Government.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

November 16th, 2011 / 7:25 p.m.
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Charmaine Borg NDP Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Madam Speaker, we have voted against them because tax credits are of absolutely no help to people who have no income. These are people who are living on the streets, who cannot work, who cannot find jobs.

I am sorry, but this plan does not work; just look at the 76,000 jobs that were lost in a month. They do not have a plan, but they do not want to admit it. The government's obsession with tax credits and reductions does nothing for low-income Canadians because these people do not pay taxes. The government's tax reduction program for big business has done nothing to reduce the unemployment rate or improve the quality of jobs. What is more, this government has not invested any new money in social housing to improve social and urban diversity and reduce the tax burden.

I am proud to be part of the NDP, which introduced real plans to fight poverty during the last Parliament, such as Bill C-545 and Bill C-304.

September 19th, 2011 / 6:35 p.m.
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Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that the Conference Board of Canada and other reports have indicated that child and family poverty is increasing in this country. There are a number of measures that could be taken in order to alleviate that poverty.

I talked earlier about a job strategy. A comprehensive job strategy is an important part in lifting children and families out of poverty as is a national child care program.

There is one concrete measure that the government could take. In the previous Parliament, Tony Martin introduced Bill C-545, An Act to Eliminate Poverty in Canada. I have reintroduced Tony Martin's bill as Bill C-233 . In conjunction with consultations across Canada, that bill came out with some very concrete steps that could be taken.

Would the parliamentary secretary and the government support Bill C-233, An Act to eliminate poverty in Canada?

Opposition Motion--Seniors' PovertyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

June 20th, 2011 / 3:35 p.m.
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Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.

I begin by thanking the member for London—Fanshawe for introducing this very important motion for us to discuss in the House today. Contrary to what other members have said, New Democrats do have a plan for poverty reduction. That was Bill C-545, An Act to Eliminate Poverty in Canada introduced in June 2010. It laid out a detailed strategy for poverty elimination in the country, and I was pleased to reintroduce that bill today.

I again want to acknowledge the very good work that Tony Martin, the former member for Sault Ste. Marie, did.

As well, New Democrats have also had other plans around helping people living in poverty. One was the former Bill C-304, An Act to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians introduced by the member for Vancouver East.

Contrary to what we have heard in the House, New Democrats do have plans around poverty reduction.

I want to remind the House, because we have had a bit of a break, about what we are speaking about today. The New Democrat opposition day motion states:

That, in the opinion of this House, ending seniors' poverty in Canada is fiscally feasible, and, therefore, the House calls on the government to take immediate steps to increase the Guaranteed Income Supplement sufficiently to achieve that goal.

There has been much talk so far today about the 2011 budget. Contrary to what members of the government have said, I can assure members that many New Democrats have read that budget as have many members of the public.

I will quote a couple of things from a news release from Campaign 2000 dated June 6, 2011. This reflects in part why New Democrats do not want to support that budget.

Gerda Kaegi of the Canadian Pensioners Concerned said, “The one measure to address poverty among seniors' is paltry”. The release goes on to say:

The $50 monthly increase to the Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors is only available to those on the very least income. This proposed change is about one-third of what is needed to bring single seniors – who are mostly women - out of poverty.

Further on in the news release it says:

This budget does little to bolster the tattered safety net that has left Canadians in economic insecurity. Aboriginal people, sole support mothers, recent immigrants, racialized groups, and people with disabilities face greater risks. At the same time, inequality between the rich and the poor in Canada has grown more than in any other OECD country (except Germany).

That comment was by Dennis Howlett of Make Poverty History.

I only have 10 minutes, so unfortunately I cannot go through all the reasons why New Democrats would not support the budget.

I want to turn briefly to a report “Federal Poverty Reduction Plan: Working in Partnership Towards Reducing Poverty in Canada ”from November 2010. This was an extensive piece of work that looked at the state of poverty reduction plans in the country and made numerous recommendations. I want to quote a couple of statistics out of this, and we are talking about seniors today.

It says:

The GIS is an ideal means of reducing poverty among seniors because it targets those with a low income, particularly seniors living alone. In 2007, seniors living alone represented 28% of all seniors, but 60% of GIS recipients and 82% of seniors living below the LICOs. A senior living alone with no income other than the maximum OAS and GIS benefits would receive combined benefits of about $14,033 (January 2010 rates), which is below the LICOs for 2008 (the latest available) for a person living alone in an urban centre with a population of 30,000 or more.

The people who are receiving GIS and OAS are the poorest of the poor of the seniors and often between OAS and GIS that is pretty much all they have for an income.

This article goes on.

The member for London—Fanshawe ably outlined all of the reasons why the House should unanimously support the New Democrat motion, but I want to raise another issue that has not been raised.

Again, in this report it says that other witnesses spoke about the lack of awareness of the GIS. I want to turn briefly to the National Advisory Council on Aging, “Aging in Poverty in Canada: Seniors on the Margins”. It pointed out a couple of serious problems.

First, we have a program that is inadequate, but what we actually know is that many seniors are not accessing this already inadequate program. It says in this report that as no reliable statistics existed on under-subscription or late renewals, the National Council on Aging had research carried out in the summer of 2004 to assess the situation.

This research yielded a clear picture of under-subscription to the OAS and the Canada pension plan, revealing that large numbers of elderly seniors have not applied for these programs.

For a variety of reasons, seniors simply do not apply for these programs. New Democrats have argued that they should just be incorporated into a system like the income tax system, so that seniors at the age of 65 would not have to apply. They would automatically be considered.

Under OAS, the NACA report says about 50,000 have not applied and under GIS about 300,000 have not applied. Under CPP retirement pension about 55,000 have not applied. There is no estimate available for those who have not applied for disability benefits or survivor benefits. Many New Democrats have done CPP, disability and survivor benefit workshops in their ridings because many Canadians are simply not aware that they are entitled to those benefits.

This article goes on to say:

The sums in question are considerable. For example, the 50,000 seniors who are eligible for OAS but do not apply sustain a total income loss of $250 million a year.

That is $250 million that is not going back into our communities. When seniors apply for these benefits, they spend the money on food, on shelter, and minimal living expenses, which is all money that comes back into our communities.

The article goes on to say:

It is more often women, particularly elderly women, who fail to apply for the GIS – a group that is most at risk of living in poverty. It is worth noting that seniors who are entitled to the GIS but who do not apply are deprived not only of their GIS income, but also of all the other benefits provided through provincial and territorial programs that use the GIS as an eligibility criterion.

Not only is it affecting their GIS, but it is affecting some of their other provincial benefits. That is why it is so important that we look at a system that makes it far easier for seniors to access these benefits.

I know we are talking about the GIS, but I want to talk briefly about CPP because there is another huge injustice built into this program.

Lateness in applying for CPP benefits causes serious prejudice. Currently, a person who is late applying for his or her pension under the CPP is only entitled to 11 months of retroactive benefits. The case of a woman named Isabel, age 90, is cited. She discovers that she has been entitled to the CPP survivor benefit for the past 15 years but did not know it. Her husband Jim died at the age of 83 without ever drawing a pension. Her late application means she is entitled to retroactive benefits for a mere 11 months, even though her husband contributed to the plan while he was working and the money was his due and hers. That is a very sad statement. This is another case of late renewal.

In July year after year GIS and allowance recipients must renew their application for benefits by filling out an income tax declaration or a renewal form. Every year close to 100,000 seniors fail to renew their application on time. At present, they are sent a reminder with an enclosed renewal application form. If they fail to respond, they are temporarily excluded from the program and do not receive their benefits for July or the following month until the application for renewal is completed.

The report goes on to talk about 105,000 seniors who did not receive their GIS cheque and more than 9,000 who did not receive their allowance benefits because they had not completed their renewal on time. For many seniors this is an issue of low literacy, little or no knowledge of the programs, language barriers, and sometimes there are mental health issues. We need to make it as easy as possible for seniors.

I will just make a little note on this. A person receiving GIS benefits can lose up to $561 each month. So it is a significant amount of money for people who are living in poverty.

It is unfortunate that my time is up because I wanted to talk about hunger count and the food banks, and the fact that we are seeing an increasing number of seniors using food banks. The 2010 report indicated that the number of seniors helped by food banks grew this year from 5.5% of adults in 2008-09 to 7.2% in 2010. In some provinces, like Ontario, it was 12% and in Manitoba it was 15%. We are seeing some serious problems in our country. Seniors are being forced into using food banks just to keep food on their tables.

I would urge all members of the House to support the motion put forward by the member for London—Fanshawe. This is a small step in the right direction to help lift seniors out of poverty.

Poverty Elimination ActRoutine Proceedings

June 20th, 2011 / 3:05 p.m.
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Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-233, An Act to eliminate poverty in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I will begin by acknowledging the member for Burnaby—New Westminster for seconding this important bill.

I especially pay tribute to Tony Martin, the former member for Sault Ste. Marie, who originally introduced his Bill C-545 in the last Parliament back in June 2010. I will quote his words because he said it all. When he introduced the bill he said:

The purpose of this bill is to impose on the federal government the obligation to eliminate poverty and promote social inclusion by establishing and implementing a strategy for poverty elimination in consultation with the provincial, territorial, municipal and aboriginal governments and with civil society organizations.

This bill is an opportunity for real nation building where no one gets left behind, to build healthy communities and strong economies by taking advantage of the momentum created by the work being done at the human resources and social development standing committee and by the Dignity for All campaign.

I want to acknowledge all of the poverty reduction groups that have worked so hard on developing this bill and all of the good work done on it by people from coast to coast to coast.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy ActGovernment Orders

June 15th, 2011 / 4:10 p.m.
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Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

I want to thank the member for Hamilton Centre for that.

Bill C-3 is an important piece of legislation. New Democrats have indicated that they will support the bill at second reading and get it to committee and then we will determine whether we will continue to support it.

I want to spend my time today focusing on what is not in the bill.

An article from the Star in a report today by Stats Canada says that:

The recession stopped progress on poverty in its tracks, according to new data from Statistics Canada that indicates almost one in 10 Canadians is considered poor...the agency says the poverty rate edged up in 2009 to 9.6 per cent--the second straight year that poverty has grown after more than a decade of steady declines. About 3.2 million people now live in low income, including 634,000 children.

Today in question period we heard from the minister who agreed that poverty had edged up.

There are no significant measures in the budget to address poverty in this country, whether it is families living in poverty, whether it is children living in poverty or whether it is seniors living in poverty.

People would argue that there is an increase in the GIS, but that increase does not go nearly as far as what New Democrats had asked for prior to the election. We recognize that doubling the GIS for seniors would have some impact on the poverty they face.

New Democrats have done some significant work on suggesting what we can do to address poverty. I want to mention Bill C-545 from the previous sitting of the House, which was introduced by Tony Martin, the former member for Sault Ste. Marie. Anybody who knows Tony knows it has been his life's work to raise the consciousness in Canada around poverty and the impact that it has on our communities and our families. He worked with a number of organizations to introduce his bill called an act to eliminate poverty in Canada. We have a template here for the government. It does not have to go out and reinvent it.

I will not read the whole bill of course into the record, but I am going to talk about a couple of things.

What is poverty? As described in this act:

--poverty is the condition of a human being who does not have the resources, means, choices and power necessary to acquire and maintain economic self-reliance and to facilitate their integration into and participation in society--

It also says:

--the federal government, through constitutional and legislative amendments has direct involvement in the reduction of poverty and plays a central role in programs providing social protection and income security, including pensions, the Canada Social Transfer, the Old Age Security Program, child benefits and employment insurance benefits--

It also talks about the fact that there are many provincial governments and municipalities that either have poverty reduction strategies in place or are working toward implementing them.

The purpose of this act is to impose on the federal government the obligation to eliminate poverty and promote social inclusion by establishing and implementing a strategy for poverty elimination and consultation with the provincial, territorial, municipal and aboriginal governments and civil society organizations. It was specific.

Then it outlined what this poverty and promotional social inclusion strategy would include. I am not going to read them all but there are a couple of key points. It includes the measures necessary to prevent people from falling into poverty, reduce the incidence, depth and duration of poverty and improve the situation of all people currently living in poverty, including those living in deep poverty or poverty of long duration and those who have multiple needs.

It says it includes measures to provide income security and access to housing, includes measures to promote the involvement of Canadians in determining and implementing the solutions to poverty, determine an acceptable measurement of poverty for Canada and sets out targets to eliminate poverty in Canada in the short term of 1 to 3 years, the medium term of 4 to 7 years and in the long term of 8 years or more. There are many more points under this.

It is distressing when we hear members talking about the fact that the 634,000 children in Canada are living in poverty. I have to remind us all that when we are talking about children, we are talking about children and their families. It is not just children. They do not live in isolation. They live with mothers, or fathers, or brothers, or sisters. So it is important.

In 1989, we had Ed Broadbent's motion in this House to eliminate child and family poverty by the year 2000, and many of us of course have worked with campaign 2000 around the fact that we have missed that target consistently since 2000.

Once again, this budget implementation act and the budget that was introduced by the government was an opportunity to take some steps, some measurable steps, toward eliminating child and family poverty in this country and the government has failed to do that.

Just in case people think that there has not been substantial work done on this, I want to refer to the “Federal Poverty Reduction Plan: Working in Partnership Towards Reducing Poverty in Canada”, produced by the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. I only wish I had the time to read in all of the good works that are in this report. The report is the accumulation of numerous committee meetings, numerous testimonies by organizations that worked with people living in poverty, by people in poverty themselves, by aboriginal organizations. Many organizations came forward to talk about what the reality is for Canadians who simply do not have enough resources to pay their rent, to feed their children, to clothe their children, to even dream of being able to save money so that their children could have a university or a college education. Many of those stories were heartbreaking.

In my former role as aboriginal affairs critic, I am very familiar with the poverty that is facing first nations, Métis and Inuit in this country.

Sadly, I cannot read all of the recommendations in the report, but I will mention two. Recommendation 3.1.1 says:

...the federal government immediately commit to a federal action plan to reduce poverty in Canada that would see, during its first phase, the implementation of the recommendations in this report.

This action plan should incorporate a human rights framework and provide for consultations with the provincial and territorial governments, Aboriginal governments and organizations, the public and private sector, and people living in poverty, as needed, to ensure an improvement in the lives of impoverished people.

I specifically want to cite Recommendation 6.2.5, which could have been included in the budget and in the Budget Implementation Act, which states:

The Committee recommends that the federal government increase the budget for social economy initiatives and that this increased funding be used to promote job creation among low-income individuals, especially those who face serious barriers finding and securing a job.

The work has been done. The studies have been done. In fact, the legislation has been written under the old Bill C-545 . It is troubling when we see a lack of response to the serious poverty issues in this country.

I want to turn to a report by the Citizens for Public Justice because this puts some numbers to it. I know sometimes numbers put people to sleep, but I think these are important numbers.

In this report, called “Bearing the Brunt: How the 2008-2009 Recession Created Poverty for Canadian Families”. It says, under the heading “Poverty and child poverty rate”: “After the last recession, it took 14 years for the poverty rate to return to its pre-recession level”.

We are not only dealing with the current poverty in this country, but we are looking toward many years of this playing out.

It also states: “Without a poverty elimination strategy, the poverty rate in Canada will continue to rise and fall with the economic cycle. It will take a concerted effort to eradicate poverty in Canada”.

I know many on the New Democrat side come from social justice backgrounds and we think it is important, that Canada has the resources and it should have the political will to develop a poverty reduction strategy.

Let me just touch on the heading “Unemployment and Employment Insurance” for a moment. Under the subheading “Unemployment”, it states: “Job losses during the recession disproportionately affected those most economically vulnerable, as 1 in 4 workers making $10 an hour or less lost their job”.

It went on to talk about the erosion of the social safety net, how:

The recession revealed the inadequacy of EI as a social safety net.

Despite a rise in EI coverage, almost half of the unemployed did not receive benefits.

Canadians who did receive EI benefits were living in poverty unless they had another household source of income.

As many as 500,000 Canadians have exhausted their EI benefits without finding new work.

Of course we hear the job creation numbers touted in this House. What people fail to talk about is many of those jobs created were part-time, seasonal contract jobs.

Although we will be supporting this to go to second reading, it is a sad comment that we did not take this opportunity to address the poverty issues and develop a national poverty reduction strategy in this country.

PovertyPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

March 25th, 2011 / 1:10 p.m.
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Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise today to present a petition on behalf of the people of Kings—Hants in support of Bill C-545, An Act to Eliminate Poverty in Canada.

PovertyPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

March 25th, 2011 / 1:10 p.m.
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Rob Oliphant Liberal Don Valley West, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition on behalf of residents of Don Valley West and the city of Toronto in support of Bill C-545, An Act to Eliminate Poverty in Canada. It is their desire to ensure that all Canadians have access to a full livelihood and a sense of grace and dignity in life.

PovertyPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

March 25th, 2011 / 1:05 p.m.
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Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise and present a petition on behalf of 50 Nova Scotians, almost all of whom are residents of the Caritas Residence for Sisters of Charity at Mount Saint Vincent University.

These petitioners, one of whom I know very well, call upon Parliament to ensure swift passage of Bill C-545, An Act to Eliminate Poverty in Canada.

PovertyPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

March 25th, 2011 / 1:05 p.m.
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Ray Boughen Conservative Palliser, SK

Madam Speaker, I rise today to present a petition on behalf of 32 of my constituents on the subject of poverty reduction in Canada.

The petitioners are in support of Bill C-545, An Act to Eliminate Poverty in Canada. I am proud to be part of a government that is working to create jobs and growth for all Canadians in order to allow them the opportunity to rise above poverty.

PovertyPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

March 24th, 2011 / 10:15 a.m.
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Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, my second petition pertains to support for Bill C-545, An Act to Eliminate Poverty in Canada.

As the petitioners say, poverty affects over 10% of Canadians and disproportionately affects aboriginal peoples, recent immigrants, people with disabilities and children. Poverty leads to poor health, such that people living in poverty suffer more health problems and have lower life expectancy than those not living in poverty.

The implementation of poverty reduction plans in several Canadian provinces and other countries has shown that poverty can be reduced. Bill C-545 would require the federal government to develop and implement a strategy for poverty elimination in consultation with the provincial, territorial, municipal and aboriginal governments and civil society organizations.

PovertyPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

March 21st, 2011 / 3:15 p.m.
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Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table two petitions today from my riding of Hamilton Mountain signed by residents who are profoundly worried and dismayed by the Conservative government's inaction on poverty reduction.

While the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development has rejected calls to develop a comprehensive and measurable poverty reduction strategy, the petitioners see hope in the NDP's Bill C-545, An Act to Eliminate Poverty in Canada. With nearly 3.5 million Canadians living below the low income cut-off, including 800,000 children growing up in poverty, it is time to show leadership.

The petitioners know that poverty is linked to poor health outcomes, social exclusion and lower life expectancy. They also know that poverty impedes the economic and social development of society as a whole. For all of these reasons, the petitioners call on Parliament to give swift passage to Bill C-545 and begin the implementation of a strategy for poverty elimination immediately.

I know the rules of this chamber do not allow me to endorse a petition but let me just conclude by saying that I am absolutely delighted to have had the opportunity to table this one in the House today.

PovertyPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

March 21st, 2011 / 3:15 p.m.
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Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to table a petition in the House that I am sure my colleagues will support. It is one of hundreds of petitions out there across the country right now in support of Bill C-545, An Act to Eliminate Poverty in Canada. I am happy to stand in support of this. It is an act that would go a long to bringing the federal government back into the game where eliminating poverty in the country is concerned and establishing a national anti-poverty strategy.

PovertyPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

March 11th, 2011 / 12:15 p.m.
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Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I wish to present a petition on behalf of 44 Nova Scotians who are very concerned about people living in poverty in Canada and call upon Parliament to ensure swift passage of Bill C-545, An Act to Eliminate Poverty in Canada.

PovertyPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

March 9th, 2011 / 3:25 p.m.
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Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, the fifth petition deals with Bill C-545. The petition states that Canada ranks far behind most other developed countries in the extent of poverty among working-age adults and children.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to ensure swift passage of Bill C-545, An Act to Eliminate Poverty in Canada.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2010 / 2 p.m.
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Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, Newfoundland was one of the first provinces to move forward with a strategy. But they are saying to us that, unless the federal government is at the table, it will be difficult for them to achieve all they know they can achieve.

There is no lack of good ideas out there. We heard them from many people, and there will be a lot of them in the report that will be tabled.

Bill C-545 mentions three areas that could immediately be addressed by the federal government and by all of us here: housing, income security, and social inclusion.