Poverty Reduction Act

An Act concerning the development of a national poverty reduction strategy in Canada

Sponsor

Brigitte Sansoucy  NDP

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

Status

Defeated, as of Dec. 6, 2016

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-245.

Summary

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

This enactment provides for the development and implementation of a national strategy to reduce poverty in Canada and the appointment of an independent poverty reduction commissioner.

The enactment also amends the Canadian Human Rights Act to add social condition as a prohibited ground of discrimination.

Finally, it amends the Department of Employment and Social Development Act to establish the National Council on Poverty Elimination and Social Inclusion.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Dec. 6, 2016 Failed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

Poverty Reduction ActPrivate Members' Business

October 31st, 2016 / 11:40 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Madam Speaker, I am truly honoured to stand here today to speak about such an important piece of legislation introduced by my NDP colleague. Bill C-245 is an act concerning the development of a national poverty reduction strategy in Canada. Regardless of where one sits in the chamber, I believe everyone here wants the same thing. We want what is best for Canadians, but we have different ways of getting to that goal.

The purpose of this legislation is to create a national poverty reduction strategy, an independent poverty reduction commissioner, a national poverty reduction advisory council, and to alter the Canadian Human Rights Act to add social condition as a prohibited ground of discrimination. Those are the key points in this bill. As my colleagues had said, these are very important facts and when we come to a national strategy and look at what we can do for Canadians, everyone in the chamber needs to be onside.

However, I have some observations and concerns about the bill. I too have had the opportunity to speak to the sponsor of this bill and know she has great passion and focus and has done her homework on this, so I appreciate all of the work she has done.

In this bill, many of the measures are open-ended. A big concern I have is that it would create permanent levels of red tape. There are also some financial considerations that we should look at in the bill. When we sit in the chamber, we have to recognize that debate is not about saying it is good, bad, or ugly, or anything in that sense. Rather, it is important that we have this dialogue so that we do what is best for all Canadians. This is where we start to differ in some of our approaches to poverty reduction.

The effects of Bill C-245 cannot be accurately forecasted because there are a number of issues that need to be considered. First, we need to look at how a strategy is going to be implemented, at the number and salaries of employees of the commissioner and the 16 members of the national council, and what the spending estimates are for those.

Data from six federal offices allow us to make an estimate of what the costs will be. This is what I find very difficult to comprehend. The costs range anywhere from $7.6 million to $719 million. That was the forecast spending that we just received. I believe it was on October 25 or 26 that the report was released. Just on that, there is a gap of almost $700 million. That is a big concern for me, because $700 million could do a lot. It could put more people into job training or put more food on people's tables. At the end of the day, it would put more money into the pockets of Canadians if dealt with properly.

Another of my concerns is that duplication could occur. The one thing this government is very well known for is its duplication. Many studies have been done over and over again. Studies are really important to do, but unless action follows these studies, they are truly worthless.

Starting in June of 2016, the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities adopted a motion to study poverty in Canada. The committee is currently studying four main areas, including government administered savings and income support programs, education and training, housing assistance, and community initiatives.

As of now, the study will continue until, I believe, June 2017. Indeed, I had the opportunity to sit in committee as a spectator, because I sit with three other members on that committee who are doing a great job, and it is very important that we allow the study to continue and for witnesses to bring forward some of their ideas for a strategy.

It is being studied and continues to be a major issue for Canadians, and there is a reason it is being studied. Poverty has continued for decades and decades and there needs to be a stop to this issue. We know that a reduction of poverty could strengthen the economy, reduce health care spending, increase the level of children's education, and reduce crime. I would like to commend the committee for doing this study and looking at some very important key points that would help all Canadians.

I am not denying the importance of any of these factors. However, as I said, Conservatives on this side of the House have different approaches to this. We believe that the government should develop a dynamic solution that relieves the pressure felt by many seniors and those with disabilities. We must work with our provincial and territorial governments and communities to coordinate, by integrating education, job creation, and employment strategies as part of this plan.

People do lots of studies when in government, whether federal, provincial, or municipal. There was a study completed in 2010 by the human resources committee. We have all of these studies, but we need to look at them and ask, “All these facts were found, how can we start implementing them into action?” That is something we need to start doing.

Creating more bureaucracy does not eliminate poverty. That is one of the biggest concerns. We can continue to study, but we need boots on the ground doing the work. Canadian Families need to have the skills and opportunities to achieve self-sufficiency, and we must target support for those who face barriers.

Reviewing the bill in its entirety, there a few recommendations I wish to be considered. Rather than creating a new position of commissioner, this role should be under the deputy minister of the Department for Families, Children, and Social Development, since many of the programs, such as our income support programs, old age security, and CCB, are monitored by this department. This would become part of the deputy minister's role. It is also very important because in the same department they are looking at the disabilities act. It is also responsible for the guaranteed income supplement, which is very important to many people suffering from poverty in Canada.

Through the duties of the deputy minister, he would have access to and the ability to review all of these programs. The information on how much is being spent is available there, and how many families are receiving the benefits. There is a great link in that regard, and he or she, working as the deputy minister, would have access to all of these programs and have insight that is second to none. He or she would also have the ability to prepare reports from the data available, providing a measurable benefit for Canadians. As the member who sponsored the bill noted, we do not always have the appropriate data, so we need to make sure that when data is collected, we put it together so we can look at the intersectionality of it all so that it is best for all Canadians. The deputy minister would be able to develop and monitor, as well as report the findings from, the poverty data to the minister and to the House.

We also need to ensure that the council is not just made up of anti-poverty organizations. Just a few weeks ago, I went to a poverty panel and there was not one person in the room who talked about job creation. That has to be part of the conversation. What else can we do for Canadians? Therefore, job creators have to be at that table as well. It just cannot be people talking about poverty; we need to involve those people who are going to be part of the solution at the end of the day. We need to take action and work together to reduce poverty in Canada, but adding more bureaucracy and red tape is not the solution. We must provide lower taxes and put money back in the pockets of Canadians.

Can we do more? Absolutely, and I think all of us in the House recognize that we can do more. From 2004 to 2014, we did see a reduction in poverty from 11.4%, as reported in 2004, to 8.8% in 2014.

The one concern I have with this is that we need to make sure we do not have a one-size-fits-all approach. We see a lot of programs implemented throughout Canada, and not all Canadians are the same. Not every region is the same. Whether rural, urban, or on reserve, we need to recognize that communities and the people who reside in them have different needs. We have to recognize the differences between the provinces as well. Even cities in my own riding are very different. I am very fortunate to represent Elgin—Middlesex—London, where I have a number of communities, ranging from 100 people to 380,000 people, so I recognize that even in the riding of Elgin—Middlesex—London, there are communities that are very different.

I know that the sponsor of the bill truly has pure intentions, but I fear a new level of bureaucracy that will do nothing for those who need assistance now. We need more action and opportunities for Canadians, and we need to focus on how we can help them. This role, I believe, should be under ESDC and be that of the deputy minister.

This is a very important conversation we are going to have, and I appreciate all the work that has been done by the member of Parliament on this. I continue to look at the good work that is going to be done by the human resources committee, but I think that some of the considerations I put forward should be looked at if we are to support this bill.

Poverty Reduction ActPrivate Members' Business

October 31st, 2016 / 11:50 a.m.
See context

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Madam Speaker, it is important for me to support Bill C-245, an act concerning the development of a national poverty reduction strategy in Canada.

I sincerely thank my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot for taking up the torch that the NDP has been carrying for many years now. The fight against poverty is an issue that is very dear to me, as it is to her and the entire NDP caucus. In fact, I am a member of the all-party anti-poverty caucus.

This issue is not new. In 1989, NDP leader Ed Broadbent moved a motion to eliminate child poverty in Canada before 2000. That motion was unanimously adopted by the House. However, obviously, the Conservatives and the Liberals, who have shared office almost equally since that time, have not taken the necessary measures to eradicate this scourge. In my riding of Hochelaga, one merely has to take a walk down Ontario Street or Saint-Catherine Street to see that poverty is all too real.

This bill was first introduced by New Democrat Tony Martin. Later, my colleague from British Columbia, Jean Crowder, took over. Now the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot has taken up the torch. I hope, from the bottom of my heart, that the bill will be passed this time.

It is difficult to believe that Liberal members would oppose this bill to reduce poverty given that they made so many promises to that effect during the last election campaign. The Prime Minister even came to my riding to stage an announcement and promised that he would lift out of poverty the equivalent of an Olympic stadium filled with children. With this bill, the NDP is reaching out to him so he can put his words into action. It is high time, given that the House voted unanimously in favour of eliminating poverty in Canada twenty-seven years ago.

The purpose of this bill is to put in place an effective poverty reduction strategy that will take into account the needs of all communities by analyzing all factors and indicators of poverty. It has the support of many community groups and organizations that have long been calling for a comprehensive and concerted strategy to reduce poverty, even eliminate it entirely.

The purpose of this bill is to help eliminate poverty and foster social inclusion. It would establish and implement a poverty reduction strategy to ensure that, together with the provinces and territories, municipalities, service providers, and other stakeholders, the government takes real steps to reduce poverty in Canada.

It should be noted that six Canadian provinces have already passed similar legislation. It is therefore very important that they be involved in the process.

This bill would create the office of the poverty reduction commissioner, provided with a team and a budget, which would report annually to the House of Commons. It would also appoint a national council on poverty elimination and social inclusion, which would be charged with finding effective and viable solutions, to help Canada eliminate poverty.

In terms of concrete measures, the government would be forced to strengthen the social and economic safety net so as to leave no one behind. Let us remember that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms gives everyone the right to dignity and that it is the government’s responsibility to give effect to the charter.

Some of my colleagues in the other political parties seem nervous when we talk about strengthening the social fabric, whether because this would increase expenditures or out of pure ideological blindness. Also, to the advocates of austerity and the stone-age economists, I would say that many of the figures appearing in the budget expenditures column should be regarded as investments, and that poverty is detrimental to the economic and social development of our society.

For example, more and more studies are showing that providing funding for housing and combatting homelessness is much more than simple spending but, on the contrary, constitutes investment, both economic and social.

For instance, the “Impact Study on the Activities of the Société d’habitation du Québec” estimates that every dollar invested in its programs and its projects to replace, upgrade, and modernize public low-cost housing has injected $2.30 into the Quebec economy, mostly in the residential construction sector. Obviously, this does not take into account the social repercussions, which generate further savings.

It is also now generally accepted that it costs the Canadian economy more to ignore the problems of housing and homelessness that it would cost to solve them. The most conservative estimates show that homelessness costs the Canadian economy close to $4.5 billion every year. Other studies estimate this cost to be as high as $7 billion. For the government, eradicating homelessness and poverty would be a well-considered investment. The victims of homelessness and poverty are more vulnerable to physical and mental health problems and therefore more likely, that is, more than the average, to find themselves in hospitals and prisons, thereby generating substantial costs for the state. Therefore this is what really should be making some of my colleagues nervous, rather than the simple fact of investing to eliminate poverty and homelessness.

I have not finished yet. By way of comparison, every month it costs $10,900 to house a person in a hospital room, $4,333 in a provincial prison, and $1,932 in a shelter. Those costs are exorbitant when compared to the $701 it costs on average to grant a rent supplement and the $199.92 it costs for social housing. When are we going to start investing in the Canadian economy by embarking on a new wave of social housing construction? This bill would also target access to affordable housing that is safe and satisfactory for all.

Naturally, as the NDP’s housing critic, this aspect of the bill is particularly appealing to me, since it echoes my bill C-265, tabled on April 3, 2016. The act to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians is designed to introduce a real pan-Canadian housing strategy, in partnership with elected officials in the other levels of government and with housing stakeholders, and in compliance with the international obligations of Canada, which recognized the right of every person to housing when it ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1976.

I would like to offer a picture of the current housing situation in Canada. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the CMHC, considers housing unaffordable when a household devotes more than 30% of its income to it. When we look at certain statistics from the 2011 National Household Survey, we see that 3.3 million households spend over 30% of their total income on housing.

Looking more specifically at the 4.1 million tenant households, we note that over 40% of these allocate more than 30% of their income to rent. Indeed, 19% of them spend over 50% of their income on rent, and 10% of them over 80%. Therefore, it appears that a much higher percentage of Canadian tenant households have been exceeding the affordability threshold established by the CMHC.

Consequently, the households in urgent need of housing are too often faced with choosing between the essential needs they have to meet. In a rich country like ours, we think it is totally unacceptable that people should have to choose, for example, between paying for groceries and paying for rent.

Obviously, Canada’s housing situation has even greater repercussions on the most vulnerable and venerable in our society. Single-parent families headed by a woman, seniors living alone, indigenous households on or off reserve, recent immigrants and persons living with disabilities are among the populations most likely to be victims of this affordability crisis.

Incidentally, this bill would also take account of the needs of all communities, and would introduce social condition to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination. More specifically with regard to first nations members living on reserve, the National Household Survey shows that nearly 40% of their dwelling units, which are the responsibility of the federal government, are in need of major repairs, while nearly 35% of them are not suited to the size of the family. In certain Inuit communities, the percentage of dwelling units not suitable to family size is in excess of 50%.

It is high time that Canada adopted a strategy to combat poverty as well as the means necessary to eliminate it.

Poverty Reduction ActPrivate Members' Business

October 31st, 2016 / noon
See context

Liberal

Yves Robillard Liberal Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Madam Speaker, it is my privilege to take the floor today regarding a very special bill, a bill that clearly shows that our government has scored a bull’s-eye with its efforts to reduce poverty all across the country. I am of course speaking of Bill C-245.

First of all, I would like to thank my hon. colleague, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot for having tabled this piece of legislation. She has worked hard and has shown leadership. Indeed, she shows that it is possible to have a shared vision, even if we do not sit on the same side of the House.

Bill C-245 would develop a national poverty reduction strategy in Canada. Such a strategy is perfectly consistent with our government’s intention to reduce poverty throughout the country. We have truly made this our key theme. It is even an integral part of the mandate of my colleague, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development. Needless to say, we looked very favourably on the tabling of such a bill.

Like us, this bill wants to lift as many Canadians as possible out of poverty. It states that, among other things, a national poverty reduction strategy should take into account the factors that put some Canadians at higher-than-average risk of poverty. It also mentions the need to focus on the consequences of poverty for society at large. In addition, Bill C-245 aims to encourage everyone to get involved in poverty reduction. This is most welcome, for it is perfectly in line with the work we have already started.

Indeed, Employment and Social Development Canada is developing a poverty reduction strategy. Its ultimate goal is of course to reduce poverty, but it is also to make our society more inclusive. Whether we like it or not, poverty is everybody’s business, because everybody suffers its consequences. If every person can thrive and participate in the life of his or her community, all of society will be the winner for it.

To attain our goals, we are consulting all of our partners. Among other things I refer to the general public, community and not-for-profit organizations, academics, businesses, and of course those who have lived in poverty.

The Minister of Families, Children and Social Development recently appeared before the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, also known as HUMA. There, he tabled a discussion paper on poverty entitled, “Towards a Poverty Reduction Strategy”. This document was drafted in the hopes that it would get Canadians talking about poverty reduction, and it will inform the development of our poverty reduction strategy.

We also just launched the tackling poverty together project, which will also help us in developing our strategy. As part of this project, the government will conduct case studies in six communities in order to obtain a regional perspective and a better understanding of poverty in communities in Canada. It will also allow us to hear directly from Canadians living in poverty and receive recommendations from organizations that deliver poverty reduction programs. As hon. members can see, we are working in a spirit of collaboration.

I want to point out that our strategy will support existing provincial and municipal poverty reduction strategies and harmonize with them. We are consulting our provincial and territorial counterparts and our other partners to ensure that we are getting this right.

Bill C-245 is in line with what we are doing. One of its goals is to take the needs of communities into account, particularly indigenous communities. That is what we are focusing on too, especially in terms of housing.

I will turn now to a second strategy we have implemented. The national housing strategy will enable us to improve the housing situation of all Canadians, including those in indigenous communities and the far north. We are currently holding targeted consultations with Canadians, governments, indigenous organizations, the private sector, non-profit organizations, municipalities, and housing experts. As everyone can see, our government is very active on this file.

We see the introduction of Bill C-245 as very encouraging. It proves that we are moving in the right direction. This is clearly the right time for Bill C-245.

At this point, I would be remiss if I did not mention some of the measures we have taken recently. Of course, we introduced the Canada child benefit, which will give nine out of ten families more benefits for children than they were receiving before. This new benefit will reduce child poverty by about 40%. The Canada child benefit is about more than just giving families more money. It represents the most important innovation in social policy in a generation.

Speaking of generations, my colleagues in the House will recall that we also enhanced the guaranteed income supplement for single seniors. For some people, this means an increase of up to almost $1,000 per year.

Lastly, we have also made massive investments in social infrastructure. More specifically, we will be making initial investments totalling $3.4 billion over five years.

We also reached an agreement with the provinces to enhance the Canada pension plan to address the fact that many Canadians might not be saving enough for their retirement and therefore face a greater risk of living in poverty in their old age. From a poverty reduction standpoint, enhancing the CPP is good news, because it will help low-income workers, now and in the long term.

Furthermore, although low-income earners will have to contribute to the enhanced CPP, these higher contributions will generally be more than offset by an increase in the working income tax benefit, which will help almost 6,000 Canadians escape poverty. Not only will the enhanced CPP ensure that the middle class in Canada enjoys a more secure retirement, but it will also help current and future efforts to reduce poverty.

All these measures I just spoke about reflect my personal determination as the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin and our collective determination as government to reduce social inequality and ensure the prosperity of all Canadians. The intent of Bill C-245 is closely aligned with our objectives and our actions.

I could continue, but I believe that everything I mentioned demonstrates that our government is taking the necessary steps to reduce poverty in Canada. The introduction of Bill C-245 by my colleague only proves beyond a doubt that we must continue in this direction.

Poverty Reduction ActRoutine Proceedings

February 26th, 2016 / 12:15 p.m.
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NDP

Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-245, an act concerning the development of a national poverty reduction strategy in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, today it is my great honour to introduce my first bill, a bill to reduce poverty.

I have done community work my whole life, and my goal has always been to help build a more just and inclusive society. That is why I am introducing this bill to develop a national poverty reduction strategy.

As the progressive opposition party, we care about reducing social inequality and building stronger communities. It is high time the federal government showed some leadership, which it can do by passing this bill for a comprehensive strategy to reduce and fight poverty. We must act now.

I invite all of my colleagues from all parties here in the House to pass my bill at second reading.

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