CWP at federal pre-budget consultation

CWP was recently invited to take part in a pre-budget consultation (for the 2016 federal budget) discussing how to support those in Canada who need it most and help communities and individuals thrive, among other topics. The consultation was facilitated by MP Catherine McKenna and François-Philippe Champagne, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance. 

Poverty in Canada and Ottawa Centre

Considering the significant wealth and resources of Canada, a disproportionate number of people in the country are living in poverty. 1 in 7 or 4.9 million people in Canada live in poverty, including 1.34 million children. Marginalized groups such as indigenous peoples, single mothers, newcomers and people who are racialized, persons with disabilities, queer and transgendered youth, and single senior women are most likely to experience poverty, inadequate housing, homelessness and food insecurity in Canada

Concerns about those struggling to make ends meet are particularly visible in the Ottawa Centre area, with both regional anti-poverty groups working to address poverty, as well as a number of national anti-poverty groups, such as CWP, whose offices are located in the riding. Right here in Ottawa, a short walk from the Parliament buildings, where decisions are made that impact the most vulnerable, an average of 932 people in Ottawa per night stay in emergency shelters. Consider this alongside the 9,500 households on the waiting list for social housing with a wait time of over five years.

Canada’s Human Rights Obligations for People Living in Poverty: Maximum Available Resources

As a signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (as well as several other international human rights treaties), our Government has an obligation to ensure that all persons in Canada have access to an adequate standard of living. With 4.9 million people across the country living in poverty we are clearly lagging behind in our obligations.

Federal government spending, as a share of GDP, is at its lowest level since 1949. Every year between 1950 and 2007, federal government expenditures exceeded 15% of GDP.  Federal program spending for 2016-17 is projected to be 13.3% of Canada’s GDP. With current projections, this spending will decline further to 12.8% of GDP by the year 2020. Even including the current federal government’s proposed new spending measures, expenditures to GDP will only reach 15% at their peak in 2017-18.

If Canada were to inch towards a similar percentage of GDP in government spending as nine years ago, even by a single percentage point (14.3%), this would make available $19.5 billion to invest in Canada’s international human rights obligations. For example, with the additional $19.5 billion, Canada could invest in: on-reserve housing ($1 billion), on-reserve drinking water ($0.5 billion), on-reserve schools ($2 billion), improvements to health care ($4 billion), national pharmacare ($4 billion), improvements to homecare ($3 billion), a national housing and homelessness strategy ($2 billion), a national poverty strategy ($2 billion) and a violence against women strategy ($0.5 billion).

Alongside Canada’s human rights obligations, the reality is that investing in programs to relieve poverty means boosting the economy. For example, studies have found that for every dollar invested in childcare $2.50 gets put back into the economy. Similarly, for every dollar invested in housing, $1.50 gets put into the economy. Poverty has a human and financial cost – in this budget we must see the value in upholding the rights of those living in poverty.