Yesterday, Canada Without Poverty’s Harriett McLachlan and Michèle Biss presented to the Standing Committee on Finance. This is a transcript of the oral presentation.
PRESENTATION TO THE STANDING COMMITTEE ON FINANCE (FINA)
September 25, 2017 at 3:30 to 5:00 pm
Good afternoon and thank you for the opportunity to address this committee. My name is Harriett McLachlan and I am the Interim Deputy Director of Canada Without Poverty (CWP). I am joined this afternoon by CWP’s Legal Education and Outreach Coordinator, Michèle Biss.
For those who are not aware of our organization, CWP is a non-partisan, not-for-profit, and charitable organization dedicated to ending poverty in Canada. The organization was created in 1971 as an outcome of the Poor People’s Conference, a national gathering of low-income individuals, as the National Anti-Poverty Organization (NAPO). Since this time, CWP’s Board of Directors is comprised entirely of people with a lived experience of poverty.
In Canada, 4.8 million or 1 in 7 people live in poverty, including 1.2 million children. Poverty, homelessness, and food insecurity also disproportionately impact marginalized groups across the country, including persons with disabilities, single parents, women, racialized persons, Indigenous peoples, and LGBTQ2S youth.
While Budget 2018 must look towards solutions to the staggering rates of poverty in the country, Canada also has a legal obligation to address the violations of human rights that poverty, homelessness, and food insecurity represent. As signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and other human rights treaties, Canada is obliged under international human rights law to meet the rights to housing, food, work, health, and an adequate standard of living. Adherence to these human rights obligations would also be an important step forward towards the commitment and further realization of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
We recommend eleven immediate steps the government can take to support the economic contributions of people in Canada. These measure would also implement recommendations of United Nations treaty bodies. This includes:
- Implementing a human rights approach to Budget 2018, which requires an analysis of the effect of spending on marginalized groups including women, persons with disabilities, and racialized persons along with concrete measures to address equality and non-discrimination;
- Ensuring that the forthcoming Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy uses a human rights approach with dedicated adequate funding in the 2018 budget;
- Increasing the amount of transfer payments to provinces and territories with earmarked sufficient funds for social assistance, and designate that payments are conditional on rates being set at levels that meet an adequate standard of living;
- Reinstating the national standard protecting refugees from a minimum residency requirement before receiving social assistance benefits;
- Setting national wage standards, including a federal minimum wage, to meet a living wage indexed to the Consumer Price Index;
- Increasing federal spending on childcare with the ultimate goal of achieving the international benchmark of spending at least 1% of GDP on childhood education and care by 2020;
- Ensuring that the Canada Child Benefit is indexed and that conditions are made to prevent provinces and territories from clawing back the benefit;
- Developing a national pharmacare program that provides cost-effective prescription drugs at little or no cost;
- Dedicating adequate funding to implement a National Right to Food Policy with particular collaboration with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples;
- Ensuring adequate funding is dedicated in Budget 2018 to a rights-based National Housing Strategy which engages a variety of robust policy measures; and
- Addressing the financialization of housing and the perception of housing as a commodity rather than a human right, by increasing capital gains tax on profits from selling secondary residences and implementing a tax on foreign investment in property to be funnelled into affordable housing options.
For further detail on these recommendations, we would like to steer members of the Committee to the Dignity for All campaign’s model anti-poverty plan. This strategy was developed through meaningful consultation with people with lived experience of poverty, has further recommendations on six key policy areas to eradicating poverty in Canada: income security, jobs and training, health, early childhood education and care, housing and homelessness, and food security.
We look forward to answering questions in this regard. Thank you.
 Dignity for All Campaign, “Dignity for All: A National Anti-Poverty Plan for Canada”, available here: https://dignityforall.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/DignityForAll_Report.pdf