Yukon's new poverty report card is the first of its kind

The first “Yukon Poverty Report Card” was released last week. While poverty report cards are not new in Canada, this one is a first for Yukon.

It gives 10 recommendations for the territory to help alleviate poverty

Kristina Craig, executive director of the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition, pictured in a file photo. (Mike Rudyk/CBC)

A new report might be able to shed light on Yukon's poverty situation.

The Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition released "Yukon Poverty Report Card 2020" last week as part of public education movement Campaign 2000's annual assessment of child and family poverty in Canada.

While poverty report cards are not new in Canada, this one is a first for Yukon.

Kristina Craig, the executive director of the coalition, says since the territory does not have targets and timelines for reducing poverty, reaching a "grade" for the report card is difficult to do.

Instead, the report gives 10 recommendations for the territory going forward.

"This is really more of a snapshot," she said. "It just sort of lays the picture really of where Yukoners sit."

The report says Statistics Canada does not currently measure the prevalence of poverty in Yukon based on the market basket measure — a cost-of-living assessment based on a standard set of goods that is Canada's official measure of poverty.

However, work is underway to create a northern market basket measure that would reflect higher costs of living in the North.

Lower rent, more low-income homes

When it comes to housing, the report suggests the territory is in a crisis, and Craig says that's largely from a lack of housing stock.

She says one of the recommendations includes bumping up the stock of low-income homes available and putting a freeze on rent increases. Low-income people in the territory are often renters, she says, so increasing the housing stock of low-income rental housing, social housing, and seniors' housing is needed.

"That will only work if we also are looking at the income side of things, and on that front, we're looking at increasing the minimum wage," Craig said.

"If you are increasing income, and increasing stock, that will help."

The report also recommended the development of a Yukon Basic Income program.

Craig says the report is a tool to help bring awareness to the poverty situation in Yukon.

"It's about individuals and families and children and folks that we know are struggling in our community, particularly during the pandemic," Craig said.

"I think it's kind of time that we provided or suggested that there's a bit of hope on the horizon and that we're going to take this seriously."

One of the next steps is highlighting the recommendations over the next few weeks during the territorial election.

"We would hope that whomever is elected in, in this territorial election will take them seriously," Craig said.

With files from Elyn Jones.