Liberals vow to lift 2 million Canadians out of poverty by 2030, with no new spending

The Liberal government says it's possible to pull more than two million people over the poverty line by 2030 without committing to any new spending or policy promises.

Plan calls for a reduction in the rate of poverty by 50% from 2015 levels by 2030

Jean-Yves Duclos, minister of families, children and social development, wants to reduce the rate of poverty in Canada by 20 per cent from 2015 levels by the end of the current decade, which would require almost 850,000 fewer people living in poverty in 2020 compared to five years earlier. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

The Liberal government says it's possible to pull more than two million people over the poverty line by 2030 without committing to any new spending or policy promises.

Instead, Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos pointed to a list of already announced federal programs to reach that goal.

Duclos was in Vancouver Tuesday to unveil the Liberal's anti-poverty plan, called "Opportunity for All — Canada's First Poverty Reduction Strategy."

It calls for a reduction in the rate of poverty by 20 per cent from 2015 levels by 2020 and by 50 per cent by 2030.

That would mean about 2.1 million people would no longer live under the poverty line within 12 years.

Duclos called the targets "ambitious," but "realistic." 

Documents previously obtained by The Canadian Press under access to information laws show how the Liberals intend to sell the plan by linking multiple federal programs back to efforts to reduce poverty.

Department officials, speaking to reporters on background during a technical briefing, said the strategy combines $22 billion in previously committed spending, including the child benefit, workers benefit and the Guaranteed Income Supplement.

Right direction

The government predicts those measures will lift about 650,000 Canadians out of poverty by next year. It needs to bring about 840,000 above the threshold to reach its 2020 goal.

The organization Canada Without Poverty, said it was disappointed not to see any new program spending, but called the announcement a step in the right direction.

"For decades, we never would have expected a federal anti-poverty strategy — and certainly not one that referenced human rights. Though this strategy is not to the standard we were hoping for, this is a moment to be celebrated," said deputy director Harriett McLachlan in a release.

"We hope this is a solid foundation for more substantial changes in the future."

As part of the strategy, the government will introduce legislation "as early as possible" to entrench the official poverty line into law. Officials said it would mark the first time a Canadian government has set an official benchmark for poverty.

Official poverty line

The poverty line will measure the cost of a basket of goods and services that individuals and families requires to meet their basic needs and achieve a modest standard of living across the country.

Also known as the market basket measure, the basket includes things like healthy food, shelter, clothes and transportation and is tailored for 50 different regions and cities.

Officials said it will be updated to include more communities and the territories and account for inflation. It also doesn't include figures from Indigenous communities, but the government said they're working to update that. 

Conservative MP Karen Vecchio welcomed aspects of the plan but was critical of others including the lack of what she said is a plan to tackle poverty in Canada. 

"I 100 per cent support the idea of having the market basket measure," she said. "I think it's really important that we have an ability to measure our poverty and we do have to have that regional impact."

Spend wisely

Vecchio said Tuesday's announcement is little more than a "rebranding and repackaging of everything that they've done since 2015 since they've been elected."

"Overall I appreciated some of the ideas, but I don't see anything new here," she said. 

"I am not asking them to spend more money. I am asking them to spend wisely if they do, but I don't really see a plan of how this is going to happen."

The strategy will also set up a council on poverty to advise the minister and report annually to Parliament on the government's progress.

According to government figures, there were 4.2 million people living in poverty in 2015, about one in eight Canadians. The next year that figure dropped to 3.7 million people.

With files from The Canadian Press


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