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In From the Margins: A Call to Action on Poverty, Housing and Homelessness

Executive Summary
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Art Eggleton, P.C.

Hugh Segal

Jane Cordy

Lillian Eva Dyck

Yonah Martin

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Elizabeth La Forest
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Keli Hogan
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Our cities are integral to the prosperity of Canada. They are the economic engines, the cultural linchpins, and are also the intersection point for many national, regional and local issues.  This vital place that cities hold in the health and vibrancy of Canada is why we decided to study the current state of poverty, housing and homelessness in Canadian cities.

Through a myriad of expert witnesses, site visits, roundtables and most importantly, testimony from those living in poverty and homelessness, we are saddened to report that far too many Canadians living in cities live below any measure of the poverty line; that too many people struggle to find and maintain affordable housing; and that an increasing number of Canadians are homeless. And despite the thoughtful efforts and many promising practices of governments’, the private sector, and community organizations, that are helping many Canadians, the system that is intended to lift people out of poverty is substantially broken, often entraps people in poverty, and needs an overhaul.

What does this mean for the millions of Canadians that live with these daily hardships? It means making tough decisions about putting enough food on the table or paying the rent. It means making the decision to stay in school or to drop out to find a job to help the family. It means that by just struggling to get by, these families can not even dream about getting ahead.

This problem reflects on each and every member of society and our inability or unwillingness to commit to significant changes. We believe Canada, the provinces and the private sector can and must do better.

Also, the Committee’s testimony clearly underlines that poverty costs us all.  Poverty expands healthcare costs, policing burdens and diminished educational outcomes.  This in turn depresses productivity, labour force flexibility, life spans and economic expansion and social progress, all of which takes place at huge cost to taxpayers, federal and provincial treasuries and the robust potential of the Canadian consumer economy.

This unacceptable situation has led the Committee to offer some essential, broad and incremental recommendations that go beyond the “path dependency” paralysis that has typified federal and provincial policy under governments of all affiliations for decades.

We believe that eradicating poverty and homelessness is not only the humane and decent priority of a civilized democracy, but absolutely essential to a productive and expanding economy benefitting from the strengths and abilities of all its people.

There are 72 recommendations in this report. Some key examples of recommendations to the federal government include:

  • Adopt a core poverty eradication goal of lifting people out of poverty [Recommendation 1];

  • Establish with the provinces a goal that all welfare recipients receive support totalling at least after-tax LICO levels [Recommendation 4];

  • Further examine a basic annual income based on a negative income tax [Recommendation 5];

  • Coordinate a nationwide federal/provincial initiative on early childhood learning [Recommendation 16];

  • As a step toward eradicating child poverty, increase the National Child Benefit to reach $5,000 by 2012 [Recommendation 34];

  • Commit to increasing  the WITB (Working Income Tax Benefit) to bring recipients at least  to the LICO line [Recommendation 35];

  • With the provinces, develop a national housing and homelessness strategy [Recommendation 44];

  • Establish a basic income floor for all Canadians who are disabled [Recommendation 53]; and

  • Use the Urban Aboriginal Strategy as a platform for greater investment and collaboration in addressing the poverty and housing problems facing urban Aboriginal peoples [Recommendation 66].

We need - once and for all – to break the cycle of poverty in Canada, and to finally lift its devastating burden. We owe it to the millions of Canadians that struggle day in day out with poverty.  But we also owe it to Canada as a whole.

The time for action is now!

The Honourable Art Eggleton P.C., Chair The Honourable Hugh Segal, Deputy Chair
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