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Here's how governments across Canada fared when it came to poverty in 2023: report

A new report is detailing how poorly all levels of government are doing when it comes to addressing poverty in Canada.

Food Banks Canada issued a first-of-its-kind "report card" for all provincial and territorial governments on how it is addressing food insecurity, poverty and reduction efforts.

According to the report published on Tuesday, Canada overall received a D+ for its efforts.

"All governments in Canada are proving quite frankly inadequate in their approach to poverty reduction across the board," Kirstin Beardsley, CEO of Food Banks Canada, told in an interview. "We need to see more action everywhere."

The report analyzed each government in four sections: the experience of poverty, poverty measures, material deprivation (standard of living) and legislative progress.

Using a mix of government and public data and surveys, the organization was able to provide points per section that corresponded to an overall grade.

A goal of the report was to provide comparisons between provinces and territories and understand what policies are working and what aren't in Canada.


The country received a D+ when it came to the experience of poverty, the report shows, with people feeling worse off financially compared to last year.

Other factors for this section include people having to pay more than 30 per cent of income on housing, trouble accessing health care, government support recipients saying rates are insufficient and increasing income spent on fixed costs beyond housing.

Canada received a C- for its poverty measures, which include the unemployment rate, food insecurity rate and poverty rate.

"When you see grades this low, quite frankly, any investment is going to make a meaningful difference. So there's a lot of places to grow," Beardsley said. "Being the eternal optimist that I am we have a lot of room for growth…We also have examples of when you do make those investments, real people's lives are improved."

Inadequate and severe standards of living were measured in the material deprivation section, which had a grade of D for Canada.

The legislative progress grade is whether the government took action over the last year to fix the above issues. The Canadian government received a D, according to the report.


Multiple studies over the last year have shown Canadians are deeply concerned and struggling when it comes to their finances.

This factor is highlighted in the Food Banks Canada report.

The COVID-19 pandemic is still impacting marginalized groups, including people working precarious jobs, low wage workers and those living in areas where incomes are low, the report says.

And it highlights how soaring inflation is having a disproportionate impact on Canadians struggling to find housing and feed their families.

According to the report, the global food crisis, which started during the pandemic and was worsened in part by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, is affecting trade and by extension causing higher food prices.

Canadians from coast to coast are struggling to afford housing, meanwhile, as the price of shelter continues to climb.

About a third of Canadians are paying more than 30 per cent of their annual income on housing, which is an indicator that housing is not affordable, the report notes.

"While we are a very different regionally as a country, there are threads across the whole report," Beardsley said. "We can see investments in affordable housing are absolutely critical, no matter where you are."

In some markets in Canada, about 13 per cent of people are paying more than 50 per cent of their income "to keep a roof over their heads."

"These rates are unacceptable and demonstrate that the amount people pay towards housing is taking up too much of a household’s budget," the report states.


There is a higher cost of living associated with northern Canada and the territorial governments "heavily" depend on transfers from the federal government to help their residents.

For example, Nunavut's budget is about 90 per cent from the Canadian government, the report states.

The experience of poverty in Nunavut is hard to pin down, the report shows, with fewer people feeling worse off financially than last year, but many still paying more than 30 per cent of their income on housing.

Due to a lack of data, the report does not give the experience of poverty section a grade for the territories.

For poverty measures, Nunavut received a D for its poverty rate, unemployment rate and food insecurity rate.

The legislative progress on fixing the situation received a C from Food Banks Canada.

N.W.T. received a grade of C- for its poverty measures due to the fact it provides better social assistance to single people and disability assistance, receiving an A+ in both categories.

However, the overall grade is lowered due to the poverty rate (F), unemployment rate (D+) and food insecurity rate (D).

Its legislative progress was a B, the report notes.

Social assistance for people in Canada has been criticized for years because it has not kept up with the rising costs of living.

"When you've got people on fixed incomes who are making so far below any poverty measure, you are basically forcing people to use food banks," Beardsley said.

Updating the employment assistance program and disability services will help bring people away from poverty and give them a better standard of living, she said.

Yukon received a poverty measures grade of D+ due to the poverty rate marked as an F, the unemployment rate (B) and the food insecurity rate (D-).

Its social assistance for singles and disability assistance were a C+ and B respectively.

The reasons for the low grades were largely due to the fact that there is higher food insecurity in northern Canada, due to the higher cost of goods in the region.

"The cost to feed a family in the territories far exceeds that of any of the provinces in southern Canada because of the costs of shipping, refrigeration and other inputs that have only worsened with recent inflation," the report notes.

Across the territories, food insecurity rates are "well above" the national average.

Unaffordable and inadequate housing along with the challenge of finding work are other contributing factors to poverty in the territories.


According to the report, the provinces have low scores similar to the Canadian average grade, except for Quebec.

The province received an overall B-, the report notes, due to its poverty measures section, which showcased an A- for the poverty rate, an A for social assistance and an A- for the food insecurity rate.

The three other sections have grades of C, D+ and F respectively.

Nova Scotia brought down the country's average due to its provincial grade of F.

For its poverty measure, material deprivation and legislative progress, the province received Fs across the board.

The experience of poverty section received grades below D, except for government support recipients (C-) and people accessing health care (B-).

Manitoba and P.E.I. received average grades of C- with the rest of the provinces facing grades of D or lower.

"We need to see bold and courageous government action," Beardsley said. "We know what drives governments to have courage is public support…Let's all raise our voices so that governments can't look away and have to take action on behalf of our most vulnerable neighbours." Top Stories



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