News and announcements
Is this the year when we finally seize the opportunity to enact legislation that supports all Canadians to access good food with dignity, and contribute to a healthier and more sustainable food system?
When Prime Minister Trudeau came to office in 2015, he mandated ministers to enact a Food Policy for Canada, a Healthy Eating Strategy, and a Poverty Reduction Strategy. The latter was presented late last year. Others have been slower to manifest.
Will 2019 be the year when Canadians get the food system they deserve? Will we have the courage to prioritize health over profit, provide tools that help Canadians navigate our complicated food environment, address urgent issues in our food system, and tackle food insecurity and poverty head on?
Here’s what we’re watching for this year:
The Poverty Reduction Act. Bill C-87 will reach the committee stage, where legislation for an ongoing poverty reduction strategy, a poverty advisory council, an Official Poverty Line, and poverty reduction targets – with indicators – will be considered. The government has included food insecurity as one of those indicators, which we hope will ensure access to healthy food is prioritized and funded under the strategy. Read more about what’s at stake.
A Food Policy for Canada. 45,000 Canadians and numerous other stakeholders weighed in on the policy in 2017. We hope to see the policy come through in February, and funding for the policy included in the upcoming federal budget. With rates of diet-related illness at historic highs, the government has an important opportunity to put in place regulations that encourage healthy eating, fund community food programs that build better health and well-being, and support new farmers and local food systems. Read more about what’s at stake.
The Healthy Eating Strategy. Health Canada announced the new Canada's Food Guide the third week of January. This new version, focused on providing guidance for professionals, brings much-needed evidence-based changes to the document, including a focus on balanced diets and increased fruit-and-veg consumption, the elimination of fruit juice and chocolate milk as recommended drinks, and attention paid not just to what we eat, but how we eat. Read about the new Guide here. Tools for the public are expected later this year.
Two pillars of the strategy remain incomplete: the introduction of front-of-package labelling for sodium, sugars, and saturated fats, and legislation to restrict junk food marketing to kids. Done well, the strategy could provide invaluable guidance and tools to help all Canadians make healthy food choices and take greater control of their health, and limit industry influence. But it has been subject to heavy lobby from industry, and the outlook is uncertain. Front-of-package labelling regulations may exempt some dairy products high in saturated fats — if this pillar doesn’t get dropped entirely. A watered-down version of Bill S-228, which proposes mechanisms to restrict junk food marketing to kids, has loosened restrictions on proposed advertising constraints. It’s now at the Senate review stage, where it may be delayed. Take action.
Further commitments to putting more money into the pockets of low-income Canadians. Since 2015, the government has bolstered existing benefits aimed at building a social safety net for Canadians – the Canada Child Benefit is the best example of this. What would further action look like? Facilitating eligibility for Employment Insurance by reducing the number of work hours required for eligibility, increasing the Guaranteed Income Supplement top-up for seniors by $1,000, and providing a plan to increase the Canada Workers’ Benefit over the next mandate. Before the holidays, Prime Minister Trudeau and Families, Children and Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos discussed the long-term possibility of a national basic income program. There has been no confirmation that this is actually being considered. But looking at what that could entail would be an important step to ensuring that all Canadians have a solid floor to stand on.
With a federal election set for October, we need to rally together to elect candidates committed to building a healthy and equitable country for all Canadians. Want to get involved? Sign up to take action with us in 2019, or check out our 6 Ways to Advocate for Change guide.